How does a young person from a working-class London background become the right-hand man of one of the hottest names in fashion, then use those connections to propel his own world-famous brand within a few years?
This is exactly what Samuel Ross has achieved with his brand “A Cold Wall”. Created in 2015 by this graphic artist and former designer at Off-White, "A Cold Wall" is both a conceptual art installation and a fashion line that explores social class and beyond. But how did it all start? How did Samuel manage to put it all together before the age of 30? Let's find out.
Born in the south London district of Brixton to working-class parents, Ross always had a passion for art and design. After high school, he chose De Montfort University in Leicester, knowing he wanted to work in fashion. The styles of big names like McQueen and Galliano didn't really interest him; he wanted to create designs for young Britons like himself. After university, Ross moved into commercial design, juggling his work at Wilkinson's, a High Street retailer, and his personal projects, which included experimental films, street art and a well-known streetwear brand. era under the name "24".
Luck smiled on him in 2012 when Virgil Abloh discovered his work on Instagram. Abloh contacted him and offered him mentoring. In 2014, Ross became Abloh's assistant, working on several projects, including Adidas' latest Yeezy series and Off-White's first Paris show in spring 2016. During this time, Ross also worked on his new project, a brand that he named “A Cold Wall”. The name was inspired by the dilapidated white walls he encountered during his childhood in the brutalist post-war terraces of England.
With its fractured cuts and shades of gray, white and black, the brand evokes a cold and austere feeling. The aim of "A Cold Wall" is to convey socially conscious messages, paying homage to the middle classes in a British cultural melting pot. Ross has said in interviews that much of the cynicism and harsh words of "A Cold Wall" are influenced by his experiences of pre-Brexit racism in London, such as when he was attacked by a group of adult skinheads at age 15 years old.
For his SS16 collection, Ross printed "no water" onto an image of nesting tables, juxtaposing the clean water crisis experienced by many disadvantaged communities with the beauty of the art objects. The fashion industry quickly fell in love with Ross's work. In just three seasons, he became a rising star in British menswear with his artistic, cerebral and futuristic vision of what he hesitated to call "streetwear".
“A Cold Wall” quickly gained notoriety for its avant-garde designs, blurring the lines between fashion and art. In a single collection, we can see working class uniforms alongside sportswear, mastery of tailoring with jackets resembling plaster or polyane sheets from construction sites. The brand debuted at Fashion Week with its Spring/Summer 2018 collection in London, sparking interest from other brands and resulting in multiple collaborations, including with Oakley, Nike and others.
Today, "A Cold Wall" has quickly expanded globally, becoming a symbol of urban fashion and contemporary style. Its popularity among fashion enthusiasts and celebrities catapulted the brand into the mainstream. Those who view streetwear-inspired fashion as ephemeral or superficial should take a closer look at what Ross is actually doing. Even the name "A Cold Wall" is a commentary on the cold and almost impenetrable nature of society and the barriers put in place to make the advancement of the less privileged even more difficult.
In just a few years, "A Cold Wall" has grown from a small fashion brand to a multi-million dollar international company. The transformation of streetwear over the years into a respected fashion form set the stage for designers like Samuel Ross. He took lessons from his work with Virgil Abloh and used what he learned over the years to create his own thriving business. The goal of any mentor-mentee relationship is for the mentee to one day surpass their mentor's work. Although Virgil Abloh has left a lasting mark on the fashion industry, Samuel Ross has shown that he just might have what it takes to take his late friend's teachings to the next level.