Es­sen­tials of style

… and they talk about their col­lab­o­ra­tion for the multi-la­bel bou­tique’s first an­niver­sary, the ori­gins of their own brands, hype and streetwear.

Esquire (Singapore) - - CONTENTS - SA MUEL ROSS, A- C OLD-WALL

Three de­sign­ers walk into Dover Street Mar­ket…

E S Q: Tell us about the in­cep­tion of A-Cold-Wall?

SA MUEL ROSS: I was trav­el­ling through Europe and North Amer­ica, work­ing with friends and con­tem­po­raries, and work­ing for sev­eral brands, such as Stussy, Been Trill, Kanye x APC, Of­fWhite and what not. I be­gan to un­der­stand that there was a zeit­geist move­ment hap­pen­ing glob­ally that was re­lated to high fash­ion and what is known as streetwear. Th­ese pock­ets across Amer­ica and Europe were telling this nar­ra­tive and of course be­ing from the UK, and the UK hav­ing such a deep con­nec­tion to sub­cul­ture, I knew there was an en­tirely new story of Bri­tish work­ing class sub­cul­ture that had to be told. That was the point where A-Cold-Wall came to fruition once I re­alised there was a gap to tell this story.

E S Q: How did the brand come to be known as A-Cold-Wall; was it in ref­er­ence to the cold peb­bled sur­face of the coun­cil es­tate? SA MUEL ROSS: I’m talk­ing about the coun­cil es­tate, but more so, what I’m talk­ing about is what it rep­re­sents: the so­cio­graphic no­tions of a coun­cil es­tate and the ar­chi­tec­ture im­peach­ing on the peo­ple in that area, and I’m also talk­ing about the Vic­to­rian and Ed­war­dian five-storey home in Is­ling­ton. It’s the mix­ing and melt­ing pot cul­ture of Lon­don, where you get the work­ing class and the up­per mid­dle class amal­ga­mat­ing together, and that re­ally is A-Cold-Wall. It car­ries a very rough and corrosive na­ture, from the ar­chi­tec­tural ref­er­ences, and it also car­ries a string of in­tel­lec­tual com­mu­ni­ca­tion which is also more shared with up­per-mid­dle-class stu­dious en­vi­ron­ments.

E S Q: Why pick fash­ion as your medium of ex­pres­sion? SA MUEL ROSS: I’ve al­ways had an in­ter­est and re­la­tion­ship with cloth­ing specif­i­cally, I think it was cloth­ing be­fore fash­ion, and then it slowly bled into fash­ion. The first in­stance for me when cloth­ing and fash­ion could be paired together was when I saw a video called The Aliens. I started to un­der­stand how you can take one ar­ti­cle of cloth­ing and put it into a fash­ion con­text and then Shane Oliver fol­lowed with the Hood By Air short videos, and then Vir­gil Al­bloh fol­lowed with the Pyrex Vi­sion videos. So those are all predecessors to me and they showed me in­ad­ver­tently how to com­mu­ni­cate. Then nat­u­rally, I stud­ied th­ese videos and was men­tored by cer­tain peo­ple and I learnt slowly how to com­mu­ni­cate a bit more with clothes and fash­ion.

E S Q: What does de­sign­ing cloth­ing al­low you to do that graphic de­sign doesn’t? SA­MUEL R OSS: Cloth­ing and fash­ion are macro cul­tures, and it is a bil­lion-dol­lar in­dus­try, whereas graphic de­sign is not. So the re­sources, ef­forts put in to sup­port­ing graphic de­sign and prod­uct de­sign, of­ten don’t reach a cer­tain level. And I also felt that I was start­ing to lose ful­fil­ment from graphic de­sign, a field I ma­jored in from when I was 15 or 16 years old. I did that for seven to eight years and it felt like a nat­u­ral step to work in a field which al­lowed five to six lev­els of sen­sory stim­u­la­tion to ex­ist in one place. Film, sound, in­stal­la­tion, gar­ment and move­ment could all live in one place, whereas graphic de­sign is quite lin­ear. So it felt too re­stric­tive.

E S Q: For this col­lab­o­ra­tion with Dover Street Mar­ket, there’s a sound­track and cap­sule col­lec­tion? Is there a cer­tain di­rec­tion you’re go­ing for? SA MUEL ROSS: There’s a sound­track, cap­sule col­lec­tion and a phys­i­cal in­stal­la­tion. The cap­sule col­lec­tion was re­ally to de­liver the key and core fun­da­men­tal as­pects of A-Cold-Wall into the Dover Street Mar­ket story. That story is be­ing led by the colour palette, it is very mono­tone and quite coarse and cold, which is

com­fort­able for my­self be­cause I tend to wear black any­way (laughs). It was also re­ally im­por­tant for us to en­sure there was an in­stal­la­tion as­pect that em­bod­ied move­ment and acous­tics as well, be­cause as much as A-Cold-Wall is about the clothes, it is about ex­pe­ri­en­tial de­sign and art, so to pair all three lay­ers together was the per­fect way to in­tro­duce the col­lec­tion. So you’ll find paint stains across the gar­ments. Our sig­na­tures, such as asym­met­ric over­lock­ing and thread­ing and clean min­i­mal pieces of type, are then jux­ta­posed against large, en­gulf­ing pieces of type and logo graphic. It’s re­ally a good cap­sule to show a core mar­ket what A-Cold-Wall is and where it started.

E S Q: A-Cold-Wall has been la­belled as streetwear and you have an­other dif­fu­sion line where you do more T-shirts be­cause you worry about A-Cold-Wall be­ing too avant-garde. How do you feel about all th­ese la­bels that peo­ple put on your brand? SA­MUEL ROSS: It’s in­ter­est­ing isn’t it? Be­cause ini­tially streetwear was strictly T-shirts, screen-print­ing, which was fine and im­por­tant but I think what hap­pened was a wider com­mu­nity start­ing us­ing the term ‘streetwear’ to sep­a­rate the move­ment from tra­di­tion­al­ist fash­ion. Now it’s re­ally in­ter­est­ing be­cause streetwear has be­come one of the most im­por­tant points in our gen­er­a­tion of fash­ion, so you’ll find larger fash­ion houses join­ing Com­plexCon. Things are re­ally chang­ing. Just take a look at who’s be­ing ap­pointed to fash­ion houses—like Vir­gil at Louis Vuit­ton and Demna at Ba­len­ci­aga. Even Gosha and his close, tight-knit re­la­tion­ship with Comme des Gar­cons and Burberry, I think that it’s time the term ‘streetwear’ be dis­carded. But it’s also be­com­ing an in­cred­i­bly pow­er­ful word— both cul­tur­ally and fi­nan­cially.

E S Q: There’s a cer­tain neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tion to streetwear which comes with hype and re­selling etc. What are your thoughts on hype? SA MUEL ROSS: I think that en­gage­ment is im­por­tant. It’s very im­por­tant to al­low a brand to grow and for ideas to ma­ture, and with­out that level of en­gage­ment, it is in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult for in­de­pen­dent de­sign­ers to ma­ture and reach a point of, not just in­ter­est, but cre­ative in­tel­li­gence with­out hav­ing that ini­tial in­ter­est to fuel growth. What we’re call­ing hype I would call en­gage­ment. And that en­gage­ment is re­ally es­sen­tial to ma­ture and fuel in­de­pen­dent niche busi­nesses.

E S Q: What is your great­est fear? SA MUEL ROSS: I’m driven by a fear that stems from be­ing born into rel­a­tive poverty. Fear fu­els the idea to suc­ceed for me.

E S Q: What would you like your legacy to be? SA MUEL ROSS: I would like my legacy to be in­tel­li­gence. I also want it to be one that is re­spected for the hard work and for hav­ing a long-term plan for my brand. Also, to be re­mem­bered for not com­pro­mis­ing on my val­ues or vi­sion.

E S Q: So what does ‘bet­ter’ mean to you? AVI GOLD: It’s hard to use ‘bet­ter’ in an an­swer. There are two parts to it. First, it’s el­e­vat­ing things that we’re into. My in­ter­est is to put them on a plat­form in a bet­ter way. I want to make peo­ple think about things and re­mem­ber them. It sparks nos­tal­gia.

Sec­ond, it’s about putting your money where your mouth is. You’re sit­ting there when things can be bet­ter. And you try to make them bet­ter. That’s the mind­set that I and my team have, to try to run a store and cre­ate a mem­o­rable brand. With A Bet­ter Gift Shop, we have so many unique prod­ucts that there’s nowhere else you can get them.

E S Q: That’s the beauty of a great bricks-and-mor­tar store, right? It should feel like you have un­der­taken a pil­grim­age to visit it. AVI GOLD: That’s how it was like when I was a kid. Even up to re­ally re­cently, there’s a place in Har­lem where you can only get a cer­tain type of New Era hat. That place closed down. So now where do you go? It’s on me now to carry the torch in my stores. Also for Dover Street Mar­ket. What’s in­ter­est­ing about this place is that it’s cool to see a big com­pany, which isn’t re­ally that big. It’s like a fam­ily sit­u­a­tion. There’s a lot of good peo­ple work­ing together. But they all un­der­stand each other. It’s un­der­stand­ing how to drive peo­ple into this space. The ex­pe­ri­ence of walk­ing into a bricks-and-mor­tar store, right?

E S Q: What do you feel about the re­sale cul­ture of streetwear? AVI GOLD: I think it’s cheesy. If your ex­is­tence on this earth is to re­sell some­body else’s brand or prod­uct, you need to fig­ure your shit out. (Laughs) I can un­der­stand mak­ing money, which I’m all about. That’s why I hate re­sellers. They are the worst part of the street cul­ture. It’s greed right? I don’t like peo­ple who are driven by greed.

E S Q: I feel the same about view­ing streetwear sim­i­lar to stocks— an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the prod­uct. AVI GOLD: I see a lot of that now all the time when peo­ple view it as a sta­tus sym­bol and hype. It’s the same rea­son why print is not do­ing well. We grew up just out­side Toronto. The clos­est thing that we can get to New York, Lon­don or Tokyo, we have to read th­ese in­ter­views in mag­a­zines right? And we’re re­ally into it. And nowa­days, the younger kids, not all of them, but the large ma­jor­ity, they don’t care. It’s the sta­tus sym­bol. ‘It’s out, I want to buy it. I want to put it on.’ There’s no story to it.

I re­mem­ber go­ing into Her­mès and want­ing to buy a belt. The staff looked at me like I was crazy. ‘You can­not af­ford it.’ It’s true, they started at 800 dol­lars. But the good thing about Her­mès is, not to change the sub­ject, their prod­ucts are re­ally well-made. That’s a lux­ury brand that’s do­ing it right. They are not go­ing for the low-hang­ing fruit. They are stay­ing true to what they are and that’s amaz­ing.

E S Q: So why a hot dog stand? AVI GOLD: There are two as­pects to it: hot dogs are pop­u­lar in my city, where I come from, Toronto. That’s like a big Toronto thing. For me, it’s like the mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing be­hind the way a hot dog stand func­tions. Like the ven­dors sell in a unique way. It’s a very ‘street way’ to sell food. I think that’s re­ally cool like the brand­ing and the sig­nage, it’s just so mar­ketable. Ev­ery­body can be drawn to this main at­trac­tion. I just saw the bril­liance in that and the way that it can sell unique prod­ucts.

E S Q: What do you feel A Bet­ter Hot­dog tastes like? AVI GOLD: It’ll be very cul­tured (laughs).

E S Q: What are your great­est fears? AVI GOLD: My great­est fear is not be­ing rel­e­vant. I have al­ways wanted to be rel­e­vant. As I get older, my per­spec­tive is chang­ing ev­ery day, and I don’t want to lose touch with re­al­ity and per­spec­tive on rel­e­vance. I al­ways want to be mak­ing the right prod­ucts. I al­ways want those prod­ucts and my ideas to res­onate with peo­ple in five, 10 or even 15 years.

E S Q: What would you like your legacy to be? AVI GOLD: To be mem­o­rable. I want to be re­mem­bered as be­ing orig­i­nal and a funny dude. If I wasn’t do­ing this, I would be do­ing stand-up.

switch up my wardrobe quite a lot, so a lot of the vin­tage pieces didn’t stay in it for long. I ex­plored many dif­fer­ent types of styles, from skater to punk.

E S Q: Is that what Dou­blet is all about? A mix of ev­ery­thing from the past? MASAYUKI I NO: It is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent now. Be­cause Dou­blet also means word puz­zles. It’s like chang­ing from one thing to an­other thing. So Dou­blet is kind of like this, ev­ery­day wear where I ap­ply dif­fer­ent tech­niques, and in a way that daily piece be­comes some­thing to­tally new, which is a feel­ing that I en­joy out of clothes.

E S Q: So what made you want to start Dou­blet? MASAYUKI I NO: I have al­ways been seek­ing out the op­por­tu­nity to start my own brand, since ages ago. When I was work­ing at a Ja­panese brand, I was look­ing for the chance to be an in­de­pen­dent de­signer. So that’s what in­spired me to start my own brand.

E S Q: Is it dif­fi­cult to be an in­de­pen­dent de­signer? MASAYUKI I NO: It is very, very dif­fi­cult. Till this day, I don’t have my own stand­alone store. When I started my busi­ness, I had to visit re­tail­ers, multi-brand stores and de­part­men­tal stores to buy and stock my brand. If they didn’t, I would not have been able to con­tinue Dou­blet. That was the hard­est part ini­tially.

E S Q: What does win­ning the LVMH prize mean to you? MASAYUKI I NO: I think win­ning the LVMH prize was a very good op­por­tu­nity for my brand. Be­fore win­ning the prize, Dou­blet was still rel­a­tively un­der­ground, but win­ning it helped push Dou­blet into the in­ter­na­tional scene due to the at­ten­tion and ex­po­sure from the me­dia.

E S Q: How did you feel when you were awarded the top prize? MASAYUKI I NO: I was re­ally sur­prised. I was think­ing: ‘me!? are you sure?’ (Laughs).

E S Q: Can we talk about the con­tainer that you’ve de­signed for Dover Street Mar­ket Sin­ga­pore’s first an­niver­sary? What was the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind it? MASAYUKI I NO: The in­spi­ra­tion was to build a ski lodge in Sin­ga­pore. I like the irony of cre­at­ing the jux­ta­po­si­tion of a cold cli­mate set­ting to de­but Dou­blet’s au­tumn/win­ter 2018 col­lec­tion, in a coun­try that is hot all year round (Laughs).

E S Q: One of the as­pects that I re­ally like is how you meld pack­ag­ing as part of the prod­uct. MASAYUKI I NO: Oh thank you.

E S Q: What is this fas­ci­na­tion that you have with in­fus­ing pack­ag­ing as part of the en­joy­ment of your gar­ments? MASAYUKI I NO: Some of my hap­pi­est mo­ments are when I re­ceive a gift and un­pack­age it. It’s an ex­pe­ri­ence that I would like to trans­late to my cus­tomer. In­stead of just buy­ing the item off a shelf, they have to un­ravel it and ex­pe­ri­ence that same joy. Pack­ag­ing is very im­por­tant for my col­lec­tion.

E S Q: Is there any very spe­cial pack­ag­ing you have done for Dou­blet that you want to tell our read­ers? Or any­thing that is mem­o­rable to you. MASAYUKI I NO: When I was de­sign­ing the pack­ag­ing pieces, the de­sign was based on dead stock pieces. Dead stocks are new prod­ucts but kept in stor­age, where no­body can buy them. They’re ba­si­cally use­less. But to me, dead stock doesn’t mean that it can’t be worn any­more. To me the items are still alive, wait­ing to be worn. So the con­cept is based on that be­cause over time, the plas­tic pack­ag­ing sticks to the cloth­ing. The pack­ag­ing has a hid­den mean­ing.

E S Q: So do you feel that pack­ag­ing breathes new life into dead stock? MASAYUKI I NO: Yeah, also I think there’s no ex­piry date for clothes. In the fash­ion world to­day, items be­come dated in a mat­ter of six months, which is some­thing I dis­agree with. Be­cause fash­ion is for­ever if you take good care of your clothes.

E S Q: What does hype mean to you? MASAYUKI I NO: I would not like it if my brand were to sud­denly be­come an im­me­di­ate ‘hype’ brand.

E S Q: It’s not sus­tain­able. MASAYUKI I NO: I’d rather my brand grow slowly and grad­u­ally like Louis Vuit­ton. That’s what I would wish for my Dou­blet. Slow hype (laughs).

E S Q: (Laughs) Slow hype. Can I ask what is your great­est fear? MASAYUKI I NO: My big­gest fear is find­ing de­fec­tive items dur­ing the pro­duc­tion phase. To me, tak­ing care of the pro­duc­tion process is a big part of the process. Of­ten I will make vis­its to the fac­to­ries, to in­spect the pro­duc­tion process. The prod­ucts from Dou­blet are not cheap and my cus­tomers are my pri­or­ity, so I would not want de­fec­tive items to reach them.

E S Q: Is it dif­fi­cult to in­fuse plas­tic into your gar­ments? MASAYUKI I NO: The pack­ag­ing tech­nique is a com­bi­na­tion of two dif­fer­ent tech­niques that have been around for a while. It’s a lot of ex­per­i­ment­ing with th­ese two tech­niques that oth­ers have not tried meld­ing together be­fore. So in the be­gin­ning, it was harder to achieve the ef­fect.

E S Q: So is that your de­sign ethos, com­bin­ing dif­fer­ent tech­niques to show gar­ments in a new light? MASAYUKI I NO: Yes, com­bin­ing dif­fer­ent tech­niques and dis­cov­er­ing new tech­niques is part of my de­sign ethos. The only thing I don’t do is in­vent­ing tech­niques from scratch. I pre­fer find­ing fac­to­ries with pro­duc­tion tech­niques that in­ter­est me and to work together with them by adding my ideas to dis­cover a dif­fer­ent way of mak­ing gar­ments.

E S Q: What would you like your legacy to be? MASAYUKI I NO: I would like to be re­mem­bered as some­one who brought a smile to peo­ple’s faces. When they think of Dou­blet or my­self, I would like them to re­mem­ber all the good items they had. Hap­pi­ness and hu­mour are what I would like my legacy to be.

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