A-COLD-WALL SS19 Review: Fashions Political Power
By Seán McHugh
Shocking, immersive and brilliant, the A-COLD-WALL* SS19 runway challenged the societal notions of the body, identity, and control through its evocative performance and fashion.
Walking into the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane I was handed a vacuum packed bag with the attendant simply saying “for your safety”. Inside was a breathing mask, safety goggles, and earplugs and walking into the runway space it soon became clear why. The room was all concrete, the long windows illuminating the dense dust that hung in the air. As the runway began, heavy duty speakers pounded music into the room while a huge fan cleared the room of its airborne debris. And then the performance began.
A tightly packed group of people marched slowly into the showroom, their long hooded coats, faces, and limbs all the same grey colour. Their exit signalled the begging of the runway with the major staples of the SS19 collection including industrial straps, bright red accents, and avant-garde silhouettes. Some unique runway looks involved the same grey participants as before, with models walking in the centre of abstract shaped sculptures carried by the marching grey actors. As the runway continued, the more streetwear and industrial elements of the collection took centre stage with deconstructed sportswear jackets, sheer vinyl tops and oversized puffer detailing making up some of the collections strongest looks. For the finale, a grey box is pushed into the centre of the room until suddenly a group of grey actors rushed forward to tear it apart in a matter of seconds. What emerges is a man. His face covered and his body naked. He emerges covered in the red liquid held within the box and as the audience looks on as he singlehandedly pushes the box off stage, slipping and straining within the red liquid as he does.
But what does this all mean? It is an obvious question, and designer Samuel Ross may not give an easy answer but brings a level of nuanced thought to his collection that is rarely seen on runways. He cites his theme for this catwalk as “Human. Form. Structure” and Ross wants the performative aspects of the show to represent freedom from oppression, fear, and blindness. The geometric structures that encase some of the models speak to that, their design representing the caging and subjection of those within the norms of the fashion industry. This is echoed through the more utilitarian pieces of his collection where models walk in monochromatic uniforms. Both the futurism in Ross' styling and his addition of the grey actors further taps into an Orwellian understanding of fashion that focuses on the power of the industry to express individuality and freedom against the discriminatory norms of society.
Clearly, this is then a collection unlike any other seen at London Fashion Week Men's. Whether navigating the complex tailoring of the collection or trying to decipher the runway performance, Ross provides an intellectual and innovative approach to fashion. A-COLD-WALL* is, therefore, an influential brand that is working to bridge the gap between fashion, art, and politics in London and we at FTS, and the larger fashion world, now wait eagerly to see what A-COLD-WALL* has in store for the future.