Samuel Ross, founder of A-COLD-WALL*, entered his work with Converse with a probing question: How does a collaboration relay intent?
Within the output, which shares two unique articulations of Converse footwear — Chuck Taylor All Star Lugged and an ERX — matched with two uniquely devised track suits, Ross confronts his evolving story.
“We see that this collection is indicative of a shift in where Samuel wants to go and his approach to objects,” says Converse Global Design Director for Footwear and Special Projects, Matt Sleep.
The designs follow hallmarks of ACW*: Asymmetry, material exploration and subdued color. And, in honoring Converse’s heritage, Ross ties a thread through from childhood to the maturation of his brand.
We see that this collection is indicative of a shift in where Samuel wants to go and his approach to objects.
Exploration drives Ross’ practice; break down the individual pieces within his Converse collection, and you see evidence of a shift from stark, sculptural form to sensitive functionality. He manages to retain elements of an avant-garde sensibility, while embracing concerns of utility and protection.
“If volume one of A-COLD-WALL* had a linear approach, now the psyche is applied to wearable form. The extremes are filtered through humanity,” says Ross.
With the Chuck Taylor All Star Lugged, Ross translates his personal Black British Caribbean experience, Converse’s history and his design sensibilities to find a new, rugged form for the shoe.
“One of my earliest memories of Converse is owning a pair of navy blue All Stars at age 14. I was traveling to the Caribbean a lot and took those shoes on numerous hikes and across mountain trails,” says Ross. “So, the experience of my childhood effected this idea of changing the All Star into something that is more hard-wearing. You have a mix of cultural experience overlaid with A-COLD-WALL*'s opinion on how footwear should operate.”
Cast elements are an A-COLD-WALL* signature, however, the nuances of the upper, seam taping and overlocking all reflect a shift to functionality. Its bootie construction, gusseted tongue, reflective nuances and premium materials reflect the craftsmanship seen in the Chuck 70, with intent to provide additional durability and protection for the wearer.
“First introduced in 2019, the Chuck Taylor All Star Lugged reinforces the traditional Chuck Taylor silhouette with the extra resilience and traction that you get from a traditional step-off rubber outsole,” says Sleep. “Samuel really responded to the utilitarian nature of the design and we continued to build on its characteristics.”
If the Chuck Taylor All Star Lugged presents an overt usefulness, the Converse x A-COLD-WALL* ERX finds humanity in the abstract. Ross’ version pays homage to the shoe’s ruggedness, but in applying his signature cues he aims to “hit the balance of texture and material to carry a sense of memory.”
This amounts to a modernization of the ERX, again treading on the avant-garde with an allowance for new ergonomics. Textured suede, debossed elements and patina all work to add soul to the product. “On one side it looks incredibly engineered, but on the other it feels so human. It picks up on the sensitivity of the pale greys and slates,” says Ross.
Balance of line, material, personal history and use also defines the collection’s apparel.
“There’s a focused approach to technical fabrics, like ripstop nylon, in the apparel we are presenting. This extends the idea of functionality and exploration that we’ve been interested in,” says Ross. “In this collection, I also wanted to add organic hues of taupes, browns and slates that interact. That definitely reflects the development of A-COLD-WALL*.”
If volume one of A-COLD-WALL* had a linear approach, now the psyche is applied to wearable form.
The nylon tracksuit, in particular, addresses functionality and breathability, while honoring the sports and athletic history of a garment set expressly tied to Ross’ teenage years playing basketball. “You see several areas of the garment that open up and extrapolate the pattern to allow for further breathability,” says Ross. “There was a real focus on developing a modern warm-up tracksuit with late ’90s, early 2000s basketball influences.”
The second tracksuit, in contrast, allows Ross to push a hyper-experimental asymmetry, something he says, “offers a purist vision of A-COLD-WALL*.”
“The apparel Samuel presents plays into the democratic nature of our brand,” says Sleep. “In collaboration, Converse’s archive of icons allows for a creative filtering for our partners to put unique stamps on our heritage. What transpires is a healthy clash of ideas resulting in fresh perspective for both parties.”
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