The designer joins forces with the label on a second collaborative collection
What do you get when one of the world’s most exciting streetwear designers swaps the urban landscape for the natural world? It probably looks a lot like Samuel Ross’s new collection for Oakley, which the designer unveiled in Milan last week. His second for the brand, the A-Cold-Wall* founder has taken on the task of creating highly functional garments whilst maintaining his signature ACW* feel.
The difference lies in the respective landscapes in which the two brands exist. “With ACW* the talking point is heavily woven into the conversation of race and multiculturalism and architecture and industrial process,” explains Ross. “Whereas here, it’s almost the juxtaposition where Oakley is about the outdoor protagonist and the person who is actually trying to escape that inner city narrative, and enjoys hardship through training and hiking. It’s almost like the flip of the coin.”
The collection utilises panels, pockets, and zips to create garments that morph according to the user’s needs: both practical and aesthetic. Technical pants can be adjusted at the knee to change their silhouette, or unzipped lengthways as if sliced open. Prints resembling clay smudges and mud splatters feature on t-shirting and outerwear, and sweaters are panelled with thermal silver foil.
“I think the main difference is storytelling. There’s a completely different narrative. So although fabrications are aligned and there are nuances of ACW* aesthetic that travel with myself and what I do, the main objective with Oakley is to produce technical garments for the outdoors.”
Known for his ability to capture the zeitgeist, Ross’s vision aims to reinvent the fusty notion of The Great Outdoors (thanks mum and dad). Through his lens, it becomes a space of innovation and exploration, proving that youth culture isn’t just about sitting inside on our phones. “It’s once again about trying to show the outdoors in a way that it may not have been looked at before; as this new land or new space which needs exploration. And that really comes from the fact that our generation probably doesn't spend enough time actually out in nature, touching the dirt, exploring landscapes.”
Not one to shy away from – literally – getting his hands dirty, Ross describes how first hand experience allowed him to better understand the environment in which these garments would live. “This season it feels a bit more robust… That’s really just come from going out onto these hikes with the Oakley team, and shooting these campaigns over three to four days.”
These excursions also helped to define the aesthetic, with earthy, muted reds, burnt ochres, and moss-like jersey textures featuring throughout the collection. The clothes have a sense of survival, one which is reflected in the campaign video, shot by Ross himself and his longtime collaborator Hamish Stevenson. The film tracks a lone figure wandering through an austere landscape (Norfolk’s breathtaking Hunstanton Cliffs), accompanied by an eerie, metallic soundscape. The model’s long, purposeful strides recall Giacometti’s famous Striding Man I, a symbol of mankind’s constant forward motion. Given Ross’s vanguard approach to fashion and Oakley’s own brand of rugged outdoor pursuit, the metaphor seems fitting.
“The idea of movement and movement of people is definitely a topic that I try to reinterpret in my work,” says Ross. “I think it’s important that there is social commentary in work that designers are producing, because we do represent a collective or group… Even sometimes a generation.”
Watch the film below.