EXCLUSIVE: Samuel Ross Reveals Ambitions for A-Cold-Wall in China

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LONDON — A-Cold-Wall, the fashion label founded by Samuel Ross, on Friday unveiled its first stand-alone store in Beijing’s affluent shopping development Taikoo Li Sanlitun as it seeks to become a direct-to-consumer brand in the region.

Ross opened the store in partnership with brand-management specialist Power Rich and with Tomorrow, which acquired a minority stake in A-Cold-Wall in 2018.

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Located on the first floor in the southern part of the shopping district, the store was designed in-house with a British modernist and industrial touch. It has flexible spaces for product displays and hosting events involving the local community.

Ross said opening the brand’s first store in Beijing’s Sanlitun was a decision “based on sensibility.”

“I’m here to present the brand at year seven via a much more refined lens, which really speaks to the runway and to the luxury side of A-Cold-Wall. But it isn’t just about being next to legacy heritage brands. I think it’s more about the eclecticism of the audience that we want to reach,” Ross said.

The space is predominantly electric blue — the shade covers the facades and steel tubing decorations inside. Ross said he chose the tone specifically for the region, and it will be used in the A-Cold-Wall stores in Shanghai and Shenzhen that will open in August and October, respectively.

The 31-year-old designer said the blue he chose is a great way to communicate the industrial processes connected with the brand, and a way to distinguish his non-fashion creative work from A-Cold-Wall initiatives. His non-fashion work, which includes industrial, interior, furniture and sound design, comes under the Samuel Ross & Associates banner, which uses the color orange.

Ross is no stranger to China. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, he traveled to Shanghai several times for sneaker launches with Nike, and to attend the streetwear and fashion fair Innersect, which is organized by Kaufmann Zhang.

In an interview, the London-based designer observed that the brand’s local community in China is much more fashion-forward compared to the rest of the world.

“The type of pieces that the local community is drawn to are far more nuanced. [I usually don’t] have to explain the articulation and more avant-garde elements of A-Cold-Wall. They have a sharp understanding [of the offerings] in terms of wovens and knits.”

“We feel quite confident broadening that and looking at regional exclusives, which kind of riff off a sensibility that is well understood in China,” he said.

Ross said that, for the moment, the store’s goal is to communicate the “directional layout” of the brand.

“Naturally, the store will come with the opportunity to [sell] more entry point goods. But I’m more concerned about the exit point and more of the avant-garde, the runway, and the artistic and philosophical arm of what the brand can offer there. Maybe [I’m saying this] all with my artistic head-on, but it kind of informs all of the business decisions that we all agree to move forward with,” he added.

A-Cold-Wall’s first stand-alone store in Beijing. - Credit: OUFEI
A-Cold-Wall’s first stand-alone store in Beijing. - Credit: OUFEI

OUFEI

According to Ross, China already represents a significant percentage of the brand’s annual revenues, which have tripled from 2019 to 2022, and “we are really keen to continue to grow that market.” He declined to reveal actual revenues.

He acknowledged that the China expansion is not a solo gig. It’s an integrated project with all the “trusted China experts” involved.

Ross worked with Stella Song from the communication agency Socialight, and Scotie Li from Power Rich, who is also the former fashion line general manager at Li-Ning, to push regional exclusive styles, activations and pop-ups, and eventually aims to cut down wholesale accounts to become a direct-to-consumer brand in China.

By the end of the financial year 2023, Ross said “there could be an opportunity to see more stores opening across key cities throughout China.”

Following that, there will be a small and steady number of stores opening in Asia Pacific, and in major cities like Seoul and Tokyo between 2024 and 2026.

“The reason we’re focused on Asia Pacific is that these territories have been so seminal to how I established A-Cold-Wall,” Ross said. “Think about 2015 to 2017. They were formative years for the brand. I was traveling to China, Japan and South Korea at least five times a year.”

“There were a few of us who were doing that: Jerry Lorenzo, Virgil Abloh and Heron Preston. All of us felt, understood, and saw the connectivity with that audience base there. So there’s been this organic growth pattern with these markets. I am now just starting to integrate stores to catch up with the relationships,” he added.

A-Cold-Wall’s first stand-alone store in Beijing. - Credit: OUFEI
A-Cold-Wall’s first stand-alone store in Beijing. - Credit: OUFEI

OUFEI

Even though entering China still remains very difficult for foreign individuals due to lockdowns, Ross is exploring ways to obtain a working visa so that he can see his first store in person.

“As soon as you are there, you will see the space in such a different way,” he added.

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