Sustainable fashion is a vast topic closely related to the social and environmental responsibilities shouldered by the fashion industry. But as we all know, the damage to the environment and the extent of waste brought by the industry cannot be undone overnight, especially when fast fashion has become a part of our lives for over 20 years.
The truth is, if we are willing to return to the starting line of fashion - high-quality, timeless, non-disposable - we still have a chance to practise sustainable fashion.
While it remains a hot topic in this era, however, only a handful of designers would actually look into the nature, future and value of fashion. We are lucky to have interviewed one of these few, Matthew M. Williams to share his thoughts on the fashion industry through his label 1017 ALYX 9SM and its classic sneaker collaboration.
What values should we endorse in today’s fashion industry?
The development of the brand
For those who know more or less about ALYX would likely agree that it can be classified as a luxury streetwear brand. Matthew has incorporated his love for football, skateboarding and music into ALYX and reconstructed the spirit and craftsmanship of subcultures working with various incredible artisans and factories. The end result is the creation of a distinctively exquisite and arty brand.
Combining tradition and creativity to underpin the fashion ecology
While ALYX excels at integration, it is perhaps even more accurate to see the label as Matthew’s personal fashion monologue, his aspiration to build and create a young brand’s tailoring in hope of bringing the new generation closer to fashion construction. Matthew did not graduate from a fashion school. Thus, the branding process and direction of ALYX under his guidance is process-driven, much unlike what we see with other designers. For instance, apart from the craftsmen we mentioned, freshmen from renowned fashion schools are also part of the team. The non-stop interaction and communication happening from within is also a self-taught process to Matthew himself.
With its fashion aesthetics and popularity, ALYX is undoubtedly a successful brand, but there is more to it. It embodies a natural and sustainable blend of youthful creativity and traditional craftsmanship, a concept which Matthew holds dear and can underpin the whole fashion ecology.
The devil is in the details: This is about evolution, not revolution.
「About evolution, not revolution.」—— Matthew M. Williams
‘I’ve never paid attention to sneakers.’ Raised in California, a state full of sneakerheads and subcultures, Matthew surprisingly has not paid much attention to sneaker news despite his personal liking. Perhaps he is destined to walk a different path.
It is only too common to see fancy, eye-catching products in co-branding designs. Nike X 1017 ALYX 9SM Air Force AF1 Low, however, tells a different story, one of a classic masterpiece. A clever combination of both brands’ iconic metal hardware is not its only feature. The stitching on the body is removed, the leather at the waist and toe of the shoe is connected, and specific leathers have been used respectively on the all-black and all-white looks. One of the highlights is the use of leathers that aged really well. They do not only reshape the shoes’ texture but also provides the comfort of wearing. Such is the fundamental pursuit of quality of a fashion item that cannot be surpassed by excessive design.
Understanding the nature of Nike and 1017 ALYX 9SM
‘I have always been researching into the archetypes of things I adore.’
-- Matthew M. Williams
Since Air Force’s first release in 1982, there have been countless collaboration projects and we can see all sorts of variations nowadays. But at the end, what are considered good designs? For a pair of shoes designed for basketball players, simply a special shape is not enough. What matters the most is a multi-functional design boosted by multiple technologies. The simplest example would be the ‘Air’ referring to the flexibility, elasticity and durability brought by the Air technology on the sole which showcases the brand’s design core of lightweight and uniqueness. When we look at this collaborative ALYX edition, these features are exactly what the two brands brought together with their understanding of each other’s vision and mission - retaining their respective unique technologies while enhancing and elevating the fashion item.
A timeless design is state of ‘less is more’, a goal to many practitioners in the field. Matthew M Williams and his label 1017 ALYX 9SM (ALYX) go down the same path. By constantly developing new materials and products, his creativity has cast the unique style of ALYX. He has been a believer of the understated elegance of timelessness.
Avoid excessive design
There are numerous colourful AF1 designs on the market. Customers can even customise their own AF1 on the Nike By You platform. However, Nike has been more mindful of collaborations in recent years in order to protect AF1’s precious design core from being exploited after the overexposure caused by previous collaborations.
‘Timeless doesn’t mean boring. I am devoted to create and explore pieces that could
-- Matthew M. Williams
‘Timeless’ is indeed a simple concept - This AF1 will definitely become your go-to choice, outshining other sneakers. This is exactly Nike and ALYX’s common pursuit, an everyday classic in its purest form rather than an ultimate revolution.
Through his own imagination, dreams and other darker aspects of human experience, the collaboration artist, David Rappeneau invites us to his realm of desire and consumption. He ingeniously blurs the boundaries between image, reality, fantasy and tangible beings into apocalyptic scenes and creats a sense of loss of direction which brings viewers into a world where virtuality and reality co-exist and interweave in harmony. He opts for mixed-media in his artworks, including acrylic acid, ballpoint pen, pencil and charcoal. And they remind us of the limitation of digital creation.
Say no to fast fashion: In face of information overflow, how do we tackle the challenge to filter out what's truly meaningful?
Fashion is known to be fast-changing, and yet the fast food culture nurtured by brands and consumers together has been twisted into a kind of ‘trend’. People seem to have been blinded by novelty. They no longer find a brand’s essence and values meaningful, even though these details are truly worthy of savouring. When we later talked about internet and information dissemination, Matthew mentioned that while the easy access of information is generally beneficial to the world, we should still keep in mind one thing -
‘How do we look through a brand’s excessive promotion and the vast information
-- Matthew M. Williams
Although this interview is meant for us to understand a pair of sneakers, Matthew has taken the time to remind us to take a break and think about the nature of fashion against today’s backdrop.
Chasing after trends without one’s own judgement is not cool, and it is definitely not fashion. Information technology brought us speed. But if all we do is follow the speed and chase clout without taking some time to think independently, our mind will never be able to progress, and the fashion industry can never evolve from conformity.
Nike 1017 ALYX 9SM pop up at CEMENT, K11 MUSEA