The term “polymath” is unquestionably overused, and often just plain wrong, but it suits the multi-hyphenate British designer, creative director, and artist Samuel Ross, whose hard-to-pin-down practice spans high fashion, streetwear, painting, sculpture, installation, stage design, sound design, product and furniture design, experimental film, and street art. Ross himself speaks of his work as being situated along a “teetering edge” of sorts. Born in Brixton, London, to second-generation Windrush parents of Caribbean descent, he has always existed between worlds.
Best known for founding the Brutalism-tinged fashion label A-Cold-Wall, which sits at the nexus of streetwear and high fashion, and for his work, earlier in his career, with the late Virgil Abloh, Ross also runs the industrial design studio SR_A and has collaborated with brands including Nike, Converse, and Timberland. At just 32 years old, he has an honorary doctorate from the University of Westminster in London (he is the youngest person to ever be awarded this distinction), and has work in the permanent collections of Dallas Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, the latter of which presented an exhibition of his fashion work last year. Through his Black British Artist Grants program, he provides a platform, resources, and funding to young and unsung creators across fashion, art, illustration, industrial design, architecture, and photography. Several of his design pieces are currently on view in “Coarse,” his first solo exhibition at New York’s Friedman Benda gallery (through June 17), and he also recently created a series of abstract works for “Land,” a solo presentation at London’s White Cube gallery.
On the episode, Ross talks about notions of ritual, essence, and alchemy; how his work straddles the line between the organic and the synthetic; and why he always thinks in threes.