A few years ago, the American designer Matthew Williams moved his family from New York to Ferrara, Italy, so that he could follow the production of his fashion line, the cult label 1017 ALYX 9SM. Living in the heart of the country’s luxury supply chain, he immersed himself in the particulars of dye treatments and affixing nylon to leather, meeting with scrupulous artisans. Williams’ obsession with how clothes are made, and the hardware that holds them together, is central to ALYX’s DNA: a roller-coaster harness clasp that he discovered at a Six Flags theme park and meticulously replicated as a buckle reigns as the brand’s signature piece. That seatbelt-like clasp has been incorporated into everything from belts to jewelry to ponchos.
Matthew Williams’ Moncler Genius Collection Fuses Expert Craftsmanship with Beekeeper-Grunge
The closely watched American designer’s line incorporates ultrasonic welding, vulcanized rubber, and Econyl, a fiber made from recycled materials.By Tiffany Jow January 09, 2020
Such technical gear-inspired details are the ideal accomplice for Williams’ clothes, which channel the skate and surf culture of his California childhood into high fashion that’s at once kinky, practical, and deluxe. His innovations include military-inspired mesh vests, cooler-size chest packs, and a black knee-length cloak, belted with a carabiner and industrial chain, that’s reminiscent of the Grim Reaper.
That coat is part of Williams’ collection for the Moncler Genius project, out today in stores and online. The initiative, launched in 2018, originally asked eight designers, including Simone Rocha and Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli, to fuse their practices with Moncler’s, and has resulted in striking pieces that expand on the luxury sportswear company’s classics. Last year, Williams and British designer Richard Quinn were added to the roster and previewed their designs alongside the other eight during Milan Fashion Week.
Williams’ Moncler designs exhibit his knack for inventive engineering, delivering ALYX’s characteristic urban ninja vibe with a beekeeper-grunge twist. The buckles and carabiners are there—stamped with outsize Moncler logos and securing puffers, pants, hooded backpacks, and padded parkas—but there are also surprises. The seams of a frosted raincoat are sealed with ultrasonic welding, a manufacturing technique used in the packaging industry where pressure and high-frequency sound waves bond materials together. Tights and tops are made from Econyl, a nylon fiber produced from fabric scraps, fishing nets, and other waste that Gucci, Prada, and Burberry have recently embraced. Elsewhere, T-shirts are assembled from T-shirt offcuts, and neoprene boots are equipped with chunky rubber soles that have been vulcanized, a chemical process that improves the material’s elasticity and strength by heating it in sulfur.
More straightforward flair appears elsewhere. A jacket made of handpaper ripstop, a material used to make sails, produces a whooshing sound as its wearer moves—that aural component perhaps nodding to Williams’ previous role as a chief creative for music-world royalty including Lady Gaga and Kanye West. He doesn’t like being defined by his past, though, and wants to move forward in his own instinctive way. “I’m honestly just making clothes that don’t bore me,” he has said. “It’s coming from a place of things that I want to wear.”
(Photos courtesy Moncler)