“Built on the undercurrent,” as he puts, Matthew Williams’ label ALYX, named after his eldest daughter, fuses refinement with subversive culture. Born in Chicago and raised in California, Williams has cultivated a design aesthetic rooted in his urban upbringing. Following a short stint at the University of California, he worked in the entertainment industry as creative director for Lady Gaga and art director of Doda, Kanye West’s creative agency. Later, Williams partnered with Heron Preston and Virgil Abloh to found Been Trill, an influential art collective and DJ crew grounded in dissident youth culture. In 2015, Williams teamed up with Luca Benini, founder of revered streetwear store Slam Jam, to launch the label ALYX, now referred to as 1017 ALYX 9SM.
Now based in Ferrara, Italy, 1017 ALYX 9SM possesses the same ethos of street culture that permeated Williams’ early work, but with a greater attention to a luxury market. Until 2017, the label designed women’s ready-to-wear, mixing tailoring with street-ready pieces inspired by diverse subculture styles. Only after venturing into menswear did 1017 ALYX 9SM truly come into its own. The label’s debut men’s collection, titled E. 1999 Eternal, is striking in its intensity, with wool tailoring and a heavy military influence, influenced by Williams’ time in Berlin.
The label’s signature rollercoaster buckle, inspired by the safety bars on a rollercoaster, recently earned the designer a commission from Kim Jones’ Dior Homme. Charged with designing a variation of the buckle, Williams created a fastening featuring the French house’s “CD” logo, which serves as a closure for Dior’s accessories this past menswear season. A major success for the designer, the Dior commission marks the movement of Williams’ subversive brand into mainstream fashion.
In late June of 2018 Williams also presented a co-ed collection in his debut runway show in Paris. Featuring the designer’s signature buckle, alongside nylon protected backpacks and hoods, the collection resembles futuristic survival wear. In his designs, Williams touches on goth stereotypes and late 90s styles—white tank tops, chained jeans—demonstrating his proclivity for refining classic street-wear pieces. These garments and accessories, which display precise industrial detailing, point to the brand’s hard-edged aesthetic and the designer’s profound connection to American urban cultures.
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Take a closer look at the standout details from the Dior Men Summer 2019 collection for which men's Artistic Director @MrKimJones called on the resourceful @MatthewmWilliams to transform the iconic ‘CD’ initials into a multipurpose signature buckle that appears across a wide range of accessories. © @Morgan_ODonovan
Launched yesterday, Williams’ ample personal archive has gone on sale on Grailed, with items available ranging from a Yeezus tour badge and ALYX samples to a one-of-a-kind Supreme baby onesie that was a personal gift from James Jebbia. According to the designer, the project is his way of closing the door on an era that saw him transform from a kid from Pismo Beach, California, with no traditional fashion education, to a distinct and powerful creative force in the music and fashion industries.
On the ethos of ALYX:
“The brand is like my personal monologue. It has hints of things I hate or love, sadness or happiness I feel. They’re just like places of inspiration for me, and it’s down to people to find what they find in it or what it means to them. What it really comes down to is for everybody to just be who they are. Be you, you know what I mean? The clothing is really something that you feel the most like yourself when you’re wearing it. It’s about being you. Come as you are.” – Highsnobiety, 2017
On the importance of a good team:
“The thing that can never be underestimated is the value of a team of people that really cares about the project that they’re doing. It translates into the clothing.” – Fashionista, 2016
On influential figures during the early stages of his career:
“I got to work with these animatronic builders who made all those Hussein Chalayan clothes, and I worked with McQueen right before he died. I did one of the last dresses, a ballgown that he wanted to inflate at the end of the stage and then project images of the future inside this frosted globe. Also through Gaga I met Nick Knight and Steve Klein, and all these amazing image makers, and also people in fashion. So I spent three years working with her and I stopped right before the Born this Way album. We did the cover with Hedi Slimane and a world tour with Nick and that’s where I really got a chance to get to know him and collaborate on all that imagery.” – Vogue, 2015
Feature image via 1017 ALYX 9SM