“Being bored is good for creativity,” says Matthew Williams about the sleepy weekends he’s been spending in the north of Italy. After clocking time as a creative director for Lady Gaga, then Kanye West, the designer behind 1017 Alyx 9SM is settling comfortably into the medieval city of Ferrara. There, with his wife and creative partner Jennifer Williams, he has thrown himself into the minutiae of dye treatments, the intricacies of bonding nylon to leather, and other technical quandaries that can only be fully explored at the heart of Italy’s luxury supply chain. From within 50 miles of where Williams lives, tucked-away factories are creating samples for every fashion house under the sun. “I always dreamed I could make clothes this way,” he says, “without having to do everything through DHL.”
While Alyx’s cult following can be attributed to its “elevated” execution of military-, streetwear-, and bondage-inspired silhouettes, the first spore of the label’s DNA came from something as basic as Six Flags Magic Mountain. It was there that Williams, who grew up in California, discovered a rollercoaster harness clasp that he replicated into a belt buckle. “It was our very first post on Instagram,” he says about the hardware, which has become such a brand fixture that when the Dior Homme designer Kim Jones collaborated on a series of items with Alyx, the buckle felt as iconic as the monogrammed Dior fabric that it held together.
To accompany Alyx’s Fall/Winter 2019 collection, titled Ex Nihilo, Williams published a book of the same name created by the photographer Daniel Shea and the London-based design firm OK-RM. The zine-like volume, featuring bodies superimposed onto geological formations, evokes the Californian sprawls of Williams’s past and the medieval stone buildings of his present. “Ex Nihilo means ‘out of nothing,’ and I think of California as a place that sort of spawned out of the earth,” Williams says. “I live in the city where Copernicus discovered that Earth revolves around the sun, but at the same time Italy as a country is only 150 years old, and the Rocky Mountains are much older than the Alps. So you have old soil, new soil, old civilization, new civilization turning into an inspiring tension.”
Models: TJ Blue at Margaux The Agency and Evan Mock
Hair: Lauryn Tullio
Fashion Assistant: Dustin Ellis