Matthew Williams (Image by Karl Hab)
Matthew’s newest creative project following the “BEEN TRILL” in 2014, 1017 ALYX 9SM was launched in 2015, at first under the name ALYX. While inspired by subcultures like skateboarding and festivals, the streetwear brand is positioned more as high-end quality and luxury.
The three founders of #BEENTRILL: Heron Preston, Virgil Abloh, and Matthew Williams (Image by Alexander Tamargo)
Before becoming a fashion designer, Matthew was known as a creative director working with Lady Gaga (he took care of set designs for the singer back in 2009) and as a collaborator with Kanye West.
Another turning point in his career was a golden opportunity to work with Mr. Yeezy. Matthew recounted in an interview: “I created a suit jacket for him to wear to the Grammys when I was 21 and he asked me what I did, and I told him I was working at this clothing brand. He then asked me how much I got paid, to which I replied, ‘Nothing.’ He said, ‘Okay, I’m going to give you double nothing to come work with me.’ The next day I was on a plane with him to Japan. I owe him everything. He’s been an amazing friend and mentor.”
Years later, Kanye West fuelled hype for 1017 ALYX 9SM after being spotted in its signature chest rig while out on the street. The piece quickly became one of the most-wanted items on the resale market, of course – and with a well-inflated price.
Kanye West spotted wearing ALYX chest rig (Image via INSTARimages.com)
Matthew decodes the name 1017 ALYX 9SM: the number 1017 represents his birthdate – October 17th, ALYX is his daughter’s name, and “9SM” is the old address of Alyx Studio, (9 Saint Mark’s Place, NYC) before it was relocated to Italy.
The creative genius considers ALYX a game in which he explores some of the most interesting cultures through skillful exploitation of visual codes, resulting in his very own unique design. His love and passion for the brand saw Matthew and his family relocate to Italy so he could keep his eye on the production process and stay close to suppliers.
Fame has followed the brand: Not only did 1017 ALYX 9SM have its own show at Paris Fashion Week, but the brand’s signature accessory has become a new trend since A$AP Rocky was photographed wearing it and the belt buckle was adopted by Dior Menswear in its SS19 Collection by Kim Jones. Such moves not only blurred the lines between streetwear and high fashion but also reflect how contrasting brands can complement each other to create new elements for both sides of the fashion fence.
Rollercoaster Buckle Belt by 1017 ALYX 9SM made its appearance in Dior Men SS19 collection (Image via Vogue/GettyImages)
ALYX brand’s visual code is functional protection. Matthew chose the image of a seatbelt – common to roller coasters in theme parks – after taking a walk in the Six Flags Magic Mountain amusement park in California. He turned a simple, functional item into a belt that became a hit item, drawing fans including A$AP Rocky. Matthew never expected the belt would spark such an explosive trend, replicating what happened when Kanye West bought Matthew’s chest rig.
Matthew Williams during a preparation process inside an Italy studio (Image via GQ Magazine)
Matthew says he wants 1017 ALYX 9SM to become a “sustainable” brand. In an interview in 2017, he said: “I realized that the Earth is flooded with a huge amount of waste generated from fashion production. As someone who is responsible for fashion production, I understand I need to create items that deserve to last forever.”
The young designer communicates this “eco-friendly” agenda in a number of clever ways.
First, he aims to create basic products that are “permanent” with material that can endure for decades. A typical example of this is a coat from a collection in collaboration with Mackintosh. Here, he forced changes to the production process to ensure the environment was not harmed. The result is the ALYX Visual division – a product line made from recycled cotton fibers, extracted from pre-worn, discarded clothes.