More Than Product: Dr. Martens X A-COLD-WALL* Breathes Poetry Into Design

by Christina Donoghue on 13 December 2022

Invited to a night of panel discussions and poetry to commemorate the latest in A-COLD-WALL*'s collaborative relationship with Dr. Martens, Christina Donoghue reveals all.

Invited to a night of panel discussions and poetry to commemorate the latest in A-COLD-WALL*'s collaborative relationship with Dr. Martens, Christina Donoghue reveals all.

Restoration tries to ignore the past, while maintenance acknowledges it' - Wilson Oryema

'Let time play a role in every creation, and do not try to deny it. Degrading and decaying are part of creating. It was John Ruskin who said that restoration was 'as impossible as raising the living from the dead', and while he was correct in many ways, Ruskin misunderstood something important. A structure weathered by time, collapsing and breaking, is not dead - quite the opposite, it is the decay and attrition which makes it alive. For change, and what is degradation but a state of constant change, is the sign of something unfinished, and if something remains in an unfinished state, it will always remain alive. Restoration is wrong, but maintenance, maintenance is not. Maintenance is a means to allow decay and degradation to continue as long as they can. The difference, and it is an important difference, is that restoration tries to ignore the past, while maintenance acknowledges it. Maintenance is the patch on your jeans that doesn't try to hide itself. Maintenance has no shame about the past - it embraces it. Maintenances is wearing your scars, restoration is hiding them.' - Wilson Oryema, Fixed Position.

A-COLD-WALL* x Dr. Martens

Above being collaborators, Darren McKoy, global creative director at Dr. Martens, and Samuel Ross of A-COLD-WALL* are dear friends, and so thanks to their kinship, their familiarity with one another spills into their creative collaborations; the latest being A-COLD-WALL*'s reinterpretation of the DM classics 1461 and 1460, both of which undeniably 'reject the overdesigned mainstream.'

Honouring design, friendship and collaboration, the pair joined writer and artist Wilson Oryema at 180 Strand's Reference Point on 12 December - launch day - for an evening of poetry and discussion, of which many were in attendance. From Suzy Menkes to Saul Nash, Bianca Saunders, Rhea Dillon and Campbell Addy, the audience sat patiently as Oryema moderated a conversation that took on the topics of innovation, academic rebellion, the power of obstruction, and the ongoing impact of underground scenes. In addition, the launch was also accompanied by Fixed Position; a printed zine worked on by the trio that takes shape as a love note to the act of 'degradation and creation', letting time weather belongings as proof of love.

Not their first time teaming up in the name of creating elegant 'product' (as Ross refers to it), this meeting of minds is as natural as they come. Ross befriended McKoy before he knew the Sheffield-born creative worked at Dr. Martens - a company whose base has famously belonged to Northamptonshire for over 60 years which coincidentally was Ross' base throughout his formative years, too. 'I felt an obligation to carry on with our collaboration because I grew up in Northampton, and so Docs were intrinsic to my youth and formative years,' Ross told the audience.

A-COLD-WALL* x Dr. Martens

The collaborative styles are simple but not bare. Working Class heritage (one shared by McKoy, Ross, Dr. Martens and A-COLD-WALL*) is reflected through Ross' idealisations of Brutalist architecture, which make up the designer's vision of his own working-class Britain that saw him grow from a young boy into the creative director of A-COLD-WALL*. Working in a reverse approach, the shoe was dissected to create somewhat of a blueprint of the design itself; 14 hours later, only one style had been dismembered. 'I wake up to nightmares of breaking in a new pair at least once a month. So there was catharsis in this deconstruction, a payback of sorts. But it wasn't an easy victory. I was Captain Ahab wrestling with my white whale, a fight between man and nature, or in this case, shoe. And where Docs have put many a hole in my heel, holes in my fingers were new', says the introduction of Fixed Position.

Also touching upon his background in commercial design at the talk, Ross interestingly told Oryema, 'It's natural to think emotionally when concerning "product"; a term whose connotations entirely contradict this way of working. The very term product is heavily associated with Capitalism and the West in the 21st Century for obvious reasons, and so to attach emotion almost feels forced. Not for Ross and never for A-COLD-WALL*; a sentiment that may explain the brand's organic roots and how they've blossomed into something accessible, different and original in the coming years, just like their recent collaboration with Dr. Martens.

A-COLD-WALL* x Dr. Martens
Christina Donoghue



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