Adrian Cheng, the new majority owner of 1017 Alyx 9SM, has already identified “10 key cities” in the world where he could eventually plant freestanding boutiques for the brand created by designer Matthew M. Williams.
In an exclusive interview, Cheng and Williams described plans to intensify direct-to-consumer distribution channels, expand the product offering and — awaiting the first Alyx boutique — unfurl pop-ups, events and “experiential” projects before the end of the year.
“We’re focusing a lot on DTC, on capsule collection drops and, product-wise, we’re finding more room for essentials, so that you can mix and match with fashion items as well,” Cheng said, seated next to Williams at the same dining-room table where their business partnership was forged after many years of friendship.
The two men noted that fresh jersey and denim capsules would drop on the 1017 Alyx 9SM website and at select wholesale accounts this spring, awaiting Williams’ return to the Paris Fashion Week calendar in June with a new collection.
Cheng declined to say how much capital he’s investing in the fashion house via a new, yet unnamed, private investment vehicle, but he made clear Williams would get more means and more “freedom to be creative.
“I think Alyx is a great brand, and we want to make it happen,” he said, while stressing the development timetable has yet to be defined, and there’s no hurry. “Every brand has its own DNA, its own culture, its own personality, so you have to do everything in a bespoke way….I would like to expand the global community that understands and likes Alyx.”
WWD broke the news last November that Cheng, a Hong Kong-based entrepreneur, developer and retail titan, had invested in 1017 Alyx 9SM in order to accelerate its development, hire more staff and expand its accessories, footwear and jewelry offerings in particular.
“We’re just building the team, step by step,” said Williams, who isn’t in any rush to open the first store, though he would love it to be in Paris soon.
“We’re looking at opportunities in different regions for retail space, but we’re taking our time to find the right location, the right fit for the brand and for our identity,” he said.
As chief executive officer of New World Development and founder of K11 Group, Cheng has pioneered the concept of “cultural retail” in Asia, incorporating art, craft and fashion exhibitions into many of his developments.
He stressed that 1017 Alyx 9SM has all the ingredients to create a new kind of retail experience that links its community, and leverages Williams’ strong links to key players in the music, art and entertainment worlds.
“Having control in directly owned locations or direct channels, you can actually curate the entire culture, the experience, the services — how you can create a emotions with the customers, even online,” Cheng explained. “And since we’re starting a new chapter, it really allows a lot of space and boundless imagination in order to create something that is different.”
The next chapter for Williams’ brand will unfurl in the French capital, since the headquarters will move here, nearly 10 years after he established the brand in Milan.
“Paris has become my home since I relocated here for Givenchy three and a half years ago,” he recounted, referring to his stint as artistic director of that brand, which concluded at the end of 2023. “And it’s such an incredible city, especially for fashion.…I’m just really inspired and I love this city.”
The coed label is known for its industrial-tinged and utilitarian allure, realized with high-quality materials and modern craftsmanship. It is perhaps best known for its signature roller-coaster buckle that appears on apparel, bags and shoes.
Williams noted that his collaborations with specialist brands would continue, including with Japanese denim-maker Blackmeans and longtime partner Nike. “We have a shoe and a collection under my own name coming out in the next few months,” he said about Nike, also mentioning plans for a second tie-up with Swiss watchmaker Audemars Piguet in future. (The first was unveiled last August in Tokyo.)
“The point of doing projects like this is to explore products that we normally wouldn’t be able to do ourselves,” the designer explained.
The main 1017 Alyx 9SM collection will continue to be produced in Italy, Japan, China, South Korea and Portugal, depending on the product category, Williams noted.
He cited a wish to give a greater spotlight to his womenswear, where the brand started, and to offer more frequent collections with a broader product mix, especially “more essentials and wardrobing within the collections that are always available and more democratic.”
“When you’re a smaller brand doing these one-off fashion collections, sometimes that gets lost in the mix when you’re trying to do a show and propose something that is directional,” he explained. “There are so many no-brainer things that are really hard to find, like a pair of black jeans that are affordable to 20-year-olds, or a black T-shirt, a button-up, a suit pant that’s wearable. It’s actually not easy to find really basic clothes that you think are out there.”
Williams also held out hope that he can reduce prices slightly. “That will be able to be done once we have more direct-to-consumer channels,” he explained.
To be sure, the designer is stoked to apply himself fully to a brand he has often described as his life project.
“I love to have every piece touched by my hand, so we don’t really need that big of a team,” he said. “I do a lot myself from a creative standpoint.”