Setting the stage for an expansion thrust at 1017 Alyx 9SM, Hong Kong entrepreneur Adrian Cheng has taken a majority stake in Matthew M. Williams’s buzzy signature label.
This confirms a WWD report on Sept. 11 that Cheng was eyeing an investment in the Milan-based fashion house, which plans to relocate to Paris as it plots opening its first boutiques, and seizing on high-potential categories.
Disclosing the transaction exclusively to WWD, Williams enthused that the business partnership should allow his signature brand to accelerate its development, hire more staff and expand its accessories, footwear and jewelry offerings in particular.
He said Paris would likely be the location of the first 1017 Alyx 9SM boutique, with New York, London, Los Angeles and Tokyo also considered priorities.
“Those are the cities I frequent a lot and have an appetite for an Alyx store,” he said.
In a telephone interview, Cheng said his investment in Alyx was made via a new private vehicle which he described as a “lifestyle platform” spanning from fashion to entertainment.
He said the plan is to “strategically invest in cutting-edge designers and companies who are redefining the boundaries of fashion” and ones that “cross-pollinate fashion with art and music, community, and culture as well.”
“It’s time to nurture young, creative and innovative talents, so I see this investment as a testament to the transformative power of fashion,” he added.
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 said Williams embodies “the spirit of innovation that I am passionate about supporting.”
While Williams is most often in the media spotlight as creative director of Givenchy in Paris, he also dotes on 1017 Alyx 9SM, which he has lately been showing in Milan during men’s fashion week.
Established in 2015, 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 also uses Alyx as a platform for recurring collaborations with the likes of Nike, Moncler and Audemars Piguet.
“It’s a life project, and it’s so personal. It’s named after my daughter,” Williams told WWD in a 2021 interview.
The numbers in the brand moniker reference the designer’s birth date and an abbreviation of Williams’ first studio on Saint Mark’s Place in New York City.
The American designer, now 38, established Alyx as a 50-50 partnership with Italian streetwear guru Luca Benini of Slam Jam.
“Luca is staying on as a minority shareholder. I’m also selling some of my shares,” Williams told WWD. “There’s also major capital injection into the business.”
Financial particulars were not disclosed.
In the interview, Williams expressed his gratitude to Benini and Slam Jam “for believing in me before anybody else did, and for helping me and Alyx to get to this point.”
Born in Chicago and raised amid the vibrant skate culture in Pismo Beach, Calif., Williams is a self-taught designer. He started his career in fashion production, making a name for himself working as creative director for Lady Gaga. He counts Dior and Fendi designer Kim Jones among his professional godfathers.
Conceived as a brand tuned into cultural undercurrents such as Berlin’s techno scene, Alyx made its runway debut at Paris Fashion Week with a coed show in June 2018. It is carried by such marquee retailers as Ssense, Dover Street Market, Antonioli, LuisaViaRoma, Printemps, End, Browns and Selfridges.
“The brand changes with me,” Williams explained. “I think as a creative and somebody that is making product for today, it’s going to naturally change, right? And it’s important as a creative to be reflecting the world we live in today.”
The designer takes the long-term view, noting that Giorgio Armani established his brand in his 40s and remains independent nearly 50 years later.
“I feel that I’m constantly getting better at what I do. I think there’s a lot more to say, and a really bright future,” he said.
Cheng is the third-generation scion of one of the biggest business dynasties in Asia — spanning from property development, hotels and department stores to blockchain start-ups.
Primarily known for his ambitious urban development projects like the Victoria Dockside cultural district in Hong Kong, Cheng is also a fashion enthusiast who sits front row at Paris Fashion Week and is among Chanel’s rare male couture clients.
He makes investments via various vehicles, including C Capital, a hedge fund he cofounded in 2017. Since then C Capital has invested in more than 60 “disruptive businesses in the consumer, technology and blockchain sectors globally,” according to its website. Its portfolio includes Casetify, Bandier, Beautycon, Shein, Moda Operandi, Dazed Media, Not Just a Label and Tagwalk.
New World Development is a vast enterprise with tentacles that stretch into education, health care, insurance, aircraft-leasing and crypto. But its three main businesses are property development, hospitality and retail, including 27 New World department stores, the giant Chow Tai Fook chain for jewelry and watches, plus luxury distributor Luxba Group.