Agi & Sam are a print based menswear label working on their second collection together. Having showed at LFW as part of Fashion East, it was a huge step up from the sand filled installation they exhibited at Vauxhall Fashion Scout last September. Both Agape Mdumulla and Sam Cotton seem intrinsically linked, not only in their ideas but in their manner and humour, being totally laddish about each other’s strengths and slagging each other off at the name of famous designers one has worked for. Without sounding cheesy, they say they bring out different sides to each other that once combined make for extremely interesting print based designs. They spoke to Dazed Digital about their speedy rise in the fashion world and how their lives turned upside down as they look to the Fresh Prince to guide them.
Dazed Digital: How did the idea of starting a label first come about?
Sam: After completing our degrees in 2008, mine in Illustration and Agi’s in Fashion Design, we headed for London seperately to intern and we met at Alexander McQueen. We both stayed for a collection or two there doing some great work and then I moved to work at other design houses such as Karl Lagerfeld, J.W Anderson, Carolyn Massey and Blaak Homme. We would constantly be applying for jobs and it was almost like we were in limbo with it. We couldn’t go into junior levels because we had too much experience but then we weren’t experienced enough to go into senior or middleweight designer positions.
Agi: Yeah especially after being in a place like McQueen where it is so creative and every day is different- you don’t just sit down in front of a computer or a desk and just draw or whatever, you literally do everything and anything. To then go and do something quite regimented and restricted wouldn’t be good so we just decided to do our own thing.
Sam: ...Our ideas tend to become linked without even knowing. Like last collection when I asked Agi what he wanted to do and I suggested we do something Native American inspired he whipped out notes he had previously scribbled down all about Native American culture and to this day, he still believes he told me about his idea.
DD: So do you always come up with a theme for your collections?
Sam: It sort of depends really. We try to engulf ourselves in the season and it usually happens for us just when the other season is coming together, similar to everyone else’s trends really. This season has been about the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. That literally came from us sitting watching the Fresh Prince on TV every day while doing the collection and just thinking ‘this is quite a good starting point’. So then from there we just started looking at every angle of it and immersing ourselves in it. From nineties music to the art scene with Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Harring and Bridget Reilly, and just going to as many exhibitions as we can. We just literally try and live it. This is why we do a collection; we enjoy the subject matter on it so whatever we’re basing a collection on we want to get something out of it.
Agi: It’s similar to how we justify what we design. The collection should be wearable. When I’m designing I’m constantly thinking ‘would I wear that’ and if I wouldn’t, chances are I wouldn’t make it either.
DD: Who do you see wearing your clothes?
Agi: Probably a guy between the ages of 20 and 50. Someone who is creative and who appreciates longevity and craftsmanship rather than someone who follows trends.
DD: What will stand out for Agi & Sam against all the other new labels out there?
Sam: Obviously print is the main thing for us and that’s one thing that’s never going to change. We want to take print on in a different way. We love traditional print and would love to do more of that kind of stuff too but we’ve been looking at digital prints specifically for this season- looking at a way of reinventing it. The problem with digital print is that it can look so flat and computer graphically printed. Last season we did a lot of print that emulated wools to give off a wool texture with Fair Isle for example. Makes it a bit unique I think.
Agi: Definitely, it gives it another dimension and level. It’s taking something that is really flat and making it more than just a print. Colour is another thing that we like to do differently. Colour comes more naturally to me than Sam for instance as I can sort of see colours matching even if they seem like they wouldn’t go together. I like to see what happens with it and use it as a progression of it doesn’t work and you can just edit it out.
Sam: It’s quite refreshing how we jump into it as well. People become so logistical in the way they look at colour with colour boards and palettes but Agi looks at colour and says ‘It will work, trust me’. This is something I have learned from him as my illustrations pre-Agi were quite dark. Without sounding ridiculous I guess you can say that Agi brought out a colourful side to me!
DD: You seem to base a lot of choices on instinct…
Agi: Yeah we feel the fashion industry can be very serious and regimented whereas we like to follow our gut feeling on things. I’ve never been very good at sitting down with a pen & paper and logistically coming up with designs. I always have loads of ideas in my head. I prefer to start quite large, use whatever colours I want and think about prints but just have everything laid- then you can start thinking about editing down.
Sam: We’ve worked with and for people where fashion has been everything and it is taken far too seriously and becomes a person. We do appreciate that because to an extent fashion is our life as well but at a certain point it becomes an obsession and isn’t necessarily good for a label. You know if you love something so much people say you shouldn’t actually give too much of your time to it because it starts to become a chore. We don’t want that to happen with fashion for us, we’d rather do our designs without the seriousness matter of life and death as although we love it and love everything we do - it is just clothes at the end of the day.