“I'm not going to lie, I have always wanted to design football kits. Especially like the best ones that I remember from the 90s," Sam Cotton confesses. Having dazzled, delighted and most importantly developed over the last three Topman sponsored MAN within London Collections: Men, the print princes of Agi&Sam have had this long held design dream realised by their long term supporter. In a couple of weeks, the design duo's colourful collection for Topman lands in store. With football kits at its heart, a twenty piece collection soon evolved to befit a sporting superstar and add a little much needed excitement to the high street.
"Gordon (Richardson) approached us after our spring/summer 13 show backstage and said 'we need to do something soon'. We thought it was him being his general lovely self, but then when we got an email from him actually confirming a meeting, we were pretty flabbergasted. We went in to see him and the team with Lulu Kennedy holding our hands. The team basically said they would love to do something with us, and explained how they wanted a full collection. We then basically went away after they had said design anything you like. So we were thinking of trying to produce something different to Topman and different to us, but in keeping with our ethos and style. 90's football kits just popped into our heads one day and we bashed out a load of designs, along with a tailored collection that fits beside it.
We wanted to produce that something that first and fore mostly wouldn't alienate our brand and our buyers from our main collection, so this needed to look different. We decided to revert back to our early forms of Agi&Sam and make it quite a youthful collection. Also range planning was alot different, as well as consolidating the prints to a small range. It needed to be concise."
The result is a collection that manages to balance their house signature with paying careful consideration to the Topman customer. A sensory shake-up that makes perfect sense. Approached at a time when the capital was in the midst of Olympic fever, the idea that sportswear kept creeping into their majestic minds should come as no surprise. Their pick of sporting era to focus on might be to some but not to the boys who lived through it. The football fanatic Sam explains:
"When you think of moments in football in the 90's you can picture the scene, remember the player, see the kit. For me, even when you see those kits now those memories come flooding back in a Pavlovian fashion. Now all the kits from the last 7 years have blurred into one for each team and though technically brilliant, it's a shame. Something has been lost and we wanted to return to it.
I loved the period of kits from 90-92, these were the best kits personally. Kits like the JVC Arsenal Navy and Yellow, the Chelsea away Grey and Orange Kit, or the Sharp Blue and White United Kit were all amazing. Plus the keeper kits were incredible, there was an amazing editorial by one of Agi's mates for Green Soccer Journal we found recently with all the old 90's keeper kits folded into poses from the famous keepers in those kits. Again this brings me back to those Pavlovian memories, I can literally see those keepers making those saves and remember most of the games. You could never do that now."
"Growing up my hero in football was definitely David Beckham, continues Sam proudly without hesitation. "I actually met him in LA at a dinner last year and literally lost my shit. Agi had to come and rescue me." Stepping into rescue Sam once more, Agi Mdumulla saves his design partner from any needless awkwardness by adding his own far more embarrassing experience - being a Spurs supporter. "I used to be a big Tottenham fan when I was younger, my bedroom at home still has Tottenham wallpaper. So my heroes were Chris Armstrong, Teddy Sheringham... and lets throw in a curve ball... Stan Collymore,"Agi winks and laughs with that admission before Sam takes over once more and introduces the collection.
"The muse for all of our collections have always been quite weird, we've said before that the Agi&Sam man was a confident ladies man with a slight problem with alcohol. Even though this was a joke, when we decided on George Best for this Topman collection, it took about 3 months to realise we had subconsciously picked this man exactly. We didn't delve that deeply, we got drunk a few times designing the collection but that's about as far as we went to living the George Best dream."
As you're dazzled and delighted by the Luke Stephenson shot look book, you should notice a familiar feathered friend flap throughout. With eggshell, feathers and the birds of prey themselves all featuring, there can be little doubt that the team's mascot is an owl. But why? Sam explains once more.
"Well, when we first started the brand it took us about six months to name it. One of the names floating around was 'The Owls' as Agi bloody loves Owls. Then after we established the branding and art direction for Agi&Sam we noticed an Owls face in our font logo branding. This then become a logo and we've worked with this from the beginning. I then started designing a kit badge around the logo and just thought it would be a great to build it all around this. Then came the prints, nesting, feathers, owls etc. It all kind of tied in."
Designed to make us run faster, jump higher and look cooler - we should all be fans of the Owls. Despite being drenched in nostalgia, the collection feels decidedly fresh. The reason is that we are seeing this time through Agi&Sam's kaleidoscope of clashing prints and refined tailoring. Pressing their playful prism to this golden era of kit design and encompassing their early footballing heroes and memories, it rekindled some of my own. Given the wistful whiff that exudes from the collection's moodboard, I couldn't resist taking a closer look at the designs with the help of a few of my old favourite finger flicked friends. Now, I spent countless hours begging my parents to iron the theatre of daydreams that was my Subbuteo pitch. Games could be decided by an opportunistic tackle and intervention, not from an opponent but from a crease. Many more hours were spent replaying monumental moments from matches meticulously memorized. Commentary and all. 'Time is running out in this derby game. Arsenal need to do something soon to avoid a stalemate. Seaman throws it out to Dixon, Dixon carries the ball forward, spots the run of Limpar who controls well and bursts into the box with pace before taking a tumble. Penalty...' Starring my Subbuteo Art figures and the latest set I use pieces from Agi&Sam's collection for Topman as my pitch for a spot of fun-filled extra time.
Topman on 4th June.