Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Agi & Sam AW11


Now this is the story all about how
My life got flipped, turned upside down
And I'd like to take a minute just sit right there
I'll tell you how I came to love prints right out of nowhere...

Now, my caution towards prints in all of their myriad of forms is well documented on the blog, as is my desire to turn this sartorial uneasiness in to a gun ho approach of colours and designs but it has been a slow process. Agi&Sam have taken my nervous hand and duly slapped me silly with it. Thanks to their penchant for clashing and layering print upon print, the design duo opened my eyes to print possibilities during their presentation at Menswear Day.

Aiming to be revolutionary in their approach to print design, Agi&Sam experiment heavily with texture and colour, stretching the boundaries of digital printing with each season. In most pieces, references are torn apart, manipulated and reassembled to create eye-catching, wearable clothes which provoke the odd wry smile or a rendition of a certain well known American sitcom themetune. Following that hectic day and with the prints still fresh in my mind, I scheduled a visit to meet the design duo at their Dalston based studio. Over a cup of tea, the pair talked me through the label and afforded me the opportunity to take a closer look at their designs. What follows, after a quick reminder of their presentation, is my account of an afternoon with Agi&Sam...

Menswear Day reminiscing once more. Agi&Sam's cacophony of prints were undoubtedly a highlight.

Agape Mdumulla was born in Tanzania and brought up in North Yorkshire. He studied Fashion Design and went on to present his first collection at London Graduate Fashion Week in July 2008. Following an enthusiastic response Agape went on to show at Iceland Fashion Week in 2009. The other side of the design coin is Sam Cotton who was born in Stratford-upon-Avon and studied Illustration. He has worked as a Fashion Illustrator and Print Designer at Karl Lagerfeld, Alexander McQueen, Armand Basi, Carolyn Massey, Blaak Homme and J.W. Anderson to name but a few. The pair met whilst they were both interning at McQueen, Agi on the design side and Sam on the print team. Shortly after this fruitful internship came to an end, both of them started applying for jobs but really struggled to find anything suitable. They found freelance work here and there but in terms of anything permanent, it was quite a depressing time. After a number of disappointing months, it finally reached a point, just after the Christmas before last, where they decided to take matters in to their own hands and create something together. After a number of brainstorming months with regards to the name of the label,  Agi&Sam was born.

Over the course of the last twelve months, the design dynamic of the pair has been the catalyst that drives the label forward. Two disciplines, print and design striving forward. Sam notes that "the naivety of each others discipline can work as an advantage. A question or an idea could take a piece in a completely different direction." The duo are involved in everything together. It is a lasting collaboration in ever sense. As they design a collection, they both learn off of each other and collectively push each piece as much as they can. This is no more apparent than in their AW11 collection.

The collection evolved from watching late afternoon television is their studio (which also doubles up as Agi's living room. The first ideas were borne out of watching The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air every day. During this viewing routine, the pair began noticing and admiring what Will was wearing and in particular how he styled them. Sam enthuses "Our mood board for the season is amazing. There is one particular piece which is probably the most noticeable, the iconic thing that he did, which was turning his blazer inside out. We ended up creating a jacket very similar, the facings are set outwards but it still has a lining on the inside. The styling in the show was amazing." However strong the style of Fresh Prince was, the design duo didn't want the collection to be one dimensional so they researched and began to integrate other elements. They looked at Will's movement and gentrification and the effect that the movement from a working class neighbourhood to his luxurious life had on his life and the reversal, the life of Basquiat. The collection soon expanded from here, bringing in Basqiat's art, and all aspects of his life before adding nuances from the 90s London scene. Within this collection the pair explored various print possibilities, from magic eye to Bridget Riley inspired stripes to wonderfully cut 3D tailoring.

Prints charming in their studio. From Potato Smiles to Basquiat and Bridget Riley, the collection layers them all.

To realise their sketches for the collection, the pair had to digital print on synthetics. The search for a factory in this country who offered this service was a long one but ended with RA Smart. Now, R.A. Smart has over thirty years experience supplying screenprint and digital equipment to the Graphics and Textile Industries but their synthetics division tend only to make flags. Fortunately for Agi&Sam the experienced printing company sponsored their collection and the results are outstanding.

As useful as my in studio detail shots might be in highlighting key prints and the duo's working environment, I just had to include their look book. Now, these images have caused a bit of a stir on the likes of Hypebeast and Highsnobiety and we did chuckle over a few of the comments...OMG this guy needs a swirly, a wedgie, and his lunch money stolen STAT. Dude looks like Wesley Snipes. In essence, the look book helps to help bring the cacophony of prints to life and reminds us that the duo are keen to inject a bit of humour in to their designs whilst the explore the boundaries of the use of print within menswear...



Whilst continuing to experiment with prints in my daily style, I'm really looking to watching this brand develop over the coming seasons and beyond. Alongside the likes of Matthew Miller and William Richard GreenAgi&Sam are pushing for a place in the MAN lineup. These are exciting times for menswear in the capital.


Matthew Spade said...

the lookbook brings it to life, nice to not take it too seriously. it's really charming in a bad taste/good taste kind of way. that model, i recognise him, he has a blog somewhere, he's a photographer

Izzy said...

Why don't digital prints ever get old to me? I love that black and gold suit! And the styling is very Petrou/Dazed.

Style Salvage Steve said...

Mat: It is a fine line between good and bad taste but I definitely think this collections falls on the right side of any fence. The more I look at it, the more I love it and the more I hum the Fresh Prince themetune.
Izzy: Digital prints can seem a little tiresome at times but thanks to folks like Agi&Sam it is constantly being pushed and developed.

Sarah said...

The colors are amazing! Such a nice change to the urban earthy tones I've been seeing this season. I love the last model's facial expressions. Gold!

Brandon said...

Again like Izzy I thought I was looking at a particular English take on Petrouman ideas. The only thing I ever noticed when watching Fresh Prince was how very 80s/90s everything looked, now I'm going to have to double take. I think I was just so put off at the time by how ill-fitting everything looked...

Thanks for finding out about RA Smart! I'm going to save them in my little digital print database (which is growing all the time). However does that mean that everything the duo have designed for this collection are synthetics? I'd love to see the digital print companies experiment with more materials...

Great post Steve! Looking forward to seeing what Agi&Sam do next!


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