An Interview With Agi&Sam

Agi&Sam are Agape Mdumulla and Sam Cotton, an eclectic menswear duo based in London. At Vauxhall Fashion Scout Menswear Day, the pair will present their new collection and are hoping to ruffle a few feathers with a bold and innovative approach to men’s fashion. This week, I paid a visit to their Dalston studio to find out a little more about their inspiration, ideas and aspirations for the collection entitled The Native American Colonisation of European States. I was bowled over by a refreshing mix of tongue-in-cheek pop culture and anthropological references, innovative textures and hazardous prints.

For those who don’t know much about the label, can you tell us a little about how Agi&Sam came about?
S – Agi and I met whilst working in Alexander McQueen. Agi had just moved to London from Manchester after finishing his degree in Fashion and I had been Interning after graduating from Lincoln University, studying Illustration.
A – Working for McQueen taught us so much about creating stories for a collection, the importance of attention to detail and research, and we worked with some incredibly talented people. After leaving, we each worked on our own projects but realised we wanted to fill a gap in the market. We wanted to make menswear which, like high-end labels Dries and McQueen, is intelligently designed. At the same time we wanted to focus on well made separates which are insightful yet affordable. It’s also great to work for ourselves!

How does working in the E8 postcode inform your work, if at all?
A – We’ve both lived here for two years and are pretty influenced by our surroundings. East London is a bit of a bubble and there’s an experimental way of dressing here, which you forget sometimes when you go elsewhere.
S – After working in the fashion industry for most of our careers we don’t like to take ourselves too seriously though, we like to keep it light-hearted.

The Native American Colonisation of European States is the title of the new collection. What’s the premise?
A – The title refers to the late 19th century, when European settlers colonised North America. We both associate with the Native American way of life and their ideals and wanted to make a collection which asked ‘what would happen if we turned it the other way around, and Native Americans populated Europe?’ So we’ve been researching a lot of Victorian styling, as well as Native American garments and techniques and taken that as a starting point.

Describe what has inspired the looks we will be seeing next Wednesday?
A – We have been working with this ‘dead bodies’ print, it is a direct reference from a 1960’s Wild West film we came across called Once Upon a Time in the West by Sergio Leone.
S – We actually discovered the movie after watching an Arcade Fire music video inspired by the film. There’s a scene where a family are killed by outlaws and their dead bodies are laid out in a line. It sounds quite dark but there is something quite beautiful about it. The illustration is quite naïve and childlike using the ‘dead bodies’ image to form a pattern. That’s kind of how we work, taking tiny bits of inspiration from things we encounter day-to-day. We might not reference these things directly but there’s always meaning behind what we make.

You really have a talent for styling and combining playful items and accessories. Without giving too much away, can you give us a little taster for what to expect at Vauxhall Fashion Scout?
S – Print is a really important part of this collection. Print, on print, on print. Every piece in the collection has taken loads of research to produce.
Sam shows me a hazy and richly colour-saturated Gerhard Richter-esque shirt fabric.
S – This print was made from a Native American coat. The pattern has been blurred and reproduced and we’ve altered the saturation of colours to create something more contemporary.
A – We’re merging Native American and European, both literally and conceptually. There are a few showpieces, but we wanted to keep it wearable and stay away from clichés.

It’s really interesting that there are so many different levels to this collection. I’ve noticed that you seem to play with illusions a lot…
S – In terms of printing technique we are trying to do things which haven’t been done before with this collection and we want to be revolutionary in our approach. Digital print is so clean and sharp that we wanted to come up with cool ways of working with it, in a way which it might not have been intended. We’ve experimented with texture, digitally printing faux-wool effects. With this collection we are trying to create something fun.
A –The garments themselves have been designed to look very simple. We wanted to use minimal topstitching and take out seams to strip the garments to the bare minimum… in part to translate to the Native American ideologies but also to not obstruct the flow of the print.

Obviously you’re really excited about launching the brand at Vauxhall Fashion Scout, do you think menswear is going through a bit of a renaissance in London?
A – There have always been talented Menswear designers around and I don’t know when or why it’s happened but there has been a shift in interest recently, especially in London.
S – There are a lot of new, young designers, especially women, who are getting into Menswear and I think this is bringing a lot of new approaches and possibilities with it. It’s a good time for us to be doing what we do.

Agi&Sam present The Native American Colonisation of European States at Vauxhall Fashion Scout on Wednesday 22 September 13.00 – 16.00.

By Alex Fynn O’Neill
Fashion ScoutComment