Young UK designers strike out on their own with color, humor and innovation

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One menswear collection stood out among all the others at A/W 2012 London Fashion Week in March. Bright, bold and bearing no resemblance to anything seen before, Agi & Sam hit the headlines for their seemingly effortless fusion of color and style. Launched in 2011 by Agape Mdumulla and Sam Cotton, two 26-year-old UK designers who cut their teeth working at Alexander McQueen, Karl Lagerfeld, J.W. Anderson, and Blaak Homme, Agi & Sam is fast gaining recognition for its bespoke prints, original designs and ability to inject humor into the world of men’s couture. We caught up with Mdumulla and Cotton in their East London studio to find out more about their eclectic young label.


You have both worked for some massive names in the world of fashion. What caused you to branch out and do your own thing?

I think it was the frustration and limitation for applying our own tastes and styles on a collection. When you are at a big house you learn their ways and techniques and your aesthetic starts to turn into what is needed to produce their collections. This was great initially as it formed our taste and style and we are massively influenced by McQueen, even still now, but I think we wanted to apply a bit more to a collection and really develop something we felt was interesting, different and had so far been untouched in fashion.

You use an incredible amount of color, which is slightly unusual for men’s fashion. Where do you source inspiration for this and how receptive do you think men are to injecting a lot more color into their wardrobes?

We have always said we wanted to be positive with our approach to fashion and have fun. I think color links directly to positive connotations and really shows you can have fun. The colors we use are always inspired by whatever we look at for influence for the season. Being as we always choose humorous projects to look at we often find we are bombarded with bright colors and imagery. If we were to look at death and depression as an influence you’d of course find a lot less color than a guy who was found in a bin dressed as Dr. Who outside the large Hadron Collider.

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Prints are key in your collections. Do you design these yourself or do you work with other artists?

No we design all the prints by ourselves. The more work we have on our plates the more we regret doing so, but we are quite picky with our tastes and prints. Everything we produce is quite personal to our own humor and the way we work with color and print might be quite hard for an artist to kind of understand and hence wouldn’t come out quite right in the print.

What’s been the biggest obstacle so far in getting the label out there?

I’d say working to make the brand accessible was hard. We are working on a business model that doesn’t really have anything to go off, we can’t start a tailoring brand and then follow the methods of Saville Row companies, or produce a sports range that has massive inspiration from Nike. We have had to kind of test the water really quickly by plunging our heads in and holding our breath. When we were awarded the MAN show we knew we had a lot to change with the brand and had to pull it all together to fit a catwalk and become a business. This was the hardest thing we’ve ever done in our life. We didn’t talk for about a month.

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If you had a soundtrack to your label since its inception, which musicians would feature on it?

Tupac, Dre, Neil Young, Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens and Hudson Mohawke.

When was the first time you saw someone that you didn’t know in Agi & Sam?

Red Hot Chili Peppers were probably first and the strangest. Flea liked the trousers so much he decided he wasn’t going to give them back. At least they’ve gone to a good home, as long as they didn’t end up in the bin. In fact, I hope he sleeps in them.

What advice would you give to others starting out in the fashion industry?

Put all your thoughts and work into developing a strong identity, don’t settle for someone telling you can’t do anything you want to, and remember it’s a business not a hobby.