From interning for Alexander McQueen himself and designing for Topman while in university, here’s the backstory of Agi & Sam you didn’t know before.
It’s hard to believe that Agi & Sam — the London-based label best known for its bespoke prints and bold ideas — was just founded only five years ago. The design duo began their career working under various international fashion houses as well as local British brands, and were quick to make their own mark in the industry. In just three years after starting out, Agi & Sam snagged the Emerging Menswear designer award at The 2013 British Fashion Awards, and the brand now shows seasonally at London Collections: Men.
Agi & Sam strives to have the right balance of excitement and accessibility. “We endeavor to sit firmly in the middle of the brands that fear creating something different, and those who push their collections too far,” Agi tells us. Here, we caught up some more with Agi who spoke to Selectism about how the brand started and where it’s going. Read on for some exclusive quotes.
(Top photo: Agi & Sam’s Spring 2016 mood board)
Training at Other Brands
In the beginning Sam and I came from very different places, with myself coming from a fashion background and Sam [having studied] print illustration at the University of Lincoln. One day, Topman came [to Sam’s] university with a project to design a print for them. That was the first time he realized that a career in fashion was a viable option. After that, Sam started to apply for fashion internships and jobs in London.
I met Sam while interning at Alexander McQueen. Interning at McQueen in the “Lee Years” was a completely unique and unforgettable experience. At university they teach you to become a designer and to find your voice, but I always struggled to convey this; connecting the dots between concept, research, designs and products. McQueen was where I feel I learnt how to do this, and where I realized the importance of research. The way they creatively explored each area and put everything together was phenomenal; the way they told a story through the collection was something that has definitely inspired us and stuck with us.
In 2008, we both went on to work for other brands such as Karl Lagerfeld and J.W. Anderson. Personally, I always wanted to have my own brand; I could never really imagine designing full-time for anyone else. In hindsight [I] thank the recession that we graduated into, which pushed us into working independently, as it was definitely not something I anticipated happening so soon. But I’m glad that things worked out the way they did.
(Photo: Looks from one of Agi & Sam’s Topman collections)
Working with Topman
Back in 2013 we were awarded the MAN show with Fashion East and Topman, who sponsor three designers for three seasons. After our second show I remember Gordon Richardson, the creative director of Topman, coming over to me backstage and saying, “We have to do something together, let’s set up a meeting soon.” A few weeks later we were in his office discussing working on this amazing project.
Initially when we met with Topman, we had actually designed a more commercial and toned-down range, thinking that this would be more appealing for their customer base. Surprisingly it was the complete opposite, and they really pushed us to embrace who we are and to not hold back. In this way, they literally allowed us to do whatever we wanted in terms of fabrications, processes, design, and making a statement. As the process continued, it was also very interesting to work with a company whose production infrastructure is literally the opposite to our own. The things that they have access to are unbelievable, but weirdly in the same breath there were also more restrictions that much bigger companies must adhere to in order to reach specific deadlines and price points.
The Agi & Sam for Topman collection took around 12 months from conception to launch and it was launched in May 2013. We produced a full collection with 15 pieces ranging from jersey to outerwear and accessories. The collection sold out in a matter of days, and was sold worldwide in countries as far and wide South America and Japan.
(Photo: Style.com looks from Agi & Sam’s latest show)
The Brand Today
We’ve been on quite a journey since Agi & Sam’s inception in 2010. We’ve spent a lot of time working out what’s correct for the brand and how we want it to be perceived. We began by looking back and analyzed the past five years and selected parts that we feel have worked, and ways to progress in the parts that haven’t. Where we’re at today is somewhat of an amalgamation of our journey, and it feels almost like a retrospective.
As a brand, we believe that fashion should never be taken too seriously. The things that inspire us are generally day-to-day things that amuse us. Living in London means that we’re constantly inspired by the happenings in the city, from the multicultural vibe, art galleries and music venues, to daily tube journeys and nightly kebab shops. Our biggest aim is to have fun with what we do, and to incorporate everyday life into our work. The Spring/Summer 2016 collection essentially originated from stress [and] our childhood fears: bedtimes, monsters and ghosts.
Overwhelmingly, we were recently awarded the Breakthrough Designer of the Year at the “GQ” Men of the Year Awards so we want to continue building the brand, and try and focus on the business side of things. We’re analyzing key aspects of the company and working on the best ways to improve and grow, along with finding the best people help to us facilitate this. As we’ve never really worked on the business in so much depth before, it’s an exciting new step in our journey. It’s an exciting time for us both.
Interview: Lydia Garnett/Selectism.com