In September 2010, Agape “Agi” Mdumulla and Sam Cotton launched their debut Agi & Sam collection at Vauxhall Fashion Scout. The duo’s print mastery, streamlined shapes and attention-grabbing concepts instantly won them a legion of fans both within the fashion industry and beyond it. Accolades quickly followed: high-profile collaborations with Topman and Lacoste, being shortlisted for the coveted LVMH Prize, winning GQ‘s Breakthrough Designers of the Year Award at MOTY 2014 and winning the UK heat of the Woolmark Prize the year after. In only six years, the label became one of the can’t-be-missed shows at London Fashion Week Mens. Then, for Spring/Summer 2018, it disappeared from the schedule – and now we know why: Sam Cotton is going solo.
Entitled “& Sam”, the designer’s debut collection brings structural shapes to streetwear essentials using a paired back palette of navy, white and sandy beige, with a splash of pinstripe here and there.
It’s a superb start – and we’ve got an exclusive first look at every item in the line below.
To get the inside track on what prompted Sam to step out on his own, we caught up with the designer to ask about the inspiration behind the line, what he’s found hard about not having a partner, and whether it’s all over for Agi & Sam.
GQ: Why have you decided to go solo?
Sam Cotton: I’ve wanted to implement this design approach for a few years now. I started this project with the view to show a different, more considered approach to functional yet minimal product design from a constantly evolving design philosophy.
What has been the hardest thing about working solo?
I think the hardest thing from moving from working in a duo to being solo, is the fact you have to make that final decision by yourself. The whole choices are on your own shoulders, you don’t have that same comfort of taking the plunge together, which I had with Agi and myself.
If people know Agi & Sam, how is the & Sam line different?
& Sam is much more about the idea of evaluation of product, deconstruction and then reconstruction, with the aim to produce a more evolved, minimal aesthetic. The palettes are a lot more reduced and there is a much more intense scrutinisation in the design process that runs through each piece. The collection itself is designed entirely as separate products, whereas Agi & Sam was more about a concept and a look. & Sam products are supposed to be collectable pieces for people who are avidly interested in the function and design within menswear.
Are there any elements of Agi & Sam that you’ve carried over into your new line?
Agi & Sam’s core was developed through the basics of traditional menswear. This is something that I always consider when developing a garment, as it’s massively importantly when you’re developing functional products.
What is the inspiration behind this line?
The inspiration of this collection comes from the book Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari and his thesis on the progressive deaths of political philosophies and the lessons they leave with humanity. Entitled “The Death Of Liberalism”, this collection explores the idea of the nonexistence of free will and how the choices we make are purely a system of algorithms encoded in their brain.
How does that translate into the clothes we see?
This philosophy has been implemented into the product development of this collection, embracing this approach towards design and making considered algorithmic choices based off a history of evolving design processes, while referencing a broad history of menswear.
Will Agi & Sam be back?
Agi & Sam is currently on a sabbatical. Agi is getting married this year and I’m working on this, but as Justin Bieber says, “Never say never”.