Saturday, 18 January 2014

Agi & Sam Autumn/Winter 2014 Menswear

Just when you thought you had figured out what makes Agape Mdumulla and Sam Cotton tick, their Autumn/Winter 2014 menswear collection comes along and turns your belief system on its head. If most fashion critics and buyers had started getting used to describing the young designers as the London menswear duo whose creations are defined by ingenious print making and fabric experimentation, Agi & Sam’s sixth collection dethroned any established categorisations about their creative identity and promising talent.

Photograph © João Paulo Nunes / The Style Examiner

Titled ‘Watu Nguvu’ (or “People Power” in Swahili), the collection drew inspiration from Mdumulla’s recent travels through the Masai territory and interpreted the meanings and roles played by tribal and workwear garments not only in the daily life of African societies but also in the construction of a contemporary identity of Africa by Western cultures. By delving into personal perceptions of nationhood and questioning how cross-ethnical existences shape personal and collective identities, Mdumulla and Cotton explored how the private is deeply political.

Establishing a radical departure from the colourful prints, patterns and textures used to parody English sartorial history and cultural mores in their previous collections, for Autumn/Winter 2014 Agi & Sam created a range of beautifully executed garments made from layered heavy wools and fine worsted twills featuring black and white geometric patterns inspired by Masai checks and African weaves. In addition, reflective yarns and vinyl logos from oil conglomerates were used as prints in an evocation of how the ubiquitous metal of oil tankers is recycled into objects of daily life, becoming a metaphor of how collective power is tampered and appropriated (albeit out of necessity) by the personal.

Mirroring the emotionally mature way in which they treated the collection’s underpinning concepts and sources of inspiration, Agi & Sam conceived silhouettes that, in their reinterpretation of how indigenous clothing is worn in London or the Masai, are undeniably sharper and more sophisticated than the ones they adopted in the past: trousers start wide at the waist but become tapered and cropped at the ankle line, sleeves are discreetly shorter than expected (as a nod to utilitarianism and originality), and coats are oversized and come with either pronounced or absent collars. 

And to demonstrate the balanced coexistence of the personal and the familiar with the social and the foreign, as well as to illustrate how life is not a succession of black-and-white facts but comes in all subjective shades of grey, tunic-shaped shirts inspired by Islamic jellabiyas and thawbs are ironically covered by bomber jackets, an item often associated with skinheads and other urban subcultures. Overall, the highly accomplished collection juxtaposed garments of different textures and lengths with printed vertical and horizontal lines that are layered to frame the body in a manner that is both organically and elegantly extremely successful.

Unless otherwise specified, photographs are courtesy of Agi & Sam

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