One of the most popular menswear runway shows during London Fashion Week is the one that Fashion East and Topman organise under the moniker MAN to display the work of three promising and emerging labels. Shown over the last few seasons in the elegant environs of London’s Royal Opera House, the initiative has run for 14 seasons with the intention to champion the best and brightest new menswear talent. Over the years, MAN has showcased gifted designers (including James Long, Christopher Shannon, and JW Anderson) who have gone on to exhibit their collections on the main runway of London Fashion Week. This year’s labels were selected by an illustrious panel of industry experts presided by Lulu Kennedy (Fashion East director and founder) that comprised, amongst others, Tim Blanks (Style.com), Luke Day (GQ Style), Nicola Formichetti (Vogue Hommes Japan), Alister Mackie (AnOtherMan), Charlie Porter (Fantastic Man), Ben Reardon (GQ Style), and Gordon Richardson (Topman).
Owing to the fact that three labels are shown in succession, there is usually an instinctive tendency for the audience to pick one. At the last fashion week for Autumn/Winter 2012/13, all eyes were on young label Agi & Sam, not only because of the playful and vibrant colours paraded on the runway but also for the detailed and proficient tailoring evidenced in the garments. The collection, titled ‘Darwin’s Theory of Why the Chicken Crossed the Road’, used polyester fabrics made of recycled plastic bottles that were woven in a way that replicated natural fabrics such as cotton and jersey. Print variations of vividly coloured Linton tweeds and large-scale traditional tartans were engineered to create what the designers behind the label described as ‘brightly tribal modern menswear’. Prints also included a variety of tessellating repeats (inspired by the work of the artist M.C. Escher), and representations of chickens and ducks in either cartoon or classic watercolour versions. The tailoring was overall sharp, with strong outerwear and suits in single and double-breasted styles and slim-fit trousers. The colours chosen (bright oranges, greens, and blues against shades of cream and grey) accentuated the playfulness of the collection while highlighting its elegance.
Agape Mdumulla (who hails from Yorkshire) and Sam Cotton (from Stratford-Upon-Avon) founded Agi & Sam in January 2010, and had produced three collections (two of which were shown at Fashion East Menswear Installations during previous editions of London Fashion Week) before taking to stage at the Royal Opera House on 22 February 2012. Agi studied Fashion Design at Manchester School of Art and Sam studied Illustration at University of Lincoln. They worked for designers including Alexander McQueen, Karl Lagerfeld, J.W. Anderson, Armand Basi, Blaak Homme, and Carolyn Massey before deciding to venture into the fashion world on their own.
At the MAN show, Agi & Sam stood out from the other two designers in the way that they injected humour into their collections, believing that fashion should not be taken too seriously. However, this attitude (which had pervaded their previous collections) did not mean that Agi & Sam are negligent about creativity or production processes. In truth, the duo strive to create unique and yet accessible pieces with a commercial edge, and, as proof of their attention to creative detail and consumers’ needs, they are already sold in a number of stockists in the UK and Japan, not to mention online retailers. The Style Examiner believes that this is a menswear label to watch and looks forward to seeing them taking to the main runway of London Fashion Week soon.