Friday, 24 May 2013

Come on the Owls!


I'm not going to lie, I have always wanted to design football kits. Especially like the best ones that I remember from the 90s," Sam Cotton confesses. Having dazzled, delighted and most importantly developed over the last three Topman sponsored MAN within London Collections: Men, the print princes of Agi&Sam have had this long held design dream realised by their long term supporter. In a couple of weeks, the design duo's colourful collection for Topman lands in store. With football kits at its heart, a twenty piece collection soon evolved to befit a sporting superstar and add a little much needed excitement to the high street.

"Gordon (Richardson) approached us after our spring/summer 13 show backstage and said 'we need to do something soon'. We thought it was him being his general lovely self, but then when we got an email from him actually confirming a meeting, we were pretty flabbergasted. We went in to see him and the team with Lulu Kennedy holding our hands. The team basically said they would love to do something with us, and explained how they wanted a full collection. We then basically went away after they had said design anything you like. So we were thinking of trying to produce something different to Topman and different to us, but in keeping with our ethos and style. 90's football kits just popped into our heads one day and we bashed out a load of designs, along with a tailored collection that fits beside it.

We wanted to produce that something that first and fore mostly wouldn't alienate our brand and our buyers from our main collection, so this needed to look different. We decided to revert back to our early forms of Agi&Sam and make it quite a youthful collection. Also range planning was alot different, as well as consolidating the prints to a small range. It needed to be concise."

The result is a collection that manages to balance their house signature with paying careful consideration to the Topman customer. A sensory shake-up that makes perfect sense. Approached at a time when the capital was in the midst of Olympic fever, the idea that sportswear kept creeping into their majestic minds should come as no surprise. Their pick of sporting era to focus on might be to some but not to the boys who lived through it. The football fanatic Sam explains:

"When you think of moments in football in the 90's you can picture the scene, remember the player, see the kit. For me, even when you see those kits now those memories come flooding back in a Pavlovian fashion. Now all the kits from the last 7 years have blurred into one for each team and though technically brilliant, it's a shame. Something has been lost and we wanted to return to it.

I loved the period of kits from 90-92, these were the best kits personally. Kits like the JVC Arsenal Navy and Yellow, the Chelsea away Grey and Orange Kit, or the Sharp Blue and White United Kit were all amazing. Plus the keeper kits were incredible, there was an amazing editorial by one of Agi's mates for Green Soccer Journal we found recently with all the old 90's keeper kits folded into poses from the famous keepers in those kits. Again this brings me back to those Pavlovian memories, I can literally see those keepers making those saves and remember most of the games. You could never do that now."

"Growing up my hero in football was definitely David Beckham, continues Sam proudly without hesitation. "I actually met him in LA at a dinner last year and literally lost my shit. Agi had to come and rescue me." Stepping into rescue Sam once more, Agi Mdumulla saves his design partner from any needless awkwardness by adding his own far more embarrassing experience - being a Spurs supporter. "I used to be a big Tottenham fan when I was younger, my bedroom at home still has Tottenham wallpaper. So my heroes were Chris Armstrong, Teddy Sheringham... and lets throw in a curve ball... Stan Collymore,"Agi winks and laughs with that admission before Sam takes over once more and introduces the collection.

"The muse for all of our collections have always been quite weird, we've said before that the Agi&Sam man was a confident ladies man with a slight problem with alcohol. Even though this was a joke, when we decided on George Best for this Topman collection, it took about 3 months to realise we had subconsciously picked this man exactly. We didn't delve that deeply, we got drunk a few times designing the collection but that's about as far as we went to living the George Best dream."


As you're dazzled and delighted by the Luke Stephenson shot look book, you should notice a familiar feathered friend flap throughout. With eggshell, feathers and the birds of prey themselves all featuring, there can be little doubt that the team's mascot is an owl. But why? Sam explains once more. 

"Well, when we first started the brand it took us about six months to name it. One of the names floating around was 'The Owls' as Agi bloody loves Owls. Then after we established the branding and art direction for Agi&Sam we noticed an Owls face in our font logo branding. This then become a logo and we've worked with this from the beginning. I then started designing a kit badge around the logo and just thought it would be a great to build it all around this. Then came the prints, nesting, feathers, owls etc. It all kind of tied in.

Designed to make us run faster, jump higher and look cooler - we should all be fans of the Owls. Despite being drenched in nostalgia, the collection feels decidedly fresh. The reason is that we are seeing this time through Agi&Sam's kaleidoscope of clashing prints and refined tailoring.  Pressing their playful prism to this golden era of kit design and encompassing their early footballing heroes and memories, it rekindled some of my own. Given the wistful whiff that exudes from the collection's moodboard, I couldn't resist taking a closer look at the designs with the help of a few of my old favourite finger flicked friends. Now, I spent countless hours begging my parents to iron the theatre of daydreams that was my Subbuteo pitch. Games could be decided by an opportunistic tackle and intervention, not from an opponent but from a crease. Many more hours were spent replaying monumental moments from matches meticulously memorized. Commentary and all. 'Time is running out in this derby game. Arsenal need to do something soon to avoid a stalemate. Seaman throws it out to Dixon, Dixon carries the ball forward, spots the run of Limpar who controls well and bursts into the box with pace before taking a tumble. Penalty...' Starring my Subbuteo Art figures and the latest set I use pieces from Agi&Sam's collection for Topman as my pitch for a spot of fun-filled extra time.

The collections kicks off at Topman on 4th June.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Treasured items... Dan Thawley

Whilst so many publications concern themselves with fleeting scenes from the conveyor belt of fashion,  A Magazine Curated By pauses before prospecting a creative's personality, propelling their whims and fancies. It is a course of clear, cultivated curation. Each issue is a collaboration between its editor and a talent that we long to hear from. The debut issue was curated by that intriguing enigma Martin Margiela back in 2004, the latest by Stephen Jones and we've explored the mind's of Yohji Yamamoto, Haider Ackermann, Kris Van Assche and the Mulleavy sisters to name just an inspiring handful. When you open its pages, time stops and explorations begins. As each is full of moments to treasure we couldn't resist asking its editor Dan Thawley to reveal his own cherished item in a spot of show and tell. Here, the currently Paris based Australian nomad averts his gaze from scanning all manner of cultural realm, focuses on his wrist watch and narrates its tale.


Dan Thawley and the ticking memory


"It's my pa's Omega Seamaster Quartz watch. He'd wear it sitting listening to the radio in his den, sipping a beer with his two dogs at his feet. He died before I was 10 years old, and I was given it just after the funeral with an engraving on the underside dedicated to me. Wearing a watch can seem a little superfluous in today's digital society - but I try to wear it a few times a week - particularly at night. It's a very slim, sleek watch and I like the size of the band - it falls down the wrist just enough. I think it's the most masculine jewellery one can wear." Dan Thawley

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Tools of the trade... Charlie Casely-Hayford

Three weekends ago I descended the wooden steps deep inside Hostem's emporium of menswear treasures and curiosities and stepped into its world of bespoke and made-to-measure. Dimly lit to add a sense of intimate occasion and encourage daydreams of discovery, the store's Chalk Room shines its spotlight on cherished craftsmanship, housing an array of handpicked artisanal brands that have the store's signature bubbling in their veins. Masterfully mixed in the craft cocktail of Globe-Trotter, Fleet Ilya, Sebastian Tarek and JAMESPLUMB, Casely-Hayford realise sartorial dreams. As I was measured, pinned and dazzled by the choice of fabrics and finishes on offer, I couldn't help but take an interest in Charlie's pin cushion. Here he tells us the story behind it.

Charlie Casely-Hayford and his mum's pin cushion...


"Originally, this belonged to my Mum. I remember it vividly from when I was super young, but it seemed a lot bigger back then. Growing up in my parent's design studio, it always sat in the same place on the cutting table... whether I was 5 or 10 years old and even into my teenage years. Even though it's quite a common pin cushion, it's so distinctive and I like the fact that it's always been there throughout my life. It only felt right to start using it myself when we started offering made-to measure suits earlier this year. Whenever I'm fitting someone and see those little guys staring up at me, it always gives me a weird sense of reassurance." Charlie Casely-Hayford.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

LCF BA Showcase.... Patrick Um

"When I was interning at Duckie Brown in New York I watched a lot of Korean dramas in the evening and one of my favourites was set in an emergency room," London College of Fashion BA soon-to-be-graduate Patrick Um explains in his soft but excited manner. As we stand in his adopted East London home-turned-studio, surrounded by all manner of analytical artifacts and his colourful clothes, excitement echoes throughout the cosy space. "It was at a time when my mind began to wander through various subjects for my final collection," he admits before dashing off for a moment and returning with a cup of coffee. "To be honest I struggled to choose one and it was only when I was relaxing that the idea came to me as I watched the drama. I was intrigued by the instruments and intensity of the hospital." Now, the mere mention of the words 'hospital' and 'surgery' can be enough to encourage daydreams of dread, an aura of anxiety giving way to despair but Um pressed his stethoscope to the clinical, cold body of the theatre room and his eager ear tuned in to a different beat. A remix of function and fun, a chromatic concerto of capsules, contraptions, confections, cures and curiosities.

Having interned for the colourful crew of Cassette Playa, Trine Lindegaard, Peter Jensen, Gareth Pugh and most recently Duckie Brown, it was obvious that this emerging talent would avoid the obvious. "I intentionally refrained from making the collection too cold and chic. I wanted to create my own complete version of a surgeon's uniform, presenting them from top to toe in my own way." The grey, sterile and muted world of the surgeon is transformed under Um's skilfully wielded scalpel.

The patient's charts. A look inside Patrick Um's research portfolio.

Undressing and redressing the surgeon, the surgeon's uniform is translated into boyish, playful, contemporary menswear. This is a collection that revels in the beauty of details, both the familiar and the fantastical (tweezers as clip fastenings, an inspired idea!). From head to toe, garments reference and evolve from specific details from the workwear. Back loop fastenings, tight cuff bands and special seam closures are just a vinyl gloved handful of details that are stitched in to the final collection. With prints rich in the iconography of the trade carefully balanced experimental constructions and textiles, a precise yet playful beauty is achieved. The resulting garments are drenched in designed details just longing to be discovered but it is the nine prints that instantly capture this viewer's imagination.

"This is the first time that I've created my own prints. It's a difficult process but one that I very much enjoyed and would like to explore further." The prints were initially inspired by Damien Hirst's Pharmacy Restaurant. I searched the Internet and scanned images of medicines before rearranging them to create intricate and colourful designs. Medicines can be beautiful."

Are you ready for your prescription? Dr. Um's team will see you now...

Look book images courtesy of Patrick Um, detail shots our own.

Having watched on in awe as surgeons performed intricate miracles on Korean television and rifled through Damien Hirst's medicine cabinets, Patrick Um manages to inject his own emotion in to the emotionless, add warmth to the cold and bring life to the quiet. If only we could peer through this emerging talent's kaleidoscope every time we visited the doctors surgery, accident and emergency or anything else for that matter.


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