Binary Clothes: Agi & Sam

Photographer Jackie Dewe Mathews
January 11, 2012

London design duo Agi & Sam unloads a torrent of prints and colors.

Agi & Sam collections look like flicking between browser tabs on your desktop— there’s always something new to catch the eye. The London duo’s vision is a collision of prints and daubed colors, pop influences thrown together with gleeful irreverence and a nostalgic nod: Will Smith screen printed on a plain white tee, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work cut up and reassembled into bold squares and a bright check.

Between them, Agape Mdumulla and Sam Cotton interned for everyone from Karl Lagerfeld to Blaak Homme to J.W. Anderson before eventually meeting while interning at Alexander McQueen. Rather than continue to give their ideas away to others, they founded their eponymous label designed to be a more experimental outlet for the duo.

And just like their clothing, their relationship is a delightful clash. The pair riff off of each other, equally at ease joking about Justin Bieber as they are excitedly discussing their web of influences before going on to recall a recent, drunken week in Paris. Funny then that their first meeting didn’t go at all smoothly.

Can you remember your initial impressions of each other? SAM COTTON: I thought he was lazy. He swanned into the Alexander McQueen office with his suitcase and was like, “Hi, I’m Agi, I can’t start for a month.” AGAPE MDUMULLA: I wasn’t massively fond of Sam. I don’t know whether you can put it down to him being an only child, but he moans a lot! I remember he had [trouble drawing] this thing and he was getting so angry.

So when did you finally become friends? MDUMULLA: It’s just a business! No, obviously after that we started to get on, maybe a year later our love just blossomed.

And you have a shared love for Justin Bieber. MDUMULLA: We don’t really listen to his music! We’re just jealous because he’s 12 years old and has so much confidence. I think I’d only held a girl’s hand by the age of 15 and he’s just killing it.

Are you saying that you guys aren’t successful with the ladies? COTTON: We went to Paris the other week and went out every night and ended up on the same sofa together. Either we’re not very good at picking girls up, or we just prefer to sleep with each other. We’ve had too many conversations where Agi says that I have to be more proactive and go up to girls. And I can’t do it. I physically can’t do it. I’m like, “Uh…bonjour!”

The fall collection was in part inspired by The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Did you watch every episode in the name of research? MDUMULLA: We watched the first three seasons. Sam ended up getting into debt because he forgot to post the DVDs back. We used to work in my living room so The Fresh Prince was on TV the whole time. COTTON: Towards the end we were bored, so Agi watched it on fast-forward. It was like someone on crack. Anytime we’d see something colorful we’d pause it and take a screenshot.

What was it about Will Smith that appealed? COTTON: His style is absolutely ridiculous and it hasn’t been emulated since. MDUMULLA: One of us said it would be funny to do a collection based on him. It was almost a joke, but that was the starting point that led on to other things like Jean-Michel Basquiat, gentrification and the things that were happening in that era and how that influenced the way these people dressed.

Binary Clothes: Agi & Sam