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  • Photography by Mr Blair Getz Mezibov
  • Styling by Mr Dan May, Style Director, MR PORTER
  • Words by Mr Peter Henderson, Senior Fashion Writer, MR PORTER
SHOP THE STORY

Since its launch, MR PORTER has been a proud sponsor of London Collections: Men, the British capital's first fashion week dedicated to menswear. To celebrate last season, we teamed up with four London designers (Katie Eary, Matthew Miller, Richard Nicoll and Sibling) to offer exclusive capsule collections. Following that project's success, we are delighted to announce that we're doing it again, this time with Agi & Sam, Christopher Ræburn and J.W.Anderson, all of which have designed three pieces especially for MR PORTER.

Messrs Agi Mdumulla (right) and Sam Cotton (left) met while working at Alexander McQueen, in the menswear and print departments respectively, and decided to launch their own brand, Agi & Sam, in 2010. With a strong foundation in tailoring and an emphasis on print, the designers aim to create clothes that push the boundaries of menswear without straying into unwearable territory. The two have just won NEWGEN MEN sponsorship for spring/summer 2014 and count Sir Paul Smith as a mentor.

Describe the three pieces you've created for MR PORTER.
Mr Mdumulla: One of the inspirations behind our collection this season was the country-gent look, with a Lord of Bath sort of vibe. That was the angle we wanted to emphasise for MR PORTER: it was about looking at heritage and tweeds and things without being too obvious. So we have the four-colour hound's-tooth wool jacket with covered buttons, and the split-panel T-shirt and shirt. With the last two, instead of having all-over print, the idea was to offset it against the white - it helps to frame it better and adds a point of difference.
What does it mean to be a menswear designer working in London right now?
Mr Cotton: I feel as if there's a lot more freedom in London than anywhere else. Other cities with big fashion scenes, such as Paris and Milan, seem to have quite strict rules, while in New York there is more experimentation but also a great emphasis on money and big brands. London really offers the freedom to express yourself, and there are a lot of great designers here who do their thing without caring what anybody thinks.
What is particularly London-centric about what you do?
Mr Mdumulla: I think London is one of the most inspiring places in the world in terms of youth culture, music, film, the arts... it's so eclectic and multicultural. You walk down a street in London and you can pass seven different cultures in the space of 10 minutes, and that really makes it so exciting. Wherever you are there's always something to look at, and I think our label reflects some of those things.
What's the philosophy behind your work?
Mr Mdumulla: Since day one, one of our main goals has been to do something a bit different in menswear. When I was growing up I was obsessed with clothes, but it was always so difficult to find anything I wanted. There was so much choice in the women's departments, but I was always quite frustrated by the comparative lack of options for men. We wanted to address that, and we're fortunate to be working at a time when there is a lot more experimentation in menswear in general.
You met while working at Alexander McQueen, a British fashion institution. What did you learn there?
Mr Cotton: Lee [McQueen] was so good at turning concepts into stories and giving collections narratives, and that's something we've really tried to pick up on. I think a lot of designers don't do that much any more, but we still like to set a story and give collections a personality, and Lee was amazing at that. We also learnt how to distil ideas and research and information and make everything come together into a product or collection.
How has the internet affected what you do?
Mr Cotton: In terms of getting our work out there it's been invaluable. When we did a look book for our first collection we sent it out to a couple of blogs and it really took off from there - more blogs picked up on it and reposted it, and after a week there were about 50 or 60 blogs featuring it. Then you start getting followers and can interact with people on platforms such as Twitter. It's great.
What are your favourite London addresses?
Mr Mdumulla: Because I live and work in east London, I love visiting different parts of the city. I like Brixton for how cultural it is, but then I love Hampstead Heath because it's so serene. I've lived in London for about five years now, but I still have moments where I'm like, "Wow, I just love this city," like when I was cycling through Regent's Park for the first time recently and it was a really beautiful day.

Mr Christopher Ræburn studied at the Royal College of Art before launching his eponymous label in 2008. By re-appropriating military fabrics, Mr Ræburn creates garments that are as functional as they are stylish, and steeped in heritage and authenticity. Artisanal-quality, ethical production is a core value for the designer, who has also collaborated with brands including Moncler and Victorinox.

Describe the three pieces you've created for MR PORTER.
The first piece is a rather fantastic Hainsworth wool bomber jacket. Hainsworth makes the cloth for the British military's ceremonial uniforms, and for the MR PORTER exclusive we've used a heavy black wool from them. It's a very special piece, produced entirely in London. The second piece is a lightweight bomber jacket cut from a waterproof, breathable Japanese fabric with a jersey lining. It's a really good piece for layering and is made in Europe. The final piece is the jacket from our Remade in England range, for which we deconstruct and reuse original military fabrics. Here we used an olive-green Gore-Tex material, which comes from waterproof sleeping bag covers, which we mixed with a technical Italian fabric before sealing everything to make it water-resistant. The great thing about these jackets is they're limited to 50 pieces worldwide, and each one is individually numbered.
What is particularly British about what you do?
I like to think that our attention to detail, quality and provenance of fabrics, which is very important to my work, are perhaps peculiarly British, and maybe so is the fact that we don't take ourselves too seriously.
What inspires your work?
My inspirations can be fairly far-flung. For fall/winter 2013 we based the whole collection around these beautiful sea forts built in the Thames estuary out near Whitstable in Kent during WWII. Now they're these archaic, decaying structures still standing in the river, but at one point they housed 140 men. We tried to imagine what it would be like being stationed there, and thought about the fabrics and garments you would need.
How has the internet affected what you do?
The way that we research and find new fabrics, garments and inspirations is often online. On a basic level it can help us find interesting things on eBay, through to constantly searching music, archives and everything else. It's a fascinating world we live in now, where there is access to so much information all the time.
What are your favourite London addresses?
I'm slightly obsessed with the Chiswick car boot sale in west London, which is the first Sunday of every month. It's amazing and in summer there are about 300 stalls. I also like The Narrow, a restaurant down on the Thames near Limehouse, where they do amazing Scotch eggs. And the Royal Institute of British Architects is great. It's incredible that you can just go in there and use the café for meetings: that wouldn't happen in too many places.
What's your approach to personal style?
For me, so much is about layering because I have to travel a lot. Today I'm wearing Rapha and Nike and my own label, but then I love wearing Savile Row too... it's a bit schizophrenic maybe. As I've got further into my career I've taken more pleasure in experimenting with what I wear.

Mr Jonathan Anderson thought that he wanted to be an actor, but luckily for us he switched to menswear and studied at the London College of Fashion. J.W.Anderson launched in 2008; since then Mr Anderson has become one of London's hottest names thanks to his daring silhouettes, precise detailing and innovative textiles. Recently he was invited to collaborate on the Versus line by Ms Donatella Versace, who compared him to her late brother Gianni - a high accolade indeed.

Describe the three pieces you've created for MR PORTER.
Up first we've got the knit with the scissors design. It was a piece in our fall/winter 2013 show and the idea was to look at mundane domestic objects in a new, perhaps slightly perverse, light. Then you have the T-shirt with our anchor logo, which is something I developed when I first started the brand, but now is the first time we've really started to use it on products. It's made in the UK, in common with everything else in the collection. Finally there's the T-shirt with the silhouette of an anatomical heart. In the women's and men's collections we did jacquard knits with a real heart motif, so it's derived from that.
Is there something particularly British about what you do?
I think so, at least in terms of fabrication. I love British material and I love sourcing fabrics here and using manufacturers here, but in terms of aesthetic we're not quintessentially British; we're a bit more modern and progressive.
You recently collaborated with Ms Versace on the Versus line. How did that come about?
Last November I went to see her at London's The Dorchester hotel and it all cracked up from there. Talking to Donatella was like speaking to someone I had known for years. Even though people may think we're an odd couple, I think ultimately we are very similar in our approach. I would never work with anyone unless I thought they were genuine, and I think she's one of the most genuine people I've ever met.
How has the internet affected what you do?
In terms of being informed, the internet has been invaluable. And being able to talk to my customers directly and get honest feedback is great - there's no holding back online!
What are your favourite London addresses?
There's a bookshop I go to called Donlon Books, which is just near London Fields. They have the most amazing edit of books - out-of-print, new, foreign, etc. It's very well curated and sometimes it will have a whole section on a certain artist or photographer, so you get a great global picture. I love having Conor, the owner, suggest something because he has a very sharp eye.

MR PORTER is an Official Sponsor of London Collections: MEN. For more information click here.

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