SAM MC LONDON INTERVIEW (LOGO.EC 02.05.13)
British graphic-turned-fashion designer Sam McWilliams makes fierce unisex streetwear with an Anglo-Asian-inspired, print-infused twist. Though still pretty new to the industry, he’s already worked at Givenchy and alongside Kanye, and having taken over the reins of the label from his sister Courtney now creates collections inspired by dark, romantic fairytales. Are you man enough to wear his winter shorts…?
LOGO: Talk us through the inspirations behind the AW13 SHARP TEETH collection. What sort of ideas lay behind it, and what kind of guy did you have in mind during the design process?
SAM: The idea is never forced – it comes instinctively, and I just go with it. The first season I wanted to do the crazy dog because it was mental, graphic and aggressive, so I built the collection around that, and the second season was about the wolf because of an amazing Japanese scarf I found. But the garments are always cool and easy because – although the print is strong – I know how I want to wear it; its got to be real to me. I have a 360-degree vision, and rely on my instinct for everything. We’re still figuring out our customer – originally, we were “all-English”, and then I started to have fun and took more risks with garments; especially since we have great support in Japan – those guys know how to dress. If I can make garms for everyone to style up how they want, without alienating anyone, then I’ve done my job as a designer. That’s why I like designing for a unisex customer; you have to know that your girlfriend can steal your clothes and look amazing.
LOGO: The line contains a lot of tees and shorts – for winter! That makes for some inventive styling; what prompted you to go against the standard seasonal type like that? And do you think that men should be more imaginative in their approach to how they wear clothes?
SAM: Yes that’s true – as an Englishman and football fan, I felt shorts were a ‘must’ for winter! For those who don’t understand, simply ‘man up…or wear them over jeans.” I’ve always been a fan of layering. This season, we have a collection of baselayers to ensure the T-shirt can be worn all year round, with the baby blue Hawaiian prints adding irony to winter wardrobes. I think men are getting more and more imaginative with their own styles; that’s why our brand is always evolving. It’s far too easy for a designer to separate him/herself from their audience and design in their own fantasy. Fantasy is definitely what drives the creative process, but I try to stay as grounded as possible and design what I believe people actually aspire to own. I speak with my mates about how far they would be prepared to push their style, and do my best not to exceed that. I want to dress real boys and girls.
LOGO: SAM MC London is the brother line of the Courtney Mc London label. Having first designed a capsule collection under her name, how would you say your own aesthetic compares to hers now?
SAM: My sister has always been my biggest inspiration (alongside Darth Vader and Darth Maul, who are the original MC Icons) – not just in her designs, but her method of thinking through things too. She pushes a design to its limits every time an idea is put forward. I got the chance to work with her for Givenchy and learn this first-hand; it really kick started my awareness of fashion, and my own sense of style. The capsule collection was the starting point, which slowly transformed into what the brand has become – SAM MC London – so in a sense, it’s me continuing something she started, but it was also her teaching me the process of all the different aspects to a collection, from start to finish. We do have pretty similar aesthetics, I always call her for advice and vice versa on the work she is doing. There’s no sibling rivalry between us; I’m just a very proud little brother.
LOGO: Being pretty new to the design game, would you say you’ve had to learn a lot quickly? How has your work and approach evolved since you first started?
SAM: The routine is becoming more and more fast-paced for me, as I split my time between building the collection and building a career for myself as a graphic artist – as well as various collaborations. The more I learn, the more I push to achieve in the time I have… it’s definitely an evolution. [However] I’m always patient to wait for that moment of definitive inspiration to come. I’ve worked with some pretty incredible people, and seen the dedication and effort they put in to get the results they deserve. And yeah, I’m now fully aware that the fashion industry isn’t as glamourous as many people on the outside think…
LOGO: You originally built a career around graphic design – how has that background influenced your apparel work? And what’s your approach like when you put prints together?
SAM: Graphic design, especially when it comes to product, is about 3D realisation of a visual – an interest in fashion definitely made that transition easier. It’s always a learning process when it comes to physically making the garments, but that’s why I have a team that know what they’re doing! As long as I know clothes, and how I want to dress, it’s a very uncomplicated process. From the moment the customer recieves your product, you have an opportunity to make an impression and create an experience for them. I enjoy testing myself with new ideas for the packaging, and design everything right the way through. It’s the little details that make you stand out from other brands.
LOGO: Leading on from that, I’ve seen your print work compared to Riccardo Tisci‘s a few times – do you think that’s a fair comparison? Did your time there have any kind of impact on your current design aesthetic?
SAM: Of course, I got my first real taste for print design there. SAM MC appeals to the T-shirt-wearing guy who needs a statement piece to style with jeans – I create very visual pieces that you want in your wardrobe, and will hopefully transcend current trends and always be fun and cool. I don’t aim to create a hyped fad – more a label with longevity, like Givenchy. If i’m not wearing my own brand, I’m always in Givenchy, as they always get it spot-on for menswear (I’m not biased!) – I always get excited to see what Riccardo brings out next.
LOGO: You assisted Kanye on his first show – what was that like?
SAM: That was the moment I knew I was making the right choice in following a career in fashion. I worked with him, Virgil Abloh and Alex Milsom (who photographed our lookbook for this collection). It was such an amazing experience. That collection was crazy. It was actually really inspiring working around him, he was so dedicated to that collection – his work ethic was like nothing I had every seen before. We all worked crazy hours too, ’cause you just knew you were a part of something major. Also, for the record he was actually one of the nicest people I’ve met haha.
LOGO: Fairytales have inspired much of your work. What is it about that theme that you’re drawn to? Loving the conflict between contemporary streetwear and traditional fantasy…
SAM: The label focuses on Anglo-Asian-inspired, print-infused streetwear, and always has a dark, romantic fairytale behind each inspiration. The MC family has, for generations, enjoyed reading original fairytales, and this season the SHARP TEETH collection tells the story of the Big Bad Wolf. For me, it’s that nostalgia of stories that take you back to your own place where you were read these stories – everyone unique.
LOGO: What have you got in store for Spring/Summer 2014?
SAM: We’ve just started on our S/S14 collection, but as ever we’re going to push our brand even further. Maybe a few more womenswear garments. Shall have to wait and see… We’re also doing a collaboration with a very well-known British music duo but I cant go into the finer details of that just yet, but that will be out soon, real soon…
Interview: Charlotte McManus
Posted on 10/06/2013, in Fashion and tagged aw13, branded culture, british fashion, charlotte mcmanus, courtney mc, designer interview, fairytales, givenchy, kanye, logo, logo.ec, mens fashion, menswear, sam mc, sam mc aw13, sam mcwilliams interview. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.