How cool is this? The designer of cult fashion brand Sam MC London that’s a favourite of K-Pop powerhouse CL and her bandmates from 2NE1 among other stars, Sam McWilliams, actually grew up right here in Singapore! He even began his designing career at Lasalle.
CL from 2NE1 wearing her bespoke outfit from Sam MC London on stage
Now his special brand of streetwear infused with Asian pop culture references like manga and old Hong Kong movies is available here too at multi-label store Salon By Surrender, a store that has ties to YG Entertainment (2NE1’s home company) that are already strong after it held the launch of G-Dragon’s collaboration with Japanese label Ambush in 2013.
Sam McWilliams, the designer of Sam MC London, at the Salon By Surrender launch of his latest collection. He’s flanked by two hand-painted bags from his MC Made label and wearing his own label, of course.
Sam, who is only 26 by the way, was in Singapore for the launch that corresponded, rather fortuitously, with the YG Family concert ‒ and also explained the large number of kids hanging around outside the store from about 4pm just on the off-chance one of YG’s luminous celebs might turn up. Which left Sam rather bemused, but happy, as we sat down to chat with him about designing, working with Givenchy (where his sister is a designer), his relationship with CL and 2NE1, the impact of Asia on his creativity and what he plans for the future. There was also a game of champagne pong, but that was later on.
You grew up in Singapore and Malaysia – what do you most remember about living in Singapore? And has the city changed a lot since then?
Yes, I moved to Singapore when I was 17 but we’d been travelling back and forth since I was about 6 years old. I actually studied in Singapore and went to Lasalle ‒ I did my design foundation course there. I remember the people being very kind and I think Singapore changes every time I see it. When I left MBS was just starting, now I’m in a shop in it!
You’re obviously very influenced by Asian pop culture – it’s become your signature – do you think this is what’s made you stand out when it comes to new labels? Will you continue to work with these influences or are other things inspiring you now?
I will always have the Anglo Asian influences, I am British (and proud) but I’m also “Asian” because that was what I saw everyday when I was growing up. Although I have toned it down a little in the prints for Autumn Winter 2014, but it will always be there.
Unlike some who try to tap into the Asian aesthetic, I really do have the connection. I also think it’s why we’ve been so successful with the girls and GD (creating tour wardrobe for 2NE1) … we have quality in fabric and construction (Sam MC London uses the same factories as Givenchy) but we understand Asia.
Basically we are creating clothes that we want to wear; we try to stay true to ourselves and that can be seen I suppose.
One of the new print dresses from Sam MC London AW14 collection that’s now available from Salon By Surrender
Do you see more attention / interest being paid to Asia as a source of inspiration and not just customers by other British labels?
Yes, I do but I hope it’s not a fad. With CL, for example, for us, it’s personal. For us it’s real; we’re tapping into our heritage. I’m an Asian baby … I wa always at British school — but Singapore is my second home. Coming into someone else culture … You have to respect it and love it to be able to say it’s really a part of you.
Sam’s drawings of the stage outfits he designed for 2NE1’s tour
You’ve obviously done well with your association with YG Family stars like CL and GD … Do they also inspire you as modern day muses?
Yes, definitely. We have even reissued outfits CL and GD have worn because they made them instant classics. Seeing them [CL, 2NE1 and GD] perform was awesome; seeing their passion [on stage] helped us understand what they needed. We were originally approached by their stylist Xin (Yang Seung Ho aka Xin or Yanggaeng) about doing some pieces. We weren’t sure about it but met them in London and then send a bunch of ideas back and forth until we came up with something that fit each girl’s character. We had to tap into the right designs for each girl. And designing for them has influenced our own work; we are bringing in more dresses for example.
The reissued tees that sold out worldwide after they were spotted on CL from 2NE1 and G-Dragon from Big Bang, are now available at Salon By Surrender
Your collections are unique in that you create unisex clothes but also very “street” items for women ‒ something that not many other streetwear origin brands do – why have you always included the girls?
We want people to feel confident and comfortable – don’t want to be just doing graphic tees. Although we originally started with just menswear, it was always very unisex since my sister (Courtney McWilliams who originally launched the label as Courtney MC London) would always wear the men’s stuff. But we always wanted to do more than just the usual streetwear, we wanted to do more ready-to-wear pieces.
What are your influences for SS15 and can you give us a sneak peek at what’s coming up?
Spring Summer 2015 is mostly black; longer tees; extended tees … it’s a similar silhouette with continuing to be quite print strong. There will be more original prints and more MC hand-painted accessories … and maybe some jewellery?
We’re looking at doing more special items, more pieces, more variety, like a neoprene hoodie with an internal print so only the wearer knows it’s there. We’re also doing something on old school Yakuza bandana prints (the classic wood block prints), the block prints are all lined up on an enormous piece of fabric. You can wear it as a scarf, or as a sari … Actually, I just remembered that CL has got our only sample version (laughs). I’ll need to get that back … or maybe just make another one.
Sam MC London Autumn Winter 2014 collection and exclusive reissues of tees worn by CL and G-Dragon is available exclusively from Salon By Surrender at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands #B2-232/233. For more information about Sam MC London, go to sammclondon.com; you can follow the brand on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sammclondon and on Instagram at @sammclondon.
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