AGR is the South London Label Making Hedonistic Knitwear
Like a lot of good things in life, London-based knitwear label AGR was born at Notting Hill Carnival. It was back in 2018 when Alicia Robinson was asked by a bunch of her mates to make their looks for the annual celebration. “I was just doing freelance projects and working supervising a pub in Tottenham,” explains Robinson, who ended up making 15 outfits in total – including tie-dye minidresses, woolly bucket hats and sweater vests in clashing prints.
Harry Fisher – one of Robinson’s carnival customers who’s now the her sales manager – was able to get Nike on board to support the project. A few weeks later, SSENSE were on the blower asking Robinson to design an exclusive capsule collection. And the rest is history.
“Without SSENSE who knows where I would be right now,” says the 29-year-old designer. “The funny story is that when Mark Pourshafiey [SSENSE’S menswear buyer] first reached out to me, I thought it was junk mail. I think I ignored three of his emails before I clocked on to how important it was.”
Currently stocked at SSENSE, Browns Fashion and freshly launched London store Htown, AGR makes the sort of technicoloured knitwear that wouldn’t have looked amiss on the dancefloor of the Haçienda, or London’s Twice as Nice. If you think woolly jumpers are just for grannies, then AGR would be like going into an old people’s home after double-dropping a tab of acid.
After successfully launching the label in June of last year, Robinson has just dropped her first full collection. AW20 sees the designer continue her love for stripes, clashing patterns and the mismatching of textures. Looking specifically to punk and grunge silhouettes, standout pieces include in-your-face mohair jumpers, cosy cargo trousers and ribbed twinsets in slinky proportions.
“I find inspiration in the strangest places, through mad chats in people’s kitchens to smoking areas of clubs,” says the designer. “I’ve always got my eyes wide open.”
Despite the brand being just over a year old, Robinson ain’t no new kid on the block. The self-proclaimed ‘Knit Wizard’ has spent the most part of the last five years as a go-to, freelance knitwear designer for everyone A-Cold-Wall and Missoni to Yeezy, where she is currently working on the Yeezy Gap collaboration alongside fellow London designer Mowalola. More recently, she has played a key role in shaping projects for Converse, PlayStation and Nike – all whilst making custom one-of-one pieces from scraps of fabric left in her studio, on a made-to-order basis.
“I got into knitwear through my mum,” explains the designer. “She taught me how to hand knit from a very young age and then when I started my foundation, she gave me her knitting machines from when she was at uni. I’m the protege some might say.” Going on to study textiles at Chelsea College of Art, where she specialised in knitwear, Robinson says she owes a lot of what she knows today down to her technician, Tim.
“He taught me that not only was your course important but also socialising with the people in your class as they will go on to be your peers in the business,” she says. “I soon learnt that it’s not just how talented you are but also who you know.”
After applying for a studio award with Cockpirats towards the tail-end of 2018, Robinson received her own free space for a whole year. It was here the designer crafted her first capsule collection, as well as creating pieces for the likes of Slow Thai, Jorja Smith and Anderson Paak. In the early stages of launching her own label, Robinson also played a key role in helping fellow Londoner Priya Ahluwalia launch her namesake brand – working together on the latter’s BA and MA collections, as well as her first London Fashion Week show.
“The pieces we created together for Priya’s MA were probably some of my favourite I have ever made,” affirms Robinson. “They included knitted beadwork, laying in, intarsia, applique – you name it.”
Despite Ahluwalia’s Fashion Week success, Robinson isn’t sure if going down the “traditional” way of doing things is for her, yet doesn’t completely write off the possibility of making her LFW debut in the forthcoming years. “I’ve always done things on my own accord and if I’m honest, I’ve done pretty well so far without having a show or presentation,” she says. “That doesn’t mean I don’t want to or haven’t thought about it. One thing’s for certain – it won’t be your normal kind of show.”
Still, in the meantime, the designer has plenty to be getting on with. Aside from launching her AW20 collection, as well as continuing her creative consultancies, the designer is in the process of expanding her studio to become a 360, all-rounded knitwear palace – equipped for all sorts of knitty needs. “I’m not gonna lie though, a trainer collab has always been a career goal of mine,” Robinson admits. Now it’s out in the open, what’s stopping AGR from branching out into the world of footwear? Besides, every good pair of trainers needs a cracking pair of woolly socks to match.
Photography by Britt Lloyd, styling by Jake Hunte. You can shop AGR’s AW20 collection here.