Always read the label

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Today's savvy dresser is making waves by wearing designers that remain determinedly under the radar. Harriet Walker searches out the best niche names



Katie Sheridan & Shofolk



Accessories

Shofolk is the footwear arm of Folk, an independent boutique that opened its doors near Russell Square in 2001. The design ethos is casual and pragmatic, but also playful. Shoes come in colourful punched leather, often with upturned "poulaine" toes; buckled brogues are also a recurrent favourite.

Colour is key to bag designer Katie Sheridan's ranges, too: geometric prints decorate satchels and canvas rucksacks with more than a whiff of school-kid charm. Simple shapes combine with chic colour combinations – essential for toting all your new buys home.



Surface to Air

Rock'n'roll

Fashion collective Surface to Air includes film-makers, musicians and artists, and was originally known for its shop and gallery near the Louvre in Paris. Names involved range from Banksy to Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth to the Kings of Leon. These days, though, the label can be found in boutiques dotted around the world.

From distressed and dishevelled knits, to nostalgically crafted denim pieces and printed silks, redolent of Seventies' mums, Surface to Air specialises in rock stereotypes. A strapless scarlet dress, pin-tucked along one side, is a brilliant update of a Robert Palmer-esque look, while graffiti-ed blouses tread the line between girlish and grunge.

The Kooples

Chic streetwear

Everyone wants to dress like a Parisienne, but times have changed a little and two-tone pumps, cropped trousers and a striped T-shirt have become a little – dare we say it? – staid.

French label The Kooples special-ises in that oh-so-French style of couldn't-care-less elegance and heart-stopping, envy-inducing cool. Their ad campaigns feature a selection of impossibly good-looking real-life couples wearing the mens' and womens' ranges, which both take inspiration from the tailoring of Savile Row.

Imagine that tailoring on David Bowie, however, and you have something that resembles The Kooples look: slim-fitting, sharply creased and a little bit rough around the edges. Womenswear is cut in a masculine style but fitted and flattering to the female body – think cigarette pants, shirts, blazers and shorts. It's Audrey Hepburn for the 21st century.



Dress Monster and Mardi Jeudi

Pretty utility



There's a certain modish femininity at the moment that thrives on distinctly boyish separates and rather Spartan pieces. Dress Monster and Mardi Jeudi, two of the latest hit new brands showcased on Asos.com, sum up the look to a T.

Mardi Jeudi is a French label that blends influences from East and West – so simple, utilitarian blouses, shirt dresses and jersey pieces come in a palette of rich and vibrant colours, from khaki green to crimson, and pieces are cut with great effect in purposefully awkward styles: midi-length skirts and dresses, cropped jackets and long-line blazers. It's unusual, but it works.

Dress Monster, meanwhile, is the diffusion line from Korean brand pushbutton. Launched in 2008, the emphasis here is on directional basics, led by trends but created for those who don't follow the herd. Deconstructed tailoring, sports-influenced casualwear and deftly cut stand-out pieces are the basis for their idiosyncratic styling.



Filippa K

Minimalism

Swedish designer Filippa Knutsson founded her label in 1993, under the directive "timeless simplicity with contemporary edge". Already a superstar in her native country, as well as much of mainland Europe, her name is less known in the UK.

But the past few seasons' focus on the trend for minimalism – in particular, a feminine and flattering twist on the theme – means that Knutsson's label is perfect for now.

Layering is key, as is a play on proportion, with long tunics and dresses worn underneath short knits and jackets. Flashes of colour – be they powder blues and pastels or hot pinks and earthy ochres – abound in this collection, making it a sleek and straightforward choice.



Opening Ceremony

Cool and quirky



Since its launch in 2002, Opening Ceremony has become the staple outlet for the ultimate hipster wardrobe. With collaborations from Chloe Sevigny and hot New York label Rodarte, the brand's credentials are sky-high and the OC concept stores (so far, sadly, only in New York, LA and Tokyo) have become tourist attractions in themselves.

Its USP is cool and youthful quirk, from child-like flowery sundresses to chunky knits in zig-zag Aztec prints. Inspiration comes from wistful Seventies influences, as well as the Nineties. Wedges and boots that verge on the orthopaedic and clunky, clog-like sandals are geek chic personified.



Studio Nicholson

Clean tailoring

The current collection from Studio Nicholson, designed by Nick Wakeman, is inspired by menswear, broken down and re-cast for a female buyer. The result is relaxed and nonchalant, but nevertheless elegant and smart.

"I have a much stronger emotional response to menswear," says Wakeman, whose cuts are traditionally masculine, with wider armholes, revealing more flesh, and deeper, draped necklines.

Trousers are slim-fitting but not skinny, cut in the same, rounded way as Japanese denim often is. Shell tops and slouchy blazers make for a fresh and sporty look.

ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
Fans take a selfie with Ed Miliband in Kempston, near Bedford, on Tuesday
election 2015
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

    £45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

    Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

    £60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

    Ashdown Group: Accountant - London - £48,000 - 12 month FTC

    £40000 - £48000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: International Acc...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power