Second chances are rare in life, but in the precarious world of fashion design they are almost unheard of. Which is why the current success of independent label YMC tastes all the sweeter to its founders, Fraser Moss and Jimmy Collins.

Fresh from opening a flagship store in London's Soho, the pair have been garnering a legion of loyal fans among the capital's hip young things with their pared-down, gently androgynous styles.

But while many of these devotees believe they have stumbled across a hot new label, anyone old enough to have wielded a credit card in the late 1990s may remember that YMC (short for You Must Create) enjoyed a similarly enviable status as a niche brand back then, before dropping off the fashion radar. "We were getting along nicely – we had a shop on Conduit Street, people loved the designs – but it became a disaster," says Collins. "We knew nothing about production and made some very bad decisions."

Forced to close the shop, the duo abandoned their womenswear line and gritted their teeth until a generous investment from high-street giant French Connection brought them the much-needed cash and know-how to try again.

With their relaunched womenswear line now in its third season, YMC has achieved a remarkable return to form. From the outset, Moss (who handles the design side, while Collins takes care of everything else) was clear that the label would strive to produce original pieces that appealed to people who loved clothes, though not necessarily the seasonal whims of fashion.

"It's a cliché, but although money might buy you fashionable things, it can't buy style. And I'd like to think our customer is someone with a real sense of their own style," he explains.

This autumn, Moss bases both his men's and women's collections on Depression- era workwear: "I guess it is an appropriate theme for right now, although that is coincidental, really. I was just interested in the look more than anything."

If the inspiration doesn't sound too cheery, the clothes themselves are worth getting excited about. The womenswear in particular strikes an appealing balance between soft femininity and a simplicity more associated with men's clothing. For those who prefer a purer androgynous look, plenty of girls – including electro starlet Ladyhawke – have been stocking up on the brand's equally covetable men's pieces.

The combination of classic design and quirky edge, skilfully cut in quality fabrics, feels perfect for a time when consumers are after pieces that will outlast a season but don't come with a high-end price tag. Collins confesses that was a consideration when they made the bold decision to open the Soho store: "It's a tough time, but it feels like a good moment for us. We are producing our strongest work so far and it's given us confidence. It's amazing how you can turn things around."

YMC is at 11 Poland Street, London W1. Its collection is also available at Liberty and at selected boutiques across the UK. For more details, visit www.youmustcreate.com

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