Style: Designers go to the wall: Smart as paint, Tamsin Blanchard follows the graffiti trend out of the subway, on to the street

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Yesterday the New York subway, today the catwalk, tomorrow Miss Selfridge. The signs from the Paris and London shows are that graffiti on clothes is becoming mainstream.

Azzedine Alaa uses graffiti to make jokey reference to the 'new punk': his high court shoes are crudely daubed with the names of Sid and Nancy, Butt- head and Beavis and other odd couples. Jean Paul Gaultier has followed avant- garde designer Martin Margiela, who covered second-skin clothes in writing and - another form of graffiti - tattoos; Gaultier's clothes are printed with Japanese graffiti, making them look like something out of Blade Runner.

Yohji Yamamoto uses his spray-can in a simpler but equally effective way. White shift dresses are sprayed with vertical and diagonal marks. Another stretch-jersey dress is sprayed with irregular circles, and white tights are randomly striped with black paint.

In London, Michiko Koshino saw one of Nick Walker's graffiti-printed T- shirts and latched on to it for a Japanese children's range, Michiko Junior. She then asked Walker to create graffiti clothing live on the catwalk. Models in cream canvas suits were spray-painted with bright colours. The clothes will be in the Michiko store this spring.

Nick Walker also has his own label, Magic Pudding Avenue, producing T- shirts and hooded tops. Walker's main inspiration is Wild Style, Charlie Ahearn's 1982 film about street-life in the South Bronx, and his style owes much to New York's 'golden era' of subway graffiti.

Another graffiti artist, 33-year-old Kevin Taylor, turned from walls to clothes after being caught by police in Newcastle about five years ago. His imagery is influenced by Sixties underground art by such as Rick Griffin, the man behind posters for the Grateful Dead and Robert Williams.

'In the US, graffiti art is an accepted form, and dealers pay a lot of money for it, but here it is not appreciated - it's still underground,' Taylor says. Nevertheless, he has managed to find commercial outlets. He has an obsession with Volkswagens: the Beetle is a recurring image on his T-shirts, and his own multi-coloured Beetle could be an exhibit in a gallery. Taylor has also worked on a range of surfwear and surfboards for Chapter Surf in Braunton, north Devon.

Spurred on by the simplicity of Yohji Yamamoto's designs, we decided to try some DIY graffiti, and invested in a can of sky-blue, ecologically unsound (just smell the fumes]) aerosol paint. Textile designer Melanie Lewis, whose work is based on photographs she takes of graffiti, used masking tape to make a grid, then set to work with her aerosol.

After five minutes, the tape was peeled away, and our plain little white dress was transformed into something exciting, with at least an edge of anarchy. But, as Kevin Taylor says: 'You don't get the same buzz doing it on T- shirts as on walls.'

Magic Pudding Avenue (071-359 3303); Kevin Taylor (081-699 8766); Melanie Lewis (071-274 6465); Michiko Koshino, 70 Neal Street, London WC2.

(Photographs omitted)

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