Fresh Prints

STYLE

Husband-and-wife team Mark Eley and Wakako Kishimoto are one of London fashion's best-kept secrets. As the designers behind the most memorable prints and textiles to appear on British catwalks in recent years, they have had their fair share of front pages, but they have only ever been featured in "Thank you" credits. Remember the pixilated flower print by Hussein Chalayan, or the pink dress with abstract black flower print that made the front pages after Alexander McQueen showed in a pool of water? Whether you do or not, it is worth knowing that Eley Kishimoto are behind both of them.

The duo also work for Fabio Piras, Sonja Nuttall and, more recently, Jil Sander and Joop! "We love doing special pieces," says Eley. "It's even better when we find out Kate Moss has requested a dress with our print on it." As she did after McQueen's water show. "At least they're going to good homes."

This modesty is typical of the couple, who would rather get on with creating beautiful prints, and more recently printed clothes, than parading around in the limelight. At their South London studio, the floors are covered in bright pink paint, staff wander around in baggy overalls and the whiff of chemicals hangs in the air.

"We had a bit of an accident with that pink stuff," Eley tells me during a quick tour of the studio. "That's the print we did for Jil Sander," - a gorgeous spriggy branch in bloom - "this is where we experiment with different techniques," - a higgledy-piggledy pile of pots, jars and machinery - "and this is part of our umbrellas line. We also do sunglasses, and here's our winter collection."

Hang on a minute. Umbrellas? Sunglasses? They are also launching a luxury denim line this autumn. This is a company that has been going since 1992 and has only recently launched their own clothing line; in fact this is the first season they have been available in London. "We've been selling to Japan for a few seasons to make money," he explains, "and now we want to sell our special stuff here."

When they started out, just after they got married, Eley and Kishimoto's friends (all the aforementioned young designers) asked them to collaborate on their designs by translating a mood or feeling into a print. When those friends became successful, they in turn became extremely busy, but there wasn't much money in it, just prestige - and prestige can't pay the rent. "It is a real buzz," says Kishimoto, "but doing our own line is more fulfilling. We see it from the drawing board to the finished product."

Their current collection, made entirely from cotton, is sufficiently different from anything else around at the moment to make it stand out: there are cute t-shirts, bikinis, sheer tops and skirts, smocks, dresses and little skirts - all suffused with their refreshing signature.

Lucille Lewin of Whistles had to buy it straight away after seeing their work develop over the years. At Pellicano they have seen it sell and sell - even lightweight dresses in the cold winter months. "We've supported them from day one," says Pellicano buyer Justine Fairgrieve. "They do unexpected things which our customers love."

Pellicano 0171-629 2205

Whistles 0171-487 4484

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