Off the peg: Melanie Rickey struggles with the latest high concept from cult label Bless

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Basically it's a bag that becomes a pair of trousers. Or a pair of trousers that becomes a bag." The press officer for the fashion label Bless is trying to explain Bless No 04 to me, and she's doing OK, so far. "The waistband is also the bag opening. When using it as a bag the opening is a zip. When using it as a trouser there are press-studs. The `legs' become the shoulder tie, see." Unfortunately I do. And this is the main problem with Bless products, they can only be fully understood through lengthy explanation. In the search for ever more innovative fashion ideas, the frankly unwearable has become the must-have.

Bless was launched in 1995, after German designers Desiree Heiss, 27, and Ines Kaag, 28, met at a fashion competition in Paris and found that they shared fashion interests. As Heiss says, "everything looks the same and nothing is really going on in collections or magazines. We wanted to find a way of doing fashion that did not trap us into a system of making collections every few months. At the same time we wanted the opportunity to switch fields because the change keeps us alive." The result is what Bless calls fashion, what most people would call madness, and what fashion people think is simply fabulous.

The duo were still at college when they produced Bless Debut Sun-Tops, a limited edition of 20 tops made from elastic and transparent nylon strings. "It makes the person wearing it look quite naked," explains Heiss. Useful, then. In early 1997 they collaborated with designer Martin Margiela on Bless No 00 Fur Wigs (Kaag, a furrier's daughter, had been mucking about with fur off-cuts). Every model at Martin Margiela's catwalk show for autumn/winter 97-98 wore one and Bless soon became a cult label.

Bless No 01 was a pair of boot socks in dark denim or black and white leather, Bless No 02 a three-pack of disposable T-shirts. Bless No 03 was "Set" an air box filled with scraps of fabric to wear on body or face. Their latest offering, Bless No 05, is two pairs of DIY shoes. Take the sole unit of some Charles Jourdan stilettos, and the moulded sole of some New Balance trainers, stitch a square of adhesive bandage around them and, hey presto, you've made your own shoes. Pictured left is a pair we made earlier, looking like they've been decomposing in a 1970s time capsule. The next offering from planet Bless touches down next January - but be warned, these pieces are for fashion fanatics or the foolish only.

Bless No 05, pounds 250, is available exclusively from Browns focus, 38-39 South Molton Street, London W1 (0171-629 0666).