Real people: Rip it up and start again

Forget off-the-peg designs, customising your own clothes is back in fashion. Albert Hill grabs his sewing kit

Just when fashion seemed to be hurtling forward to the future, using hi-tech fabrics and even higher-tech techniques, there's been a cry from the back for a return to the crafts. Alexander McQueen has cited this season's inspiration the William Morris-led Arts and Crafts Movement, the 19th-century brethren who lusted after all things mediaeval.

While no one's suggesting we should go out and swathe ourselves in sackcloth and horsehair, McQueen's comments that "people now yearn for individual, hand-made pieces" reflects a move towards fashion DIY. Cutting, doodling, patchwork, dyeing, embroidering and ripping are all making a comeback. Of course, not everyone has to do it for themselves. Although Kate Moss proved her street credentials by recently wearing a self-slashed shirt, Tom Ford at Gucci is selling his moneyed minions ready-ripped, frayed and feathered jeans, and Paul Smith and Daryl K both showed "deconstructed" and "distressed" denim for their spring/summer collections. Even nightclubs are at it - super-hip London club 333 recently held a "Custom Culture" weekend.

Naturally, it goes against the customising ethic to buy the look pre- packaged. "It's a contradiction in itself," says Fraser Moss of London label You Must Create, "but I suppose if you are rich, lazy and unimaginative you will love it." "It's just big fashion companies jumping on the bandwagon," says JJ, of label Noki, who's been customising for years and sells his creations - mostly cut and torn T-shirts - at hip boutique The Pineal Eye. JJ uses second-hand branded clothes "to confuse and camouflage" the power of the logo. So that an old Nike Air Jordan T-shirt is reworked into a religious-referenced anagram, Ark-Ordained, and a little critique of brand loyalty is born.

Of course, there's nothing inherently new about picking at your clothes. Patches on arms, frantically Biro-ed jeans and school bags disguised under a thousand stickers have been the norm since the Seventies. But now, with fashion long since an off-the-peg mass-market phenomenon, the resurgence of customisation has more than a whiff of independence and rebellion about it. "Ten years ago, you had to shop and create a look for yourself," says Colin White, who customises trainers. "Now you can go somewhere like Urban Outfitters and spend pounds 200 and leave the shop completely ready- styled."

Colin White works on a very small-scale, as each pair of trainers takes about eight hours to customise, and he only takes commissions from Browns Focus, an exclusive London store. Trainers have always been a way of asserting individuality, but now that middle-aged housewives are catching on to urban footwear, the old-school shoes have come back in - and the felt tips or paint brush to "improve" them have come out. Nike, for one, has recognised this shift. Aware that their perceived image as a corporate giant has negatively impacted on its sales, it is now developing a new, low-key sports range.

"I think there's been a shift towards individuality as a reaction against lazy dressing," Fraser Moss observes, "a reaction against a play-safe and sheeplike attitude towards clothes." Clearly, judging by the name of his label, You Must Create, it's a philosophy he endorses.

It's a trend well exemplified by Paris design duo, Bless, who are becoming increasingly infamous for blurring the boundaries between buyer and maker. Earlier examples of their wares include a bag that, with a little helping hand, becomes a pair of trousers, while their most recent footwear offering is a large square of material attached to two Charles Jourdan and two New Balance shoe soles. The piece asks the purchaser to wield their own scissors and cut and stitch the shoes for themselves.

Jeremy Scott, fashion's enfant terrible, played a similar game when he burst onto the scene brandishing three-armed T-shirts. Martin Margiela, considered to be one of fashion's strongest driving forces, has also made experiments into the placing of arm, leg and neckholes. Fashion, it seems, is upping the ante, and asking questions where it once merely answered them.

Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
The John Peel Lecture has previously been given by Pete Townshend of The Who, Billy Bragg and Charlotte Church
musicGodfather of punk will speak on 'free music in a capitalist society'
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

    £300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

    High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

    £70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

    Teaching Assistant

    £50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

    Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

    £400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments