As some of you might have read, I’ve been bleating on about the return of logomania both here and for other publications and linked onto this current wave of positively branding oneself is the general popularity of visual motifs.  They’re eye-catchers that make an item of clothing stick in your head easily even if you’ve only looked at lookbook or catwalk images  – any number of Givenchy’s prints for example or Prada’s S/S 14 mural faces, which I’ve practically nicknamed every one of.  There’s nothing new of course about memorable graphics in fashion but perhaps every notable piece with its cartoonish and cute motif feels that bit more overexposed because of the proliferation of its imagery across the internet.  Not coincidentally, I’ve gathered up a group of young female designers who are taking the animated, the drawn out and borrowings from street or pop art and creating their own visual language for their collections.  From the traditionally male-dominated world of comic books and graphic novels, these female designers are taking those recognisable elements and reappropriating them in a way that funnels something fun, fresh and Insta-friendly for the heaps of people who like their clothes shamelessly unsubtle and perhaps even a touch literal.  In other words, things that are right up my street for my “bubblegum approach to personal style” (or so says the Telegraph in their round-up of signature looks).

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Peiran Gong‘s graduate collection from the Royal College of Art last year already blew me away with her incredible printed collection to give the impression of shaping illusion and 3D structures on the body.  She has developed a brilliant way of articulating shape and space by printing spray painted lines on bonded fabrics to mimic details like pockets, ties and seams.  Now currently back in her hometown Beijing in China, Gong has created a new follow-up S/S 14 collection that has a bit more fun with that kitsch spray painted gradient technique.  A loose “Slam Dunk” basketball theme, Jem (as in the cartoon) type graphics, colours that would not look out of place in the girly section of the Argos toy catalogue and a few dinosaurs for good measure, all combine together for the sort of outfits that I’d wanna wear if I were in a fantasy girl band.  Visual grabbing qualities aside, Gong is honing in on her unique print technique that’s definitely got legs if she were to carry on solo.

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I’ve not been featuring many new-new-NEW designers lately (i.e. ones I’ve never heard of or talked up about before) but Nila Mistry is one that I immediately starred when she sent me an email.  After graduating from LCF in menswear design, Mistry worked at Hussein Chalayan, with Kim Jones at Dunhill and also working freelance as art director and designer for SBTRKT.  Mistry has struck out on her own to create a small tomboyish collection that literally go pop with a bold squiggle, inspired by the stop motion film Fantastic Planet.  There’s something sparse and spare about Mistry’s work and so the calculated burst of pop art graphics look even more striking on the slightly oversized garments.  Mistry seems to be treating this collection as an initial tester and maybe it was the intriguing use of graphics but there’s definitely something here that sticks in your head.

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On the first day of London Fashion Week in September, it was so great to revisit a star graduate from Ravensbourne, who caught my eye at this year’s GFW.  Print designer Josephine Pettman aka Phiney Pet, who is currently working for a high street retailer, was immediately asked to present an off-schedule presentation at Apartment 58 and so Phiney pulled together key looks from her wonderfully manic graduate collection, some newly illustrated peep-toe shoes and trainers to amp up the accessories and a human Garfield character to join in on the fun.  One ogle at Pettman’s felt-tipped awesome trainers and you’re pondering all the possible fun collaborations that she could do.  

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Clio Peppiatt is also another fellow Ravensbourne class of 2013 print graduate and has started out small to strike out on her own with a new line of “Miami Vixens $$14” t-shirts inspired by the ladies of the video game Grand Theft Auto, which are now available for pre-order on Art Wednesday.  The colours of Miami, the defined outlines of GTA’s graphic style and of course the women with serious ‘tude in hot rides make for some fun tees.  The bulldog, which featured heavily in Peppiatt’s graduate collection along with hamburgers and bling, returns once more as though Peppiatt was setting into motion a potential signature for herself.

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It's that time of the year when it's pop-up this, sample that in London.  More's the pity that I'm looking at my bank account wondering where the best part of five figure sums have gone because the new house is draining all resources at the moment.  Therefore when doing the sample sale rounds, I'm trying to keep it to a minimum.  I couldn't miss the occasion that Julien David, whose blend of Japanese production, streetwear nous and all round fun and wit has had me all stitched up since day one, pops up in London for a very brief, very short four day "Flash" shop.  

David up until now has spent most of his time in Tokyo, where he is able to achieve top notch production on his collections that rely heavily on custom made fabrics and interesting textiles.  Lately though, he's been spending more time in London and is considering a move to the big smoke, whilst retaining a production base in Japan.  That's a bi-city blend that I'm more than jealous of.  This spontaneous Flash shop is David's way of saying a little "Hello!" to London.  

A very tight and fine edit of David's A/W 13-4 collection (many of which you can find on FarFetch – testament of his growing popularity with stockists) has been put together so that Londoners can come and cop a feel of the interesting yarn blends, wool laces on mesh and camera man paparazzi prints on tomboyish shapes that you slip rather than struggle into, complete with alpaca trainers with a slightly raised platform sole.  I've never been a fan of "Christmas-specific" dresses but the swiss dot scattered mesh overlay over a velvet dress definitely fits in that vein if you really need something festive.  I got myself a grey skirt that kind of replicates that texture of shredded up tissue paper but is in fact a houndstooth with its yarns tugged out and frayed.  The "Pap" camo print also caught my eye so much so that I was considering it as a "Ha-ha-ha" gift option for streetstyle snapper friends.  

Julien David Flash Shop open from today until 1st December, 11am-8pm at 64 Charlotte Road EC2A 3PE London 

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Julien David's presence at Paris Fashion Week has been going from strength to strength in a city where  admittedly, young designers still get a little lost on the schedule.  On a day packed with the likes of Anthony Vaccarello, Jacquemus and Piece D'Anarchive, "young Paris" impressed and David's S/S 14 collection once again offered up a different perspective to add to this eclectic mix.  Under the sea and aquatic theme can be an obvious theme to riff off of but David merely looked to waters to cook up yet more tactile-friendly textiles – spongey dotted nylon, glitchy jacquards, old-slick polyurethane.  David keeps the shapes fresh and friendly – paper bag waists, slouchy sweatshirts and varsity jackets and when needed, dresses are adorned with tulle netting embroidered with life savers and palm fronds for added interest.  Let's hope his "Flash" moment in London becomes something more permanent in the near future.  

 

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Once upon a time in amongst the rabbit warren of London designers holed up in various parts of East London, the word "brand" was a dirty word.  Along with being "commercial" and making "wearable" clothes, to be seen being ambitious and wanting to build a brand were things that the abundantly creative London fashion scene eschewed.  Those days are perhaps long gone – at least for the top tier of London designers, who collectively have given London Fashion Week its rising eminence.  Talking about your brand is no longer something to be embarrassed about and commercial success is of course lauded universally.  When it comes to website design and digital strategy though, admittedly the established set of London designers do *she says in small voice* lag slightly behind say, their American counterparts.  Not that I am saying every young designer needs an all singing and all dancing website and go all out on social media platforms because sometimes too much noise can also be unnecessary and distracting when you're just starting out.  I'm primarily talking about the emerged lot in London, who could do with making a bigger shout about what they do and bringing their consumer and audience closer to their world.  I hate citing this example only because I do know that Christopher Kane wants his website to be da bomb but obviously going nearly 7 years in the biz without a website is kind of astonishing.  When it comes to ecommerce, London designers also by and large haven't fully explored it's potential save for the likes of House of Holland.  You only have to look at across the Atlantic at 3.1 Phillip Lim, Suno, Thakoon and Proenza Schouler and more to see how own brand ecommerce is being used to their advantage.

Therefore the launch of Mary Katrantzou' s website is an interesting case study and in some ways a benchmark of a well thought out website and ecommerce.  Katrantzou has had an "Work in progress" sign hanging on her domain name for a good few years now and her new site, which went live last week is well worth the wait.  The quality shows as Katrantzou worked with King and Partners on the design, who incidentally have created sites for 3.1 Phillip Lim and Thakoon.  Art director Ferdinando Verderi also created a compelling countdown video campaign to launch the site which saw Katrantzou's dresses rotating on a model in a digital clock.  It was mesmerising and engaging and judging by social media reaction, only bolsters what is already a solid online fanbase for Katrantzou, who is an active tweeter and Insta user herself.  

The actual site itself is naturally a slick affair it specific room set backgrounds created by artist Nicholas Alan Cope.  They house all the sections that you now expect from an immersive experience of a designer such as an daily feed of Katrantzou happenings in Mary's World, a Tumblr-esque feed in Mary Likes, an overview of collaborative projects, beautiful imagery of her collections and most importantly and significatnly, a fully fledged ecommerce site.  

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Katrantzou is of course widely stocked everywhere but her prints are perfect fodder to be presented in its own realm.  Here, her prints can be magnified, sold by theme and she can also create exclusive product, which she has done with a 45 piece web only collection.  With sweatshirts, easy chiffon shirts and simpler dresses, Katrantzou is offering a more accessible slant to those heavily encrusted, show stopper dresses that she has become.well known for.  Katrantzou has always had them in her vast sales collection but her own ecommerce site is definitely showing a wider product range than even her most ardent stockists.  I tried on a selection of the web exclusives on for size and found that it was probably her easiest collection to wear on a day to day basis.  Not that I object to lampshade frocks and beautiful jacquard in a chippie (remember this?) but Katrantzou's prints pack a punch all by themselves without complex silhouettes.  The sweatshirts and cardis whilst simple in shape are actually my favourite pieces from the collection and really demonstrate how adept Katrantzou is at print placement.  As Katrantzou continues her upward ascent in brand building, it's great to see that she finally has a well-made online presence to help her on the way.   

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>> I'm remember flicking through Heat Mag round-ups of celebrities spotted wearing Alexander McQueen's popular skull scarves like it was only yesterday.  In fact, it wasn't yesterday.  It was ten years ago that Alexander McQueen, as the company began their profitable journey to black, designated the human skull as a brand motif and placed it on a silk scarf, which then became a runway hit, spawning copies and fakes everywhere.  They've become pure product gold.  If we're frank, McQueen's skull scarf has become a bit of a victim of its own success with its ubiquity and was ineed for a special reinjection of life.    

Stop and stare for a bit at this beautiful video and accompanying stills shot by S√∏lve Sundsb√∏ featuring the new collaboration scarf prints between artist Damien Hirst and Alexander Mcqueen.  Adapted from Hirst's Entomology series, a swarm of butterflies, bugs, spiders and other insects flood over thirty scarf print designs.  The most striking design is when hidden amongst the butterflies and bugs, the outline of a skull head emerges and lingers like a quiet and haunting presence.  Pitting the butterflies against the skull seems to echo Alexander McQueen's aesthetic development in recent years as post-Lee, Sarah Burton has shifted the brand towards more feminine and softer territory.

The "classic" skull design is still proving popular but these special Hirst/McQueen hybrid designs are certainly a much welcome update to a product hit that has been papped and papped again over the years.  Whilst the Hirst scarves come in vibrant shades of blue, yellow and pink, I actually love the more neutral backgrounds, which feature in the video as well.  Add the chilly November weather and you have yourself something quite beautiful to trail behind you.    

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IMG_5333Alexander McQueen x Damien Hirst scarves tied onto an old Whistles holey knit jumper and worn with a My Panda shirt, J Brand jeans and Stella McCartney shoes