9 Independent Designers I Love and Wear

It feels like forever since I last blogged. It’s not that I’ve let the writing muse slide, and September was full of all sorts of exciting things for me in the areas of fashion, design, and art. I was down in London for LFW with Glass Pineapple, followed by a hectic but incredible week of trade shows at LDF. I went to Toronto to see two of my favourite musicians perform at the Invictus Games Closing Ceremony, and I found myself on a midnight art treasure hunt at Nuit Blanche. The last month was one of my busiest this year, but it was also one of the best so far.

I’ve been trying to kick the fast fashion habit. It used to be that I’d stay away from high street because I hate identikit fashion, and when there’s a New Look, an H&M and a Topshop in every town and city in England, Scotland and Wales, the chances of stepping out in the same outfit as a dozen other lassies rises exponentially. Yes, it’s all in the styling, and yes, you CAN make any look yours. But there’s something disheartening about seeing the same safe interpretation of the high fashion trends that makes me die inside. I’ll admit I still have a few high street favourites in my wardrobe, including a TwistXTurn striped neoprene skirt that I love so much I bought it it in two colours from Topshop on Oxford Street.

Now that brands like Topshop have boutique lines, and H&M’s gone the other way with diffusion, the gap in the price point between mid-range designer and high street is closing, especially when you consider that many independent designers hand produce garments for less than the big names. I’m under no illusion that the average millennial can afford a wardrobe full of one off pieces, but the idea of owning a piece that no one else has or will ever have just appeals to me.

Say no to boring clothes. Ethical fashion doesn’t need to be boring, beige or basic.

I’ve always experimented with fashion. Even when I was a kid, there was something exciting about playing with clothes; maybe it’s a throwback to nearly twelve years of boring school uniforms, but I’ve had a fascination with colour, print, pattern and style for as long as I can remember. I had a subscription to Vogue at an age most kids still read Highlights. My favourite paper dolls were Tom Tierney’s Fashion Reviews of Chanel, Dior, and Schiaparelli. I gave both of my parents advice on what to wear before I was old enough to go to school.

The past year or so, I’ve really taken stock of what I have in my own wardrobe. I’ll never be a minimalist. I am way too obsessed with shiny things to ever consider a capsule wardrobe. Neutrals? Basics? They’re not for me. My personal style is more like a My Little Pony x Samurai Pizza Cats crossover, with sartorial inspiration taken from 80s Madonna and a little 90s grunge thrown in. I never really got over the 90s. I enjoy a stripe. If Beetlejuice’s iconic suit had been hot pink and lime green, we’d be swapping clothes right now.

I do feel very strongly about ethical and sustainable fashion though, and the Fashion Revolution motto really resounds with me. Who made my clothes? Most of the designers I wear and love are real life people, who I’ve met in real life. They’re talented and they’re driven, with a very distinct and individual aesthetic. I like the idea that I do know where my clothes have come from, who designed them, made them, and how they came to be in my wardrobe. Each and every designer in this post is a person or a brand that I wear, in my weird and sometimes bizarre sort of way.

 

Tanique Coburn – London

If you follow me on Instagram, it will come as no surprise that Tanique is one of my faves. I’ve fallen in love with her outerwear; from beautiful ruffled and draped zip up hoodies to reworked denim with show-stopping sleeves, she does sports luxe to extreme. Every time I see her I find her clothes fit me like a glove AND they’re comfortable. I could wear her designs every day; in fact, her statement-sleeve denim jacket is one of the most worn pieces in my wardrobe. I know I harp on about ethical design and the need for a move away from fast fashion, and one of the many things I love about Tanique’s beautiful creations is that most of her pieces are reworked and upcycled, using vintage denim jackets and cammo in new and interesting ways. Who else can take an oversized army shirt and turn it into an undeniably glam frock coat?

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Totty Rocks – Edinburgh

I own so many Totty Rocks pieces; I remember this design duo from their original premises on Victoria street in Edinburgh, and the very first piece I bought from them was a “flying monkeys” coat in light grey tweed w an oxblood red trim. Very Wizard of Oz, Holly and Lynsey will make any of their designs up to fit as a custom order, a service I’ve severely abused throughout the years. Their designs are also what got me photographed by street style photographers at LFW in February several times in one day – once before I’d even caffeinated, and another for ASOS Curve. Their coats are glorious, a very modern take on traditional tweeds and tartans with gorgeous accents of colour. Totty Rocks are my go-to if I need something for an event, a wedding, or a whole wardrobe before LFW. Oh and did I mention their shop is right opposite my gallery? Dangerous.

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Details of my #steampunk outfit #worldheritageday #scotlandinsix. Coat by the wonderful @tottyrocksltd

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Thrifty Little – Edinburgh

If you have a scroll through my Instagram, you’ll see one top start to become a bit familiar. I’m the type of person that will find something I love, and wear the living daylights out of it. I’ll find a way to incorporate it into a dozen different outfits. Thrifty Little’s upcycled mesh tee from her “Junk Jewellery” collection is not only one of my favourite items of clothing, but it’s also one of the most complimented and commented on items in my wardrobe. Plastic toy letters in primary colours that spell out feminist slogans and pop culture references are my kryptonite. Thrifty Little’s aesthetic is a response to the boring carbon copy high street, to fast fashion, and our throwaway culture. Each piece is unique, with dresses and separates sewn from vintage prints to tiaras of iconic toys from our childhood. Everything is repurposed, recycled, and sustainable fashion done in an unequivocally fun way.

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Mimi Hammill – Aberdeen

How many people can say they’ve had a design named after them? I’ve followed textile designer Mimi Hammill on Instagram for ages and her prints are just stunning, so when she messaged me to ask if it would be ok to call one of her new florals “Lucie”, of course I squealed. Then I told everyone. People were getting messages in the middle of the night, I was that excited. When the designs were released this week I absolutely fell in love with my namesake, an explosion of hot pink and cherry red lilies – one of my favourite flowers – on a trellis of vibrant green. The colours are very me, and I’m almost convinced she has some sort of hidden psychic abilities, because I actually have a lily tattooed on my foot. Nobody does playful graphic prints quite like Mimi, who takes inspiration from architectural shapes to washing baskets, florals, colours, and real life people. Her latest collection was based on some of my favourite Scottish fashion and lifestyle bloggers, including the fabulous Kimberley from Wardrobe Conversations, who I adore. You can find Mimi’s “Lucie” print here, and “Kimberley” here.

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Peach Berserk – Toronto

When I was a teenager, I fell in love with the colours and individually silk-screened dresses from this Canadian designer. I had a few of her skater dresses in every colour from bronze to canary yellow, fire engine red to baby blue. Every colour but black, basically. I even bought a cream Eiffel Tower satin number that was designed as a wedding dress, which I wore to a ball at uni. Kingi Carpenter is as colourful as her designs; she lives and breathes rainbows. She’s a Toronto legend, and I remember talking to her about how she made her very first Peach Berserk dress in her flat, which she then sold to pay for the materials to make more gorgeous Peachy frocks. Twenty years later and I still love her designs.

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Rowanjoy – Edinburgh

Rowan does colour. I’m not a minimalist or a monochrome stan, so her designs are right up my street. Panels, beautiful fabrics, and detailing reminiscent of vintage styles; the label initially started as a vintage reworking project, using reclaimed materials and garments to create beautiful new pieces in vibrant colours. Her collections are still vintage-inspired, and she designs and creates each piece herself in her Edinburgh studio. I bought my first Rowanjoy dress from Godiva almost ten years ago, a gorgeous hot pink and apple green satin multi-panelled frock to wear to a friend’s wedding. In 2007 I was a size 10, but though it sadly no longer fits, it’s still a work of art.

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Playful Promises – London

Playful promises is a rare unicorn in the world of lingerie design. Not only do they say they promote body positivity, and that people of all shapes and sizes should be able to wear gorgeous bras and knickers, but they actually practice what they preach. If you scroll through their Instagram feed you’ll see a celebration of all sizes. Oh and their undies are by far some of the most beautiful and comfy I’ve ever tried – even as a F cup I’ve never had the dreaded granny bra effect.

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Fictional Character – Glasgow

Mermaids, unicorns, fairytales and glitter. Fictional Character is a new streetwear label from Glasgow founded in 2016, specialising in girl power statement pieces in colour pop shades and metallics, with a heavy dose of whimsical detail. There is nothing bland or beige to see here. If you love shiny things and pretty colours as much as I do, this brand is for you.

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Hayley Elsaesser – Toronto

I first discovered this designer on my last trip to Toronto, and immediately wanted one of everything in her Queen Street West emporium of colour, pattern, and print.

Hayley is heavily influenced by pop culture, and elements of film, music, literature and childhood nostalgia are prevalent in her gender-inclusive and body-positive designs. She uses bright colours and contrasting patterns in very wearable shapes that don’t take themselves too seriously. My favourite pieces? Lilac poodles on a coral cotton biker jacket, and her Rainbow Dash My Little Pony inspired silky button-down short.

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