Embroidery increasingly features in the international collections. Stella McCartney stitched performance materials such as Aertex with swirling squiggle motifs in orange, blue and yellow. Jumpers and jackets at Christopher Kane came with scrawls of free-hand thread doodles.
In his Americana-themed collection Marc Jacobs embroidered jumpsuits with schoolbook sketches of broken hearts and roses. Gucci’s fondant-pink show invite arrived in a gossamer pouch stitched with delicate flowers – paving the way for models dressed in cardigans with trompe l’oeil bows and flowers.
When Louise Gray recently embroidered a Jack Wills cashmere hoody for Taylor Swift, it was punk’s DIY aesthetic that inspired her to do a neon blanket stitch surrounding the star’s nickname, TayTay – an image of which attracted 1.7 million views on Swift’s Instagram account.
London-based Australian designer Louise Markey, aka LF Markey, is known for her no-nonsense sporty jersey and denim separates but discloses that her embroidered Skylar T-shirt dress is now one of her bestsellers. ‘It’s been popular with people going to weddings,’ she says. ‘I think they are looking for something easy to wear that looks special.’
Gucci has followed suit with embroidered denim for its 2016 pre-fall collection. Marie Sophie Lockhart of Good For Nothing Embroidery is a New York-based embroiderer who does one-off brash designs that might range from Jesus Christ to a Playboy bunny.
She is also selling her £750 jeans through Browns. There seems to be no ceiling on what enthusiasts are willing to pay for exquisite handwork.
Our customers can see the worth in artisanal embroidery and craftsmanship,’ says matchesfashion.com’s buying director, Natalie Kingham. The appeal of handcraft has powered the swell in popularity of sites such as mrxstitch.com.
Also benefiting from the enabling powers of digital, Gloucestershire-born James Merry has gained cult status on Instagram for his trademark embroidered sweatshirts that bring together the worlds of fine art and sportswear: mushrooms and Icelandic fauna sprout out of Fila and Nike logos, a wry nod to the slow pace of hand embroidery.
Aaliyah on my old white school shirt, shortly after she died,’ he says. ‘Then I stopped embroidering for about 10 years and only recently started again.’
He now lives and works in Iceland and creates stage costumes and headpieces for Björk. ‘Hand embroidery has a freedom and personality to it that is lost with the machine. It’s almost like comparing your handwriting to the typed word,’ he says.
Elements of his work may look worthy of a gallery space, but Merry feels otherwise. ‘Pieces of embroidery don’t need to be stuck in a picture frame on a wall. You can wear them and bend them and put them in the washing machine when they get dirty. I love that aspect of it.’ A new generation of embroidery fans is sure to agree with him.