The DIY patches you'll want to cover your clothes with

With a new range having just dropped at DSM, model/artist duo Edie Campbell and Christabel MacGreevy discuss their design venture Itchy Scratchy Patchy

Model Edie Campbell and artist Christabel MacGreevy had an itch that they needed to scratch. Bored of clinical, minimalist clothes and sick of viewing fashion through an over-airbrushed Instagram filter, the best friend model-artist duo set out on a mission: to redefine the “do it yourself” mode of dress.

Nostalgic for the art of customisation and yearning for clothes with personality and meaning – or in Campbell’s words, clothes that look like “they’ve lived a bit” – the pair founded their own iron-on patch label, Itchy Scratchy Patchy. An apt name for a brand with a carefree mentality and the desire to be individual at its roots, the patch-makers have since been creating designs that are both absurd and irreverent in equal measure. Quintessentially British, their first collection riffed off common stereotypes, with names that ranged from “The Philosopher” (bald man with beer belly) and “Three Graces” (three tango-tanned best friends), to “The Feminist” (female bodybuilder) and “Friends With Benefits” (a naked woman presenting herself).

The second Itchy Scratchy Patchy collection looks to the more delicate subject matter of nature – think textbook florals stitched on organza, inspired by traditional 18th and 19th embroidery techniques. “It still retains the same spirit as the Best of British collection,” explains Campbell. “There’s a reason why we decided to use sad floppy marigolds and stinging nettles rather than bouncy tulips and roses.” Already being worn by everyone from Cara Delevingne to Courtney Love, this weekend saw the launch of Itchy Scratchy Patchy clothing at Dover Street Market, with hand-patched, painted and stitched denim and tees made in collaboration with Levi’s and Sunspel. Alongside the debut of a new film by Camille Summers-Valli, Campbell and McGreevy tell us more.

What was the starting point for Itchy Scratchy Patchy?

Edie Campbell: I wanted to paint some jeans in Christabel’s studio and we started discussing how we used to customise stuff, how it was kind of sad that we had stopped doing that now, and how all the clothes that were being disseminated through the mass media were just designed to look great on Instagram. A lot of mainstream fashion has become quite clinical and minimal, but we love clothes that have a story. So we just started talking about customisation, patching things and humour. It was kind of born from that.

Christabel MacGreevy: I was already thinking about patches so I had started designing various ideas and making moodboards of themes. I thought it would be a fun thing to do, but hadn't worked out how I was going to turn this into a reality. Edie had lots of completely different ideas, so the conversation moved in a new direction. What's been really nice about Itchy Scratchy Patchy is the process of bouncing ideas off each other, and how between the two of us something has developed that could never have emerged from one of us alone. 

What about the name? 

Edie Campbell: I think that was just a result of lots of silly conversations about what rhymed with patch.

“A lot of mainstream fashion has become quite clinical and minimal, but we love clothes that have a story” – Edie Campbell

Have you both always been interested in the idea of self-customising clothes to express yourself?

Edie Campbell: Well it was definitely something that we used to do a lot when we were younger. I was feeling a bit creatively frustrated in my life, I’ve always been really obsessed with all my clothes that looked like they’d lived a bit – rips and burns and stuff.

Christabel MacGreevy: Definitely. I've always customised clothes and made accessories. When I was 14 I started a business with two friends making printed t-shirts and customising vintage clothes and bags. We took them into a boutique in Notting Hill and asked if they wanted to stock them. Later that day Elle Macpherson came in and bought a piece, we were so chuffed!

Do vintage patches play a big part in your design process?

Edie Campbell: We look at a lot of vintage patches and a lot of traditional embroidery as a starting point. It’s a way of seeing how embroidery has been used and how we can maybe push the boundaries of what a patch can be, by using different formats, shapes, techniques and textures. 

Christabel MacGreevy: I've been obsessed with embroidery for years. I've got some amazing antique embroidered kimonos and jackets of my grandma’s. What I like about patches is how they are a kind of tougher, more utilitarian, miniature piece of embroidery, which tells a condensed story and can be put on denim or outerwear as a little symbol. 

What about the subcultures and rebellion patches are commonly associated with?

Edie Campbell: I think what we were interested in was the way people kind of brand themselves with patches. It marks them out as part of a gang. They’re a very obvious way of communicating an idea of who you are as a person and there are so many different groups and subcultures that have adopted patches – from motorcycle gangs to Mods to goths.

Christabel MacGreevy: Patches are historically about rebellion or identity. I think as a teenager, those are two things that I looked for when I went shopping. As you get older there stops being so much to rebel against, I think that’s why patches have such a youthful feel to them. It’s nice to tap into that energy, even as you start to move away from it. I definitely don't want to be an adult in sensible shoes and a flattering length skirt. 

Your new collection uses more traditional embroidery and delicate subject matter, what spurred this change?

Edie Campbell: We were looking at traditional 18th and 19th-century embroidery as a starting point. I think the nice thing about not being trained designers is that we can change aesthetics and subject matter because there doesn’t really seem to be any reason why there should be continuity between collections – it’s just about what we want to wear at the time. I guess we wanted to do something that was more decorative than figurative. 

“Patches are historically about rebellion or identity. As you get older there stops being so much to rebel against, I think that’s why patches have such a youthful feel to them” – Christabel MacGreevy

What can we expect from your DSM collection?

Edie Campbell: We’ve been collaborating with Levi’s and Sunspel. Each piece of denim is archive Levi’s from the 80s and 90s, so each jacket or pair of jeans is completely unique. We’ve dyed, painted, patched, stitched and printed each item individually then marked them with a number. With Sunspel, we’ve been going through their archives in their factory in Nottingham and selecting t-shirts that we have printed and patched to make a really small run of one-off pieces. We’re treating the project as a kind of manifesto, using it to communicate what Itchy Scratchy Patchy stands for and the ideas we had in mind when we started out. It’s about customisation, and that DIY spirit. 

What else can we look out for this year?

Christabel MacGreevy: Lots of new things! We’re making some really great embroidered tops and t-shirts. We also have a few other fun collaborations in the pipeline and we’re moving towards more direct embroidered pieces which involve heavy patchwork and stitchwork. 

Lastly, who do you expect to see wearing Itchy Scratchy Patchy?

Christabel MacGreevy: We expect to see all our friends, our lovers, our ex-lovers and our siblings in Itchy Scratchy Patchy. We hope to see some strangers in the brand and the shoppers in Dover Street Market, who don't know anything about us like what they see...

To view the latest designs from Itchy Scratchy Patchy, visit their website here