>> in case you don’t know from my Twitter and Instagram, I’m still holed up in New York following the Alexander Wang x H&M shebang.  I should have been enjoying non-fashion week time in New York, taking in the crisp autumnal air, seeing friends and taking in exhibitions.  Instead, I’ve been chasing down geek squad guys to try and recover extremely important phone/Mac/SD card data, getting bouts of food poisoning and watching too many hours of E! and Lifetime.  Therefore excuse the intermittent posting.

Before these calamities happened, I managed to drop by Dover Street Market New York to do a very quick shoot for The Coveteur, where they documented me whizzing through all seven floors of the store, touching up and trying on some of my favourite bits.  I have to thank The Coveteur and the powers that be at Dover Street Market for basically allowing me to get up close and personal with current season pieces.  I might be making silly faces at a giant Comme des Garçons knitted skirt or scrunching up my face in the Sacai corner but there’s nothing superficial about the pieces on hand. DSM is one of my fashion spiritual homes for a reason.  It’s serious fashion. Not that po-faced kind of seriousness but serious as in heavyweight and substantial.  And as this fun photo story shows, it’s tangible if you want it to be. See The Coveteur for more pics from the shoot.

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DoverStreet_X_SusieBubble-6Limited edition Prada pieces… oh how I love thee… 

DoverStreet_X_SusieBubble-10Hiding behind the puffed up Junya Watanabe 

DoverStreet_X_SusieBubble-15Drooling at dream Junya biker and thinking “Hmmm…. will never actually be able to get this on my back permanently…”

DoverStreet_X_SusieBubble-20Still love the fact that DSM New York have a dedicated corner to NY cult legent And Re Walker.  Apparently this photograph in the background features his mother.  

DoverStreet_X_SusieBubble-24I became quite attached to this Simone Rocha dress….

DoverStreet_X_SusieBubble-28The more manageable side to Comme des Garçons AW 14-5 collection

DoverStreet_X_SusieBubble-31Giving Comme des Garçons‘ gigantic polymorphous skirt an equally giant hug

DoverStreet_X_SusieBubble-37J.W. Anderson’s geometric and exacting accessories

DoverStreet_X_SusieBubble-42Hiding behind a curtain of AW14-5 Sacai

DoverStreet_X_SusieBubble-45I love the homewares at the Good Design store like this Comme des Garcons brochet blankets and stuffed animals.  

DoverStreet_X_SusieBubble-49All hail Walter van Beirendonck!  There need to be more places in the world where you can get fixes of WVB.

DoverStreet_X_SusieBubble-51Melitta Baumeister is the latest addition to that special 4th floor of young designers 

DoverStreet_X_SusieBubble-54Yay for Phoebe English, who DSM has supported from the very beginning.

DoverStreet_X_SusieBubble-56Getting familiar with Jacquemus’ roomy explosion of orange.

DoverStreet_X_SusieBubble-60My spiritual state of wellbeing, made better by this World Archive Chinese gown foraged by the wonderful Michael Costiff

Throughout, wearing Toga shirt, second hand Lucien Pellat Finet skirt from Vestiaire Collective and Simone Rocha x Dover Street Market shoes

>> A collection that has been named Granny Takes a Trip is bound to grab my attention.  For upcycling knitwear designer Katie Jones, the reference is only in part dedicated to that mystical 1970s London hotspot on Kings Road (aka what I imagine to my psychedelic haven had I been alive back then).  Her SS 15 collection is mostly an ode to her own granny, who together with her nan (yes, there’s a difference) taught Jones her knitting and crochet skills.  Jones imagines her granny might take a trip to the bright coloured lights of Brighton pier and through the sumptuous pastel hues of the Royal Pavilion and the result is a collection of trippy crochet pieces that solves the problem of doing a knitwear collection for spring summer.

From Jones’ debut collection of customised second hand aran knit jumpers, she carries on her waste not, want not work ethic by taking surplus yarn and unwanted knit factory seconds and repurposing these materials for this SS 15 collection.  From her Manchester source of excess yarn, she managed to procure enough rainbow brite shades to go crochet mad on this collection.  To obtain the right thickness, she also had a surplus thinner yarn spun into one that was thick enough to get that chunky crochet texture.  In a serendipitous stroke of how the upcycling, a very old batch of Sonia Rykiel lurex dresses, which were then reused by sustainable fashion whiz Orsola de Castro’s From Somewhere label, which then ended up in Jones’ collection.

Items of clothing which were originally Italian factory rejects have subsequently gone through two rounds of up cycling.  It’s a chain of events that rarely happens in the fashion world but de Castro and Jones are collectively spearheading the upcycling movement with their respective labels.  Jones in particular is doing it in a way that doesn’t necessarily ram that up cycling tag down your throat.  At the end of the day, your main take away from this SS15 collection will be a) fantastic colourful crochet pieces that you can well imagine being worn anywhere sun-drenched and b) eye catching accessories in the shape of a a carousel horse bag and a 99 ice cream cone rendered in crochet.  That’s the track that Jones should carry on in.  Behind the scenes, it’s lovely to know someone is ploughing in the effort to use up stacks of yarn and knitwear that would otherwise sit around and rot away but on the surface, Jones’ voice in knitwear is an uplifting one.

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I’ve jumped from one H&M collaboration with a lot of noise and PR brou-ha to one that will probably pass by with little fanfare.  I’ve long been a fan of H&M’s Design Awards capsule collections, not just because they’re less stressful than the big starry ones with theIR smash ’n’ grab tactics and queue rules, but also because they have generally relied on winning aesthetics as opposed to sheer brand power to pull your eyes in.  French graduate Eddy Anemian blew the judging panel of this year’s H&M Design Award, headed up by Erdem Moriaglu, with his collection named “They Can Cut All Flowers, They Cannot Keep Spring From Coming” made up of dissected romantic florals, inspired by the haute bourgeoise aspects of Tilda Swinton’s character in I Am Love and the rich classicism of French painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.

 “I like the idea of sensuality, and perhaps even glamour,” said Anemian to WWD.  “I wouldn’t object to that description. But I don’t want any nudity. Rather, I tend to cover the body, and I just wanted to play with proportion – the idea of lots of patterns, or cutting jackets with really high collars that make you carry your head in an aristocratic way.”

Even Anemian himself doubted his ability to win the prize as people had told him that it would be too difficult to sell.  How were these mind-blowingly complex pieces primarily made up of strips of floral upholstery fabric going to be translated into a commercial capsule collection?  The complicated physical construction of the collection is certainly hard to imagine hanging on the rails of H&M.   Actually in truth, none of this year’s finalists would have given H&M an “easy” collection to produce what with Xiao Li’s silicone dipped knits or Camilla Blase Woodman’s feathered pieces.  That’s the beauty of the prize – the result is almost always going to be a directional collection made accessible to the public.  The choice for Anemian to receive the award certainly had nothing to do with ease of production but rather the jury went for the collection that impressed them the most on an visual level, which means a win-win for both Anemian, who has netted EUR50,000 prize money and for us the consumer, as we get an opportunity to buy into his graduate collection when it’s released in selected H&M stores and online on the 23rd October.

Having seen Anemian’s work in real life, when I was jury at La Cambre in Brussels, where he graduated this year and having tried out the samples in person, H&M certainly haven’t watered down the craftsmanship for the sake of an easier mode of production.  The strips of fabric have been sewn together to form the sculptural godets in the floor length skirt and the nipped in shape of the jacket, are like for like as per the pieces from Anemian’s original fourth year collection from La Cambre.  The visiaul effect is the same – florals that look like they’re seen through reflections of broken mirrors.  They cut-up floral pieces are definitely the stand-out pieces but the tiered bands of white made up into a strapless top and a long skirt and the printed jumpsuit are also faithful homages to Anemian’s original collection.

Like Minju Kim’s collection for H&M last year, it’s maximum design squeezed into the lowest prize these pieces can achieve.  EUR249 sounds a like a lot of money for H&M but one physical touch of this jacket or the skirt and most people with a modicum of fabric knowledge will wonder how they managed to produce such a piece for the price.  With the skirt in particular, you’re paying for a sheer volume  and weight of fabric – it’s a proper floor sweeper that is an absolute treat to wear because of its gradiose construction.  It’s a rare opportunity to buy into something that is technically astonishing – with a whiff of haute couture, which is what Anemian’s interest lies (good thing he’s currently interning at Dior) – for a price that is comparitively speaking, affordable.  In other words, worth it.  Not because of brand power or label clout but because of visual and aesthetic prowess.

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0E5A9284Eddy Anemian x H&M jacket EUR249 and skirt EUR249 worn with My Panda shirt and Tabitha Simmons x Toms shoes

6144_102Eddy Anemian x H&M jacket EUR249 and matching trousers EUR199

6144_104Eddy Anemian top EUR34.99 and skirt EUR249

6144_105Eddy Anemian jacket EUR179,99 and ruffled skirt EUR149

6144_107Eddy Anemian x H&M jumpsuit EUR79.99

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EDDY_CB01Eddy Anemian 4th year graduate collection from La Cambre shot by Cecile Bortoletti

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981803_554922047898269_1956062062_oEddy Anemian 4th year collection from La Cambre shot by Damien Milan

The thing that was ringing through my head when I tried on some of the Alexander Wang x H&M samples for funzies last week was an old Industrie magazine story that asked whether Alexander Wang could be the next Giorgio Armani – in other words, become an independently owned lifestyle brand that people know globally as a household name.

As I pulled myself taut into printed socks and body con dresses and got box fresh with a pair of AW-branded boxing gloves, the repetition of the Alexander Wang logo and typography on a lot of the pieces felt like an appropriate expression of how far Wang has come in nearly a decade of helming his own brand (2015 will mark AW’s ten year anniversary) and now steering Balenciaga.  Wang”s collaboration with H&M wouldn’t have come as any surprise despite the guerilla announcement earlier this year at Coachella, precisely because his built up universe and brand is so ripe for collaboration.  In my mind, unlike some of the pairings that H&M have come up with over the years (incidentally it’s also been ten years since H&M revolutionised high-low collaborations by working with Karl Lagerfeld), this one felt pitch perfect.  Logos flying all over your chest, thighs and legs are both tongue in cheek references to youth-ridden logomania and yesteryear sportswear but also an assertion on Wang’s part that his brand had come of age.

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Despite Wang’s ever expanding empire of collections – mainline, lingerie, T line – and of course, his work at Balenciaga, it seemed plausible that he’d carve out another niche for this particular collaboration.  And so he went for performance wear, a category that hadn’t been explored in previous H&M collabs.  At a press conference yesterday, moderated by Sally Singer of US Vogue, Wang was quick to emphasise why it was important to introduce something new as opposed to rehashing archival Wang.  “How do we really excite the consumer again?,” said Wang.  “What can we do?  It was important for me not to just reintroduce kind of things I’ve done in the past but to really have a new mind and statement to what we were offering.”  And it cleverly gives both H&M and Wang to express their chops at a sector of clothing that has grown exponentially in the past few years.  “I felt it was a genre of clothing that wasn’t discriminatory by price point. It doesn’t matter if you’re a luxury customer, advance designer customer, everyone I know works out, is active, is running around.  But I like the versatility of clothes if you’re going out, going dancing, you sweat as well, you need to move and be active.”

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0E5A9426Obviously I’m not the ball-busting, boxer babe that Wang had in mind when designing the collection.  However I did want to give it a go just to play at being a Wang-ite, if only for one night.  

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The performance aspect was something that Wang and the team at H&M took seriously.  You can’t call it performance wear and for it not to have any substance.  For instance qualities such as fabric breathability or waterproofing are tagged on to the pieces because they mean it.  “When you’re saying something is waterproof, it has to be waterproof, it can’t be water‑resistant,” asserted Wang.  “There’s so much technicality in how you word things.  A lot of the pieces are also made in Italy where knitwear factories were employed to create stand out pieces like the viscose mesh knits and the logo-ed stretch pieces.  It subverts the idea that you have to compromise on quality when you’re buying into these collabs.  “When you do the quantities that H&M does, you can produce in Italy because they give you good prices for higher quantity, et cetera, et cetera.  So the pieces were elevated,” explained Wang.  

Neat tricks such as t-shirts with magically appearing graphics when you sweat and technical knits further the sort of techie fabrication angle that Wang has been getting into both at his own line and also at Balenciaga.  “I’ve always had an infatuation with how performance and active wear is made.  I felt like it’s the most advanced in terms of fabrication, in terms of make, the way things are welded, that knits are seamlessly knit.  It’s a completely different fitting process, approval process as well.  Things really have to perform.  It’s not fashion clothes where it has to just look good, it really has to have functionality.”

ALEXANDER WANG x H&M Launch EventPhotograph from Billy Farrell Agency – wearing Meadham Kirchhoff coat with Louis Vuitton boots and Mansur Gavriel bag and looking distinctly prim for what would be a hi-energy sweaty affair inside a track and field coliseum up in Harlem. 

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0E5A9624The opening act of athelets who bounced up and down on trampolines and crawled the walls like ninjas

Of course the reality is that the majority of people buying the pieces probably won’t be seriously working out or doing 30k runs in these clothes.  Wang hit the nail on the head when he himself admitted “I don’t do sports but I wear sportswear.”  The collection is a culmination of the stylistic meeting point between sportswear and fashion.  The fashion show with its sports core styling said as much.  The girls might have been wielding hockey sticks and swinging boxing gloves whilst strapped up in lace-up baseball and American football gear but they were stylistic props to what was essentially a collection of badass sportswear-tinged clothes that people can easily layer up, make their own, and of course afford to get their Wang on (literally what with all the text).  No doubt about it, they’ll be queuing up for the name and the “dopeness” of it all as opposed to the functionality come November 6th.

Wang’s inclusion of items such as boxing gloves, yoga mats and swimming goggles is on-theme but also on-message in the lifestyle aspect of Alexander Wang.  They already create an Objects collection, which coats everyday items with a Wang-like sheen.  These novelty (although they are fully functional) items are a natural extension of his objects and further re-iterates the potential of a future Alexander Wang that might have its own range of towels or bedding a la Ralph Lauren or indeed Giorgio Armani.

The H&M x Alexander Wang extravaganza last night was the important jigsaw puzzle piece to explaining why Wang goes far beyond just designing product and why this will probably be the main jewel of H&M’s collaboration crown.   He is the sort of designer that is heavily involved in every aspect from ensuring that the bass line and grimy horns of a soundtrack throb in your brain long after a show, to creating bespoke boxing glove sponge fingers for people to root for Team Wang.  That’s before we get to the actual clothes where extreme styling and spot-on casting convey more than just garments on a back – it’s that intangible attitude.   The thing I’ve always found fascinating with Wang is, whether you dig his aesthetic or not, at the very least, you can’t NOT believe in it because of the pure dedication to what is a thorough vision.   That’s what we got last night.  An energetic assertion of the Wang’s brand values, heightened and amplified with H&M’s support.

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As per every H&M collaboration launch event, following the show, we fashion peeps get all uncivilised and pushy in the pop-up shop where we can buy the collection three weeks before it hits stores.  Well noted that the cut-out asymmetric crop tops with yellow edging and the spongey WANG neoprene sweatshirts were the hits of the night.

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After sweating it out in the pop-up shop, we went over to the stage where the rumours that Missy Eliott were stormily swirling around, half-confirmed by the American press who had gotten the heads up beforehand.  Sharaya J’s appearance confirmed it and for want of a better word, werked the AW X H&M pieces she was wearing.  She emboded exactly what Wang was saying about the clothes really performing, whether you’re running on the streets or dancing in a club.

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I reverted back to teenage me and was basically screaming like a gerbil for pretty much the whole time Missy Elliott was on stage.  With my big DSLR, I somehow got mistaken as the pit media so I was right next to the stage, within touching distance of the great Missy.  After telling us to put our phones down so that we could move (I did try to abstain but I couldn’t quite get rid of my social media itch), she broke out all the faves…  Gossip Folk, Work It, Pass that Dutch, Get Ur Freak On.  Not to gush or anything.  Ok, actually I will because it was truly epic.  A real deal legend performance that didn’t feel shoe-horned for effect at a fashion event.  The synergy was even clearer when Wang himself got up on stage and was shaking his thing next to Missy.

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Holler!!! Get ur freak on…. #alexanderwangxhm View on Instagram

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I’m going to put forward one minor quibble.  The inclusion of Andy Caroll in the ad campaign.  Forgetting the fact that I’m an Arsenal fan with biased opinions on players, H&M and Wang could have picked a better footballer who’s equally easy on the eye.  It’s still mega LOLZ to see an English Premier League footballer being part of the print and TV campaign lineup that includes Isabeli Fontana, Raquel Zimmermann and Joan Smalls.  Speaking of which, we got a sneak preview of the slick TV campaign, which resembled a trailer for a 21st century espionage film.  When the TV spots start rolling at the end of this month, it will only build up the anticipation of what will probably be one of H&M’s most successful collaborations to date.  Who’s lining up come November 6th?  Why, the many many folks out there that wear sportswear but don’t do sports of course…

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Tech and fashion after a longstanding frosty stand-off, where one has been in fear of the other, have finally reconciled the fact that it is inevitable that they will go to bed with one another.  It’s been well documented that Apple have spent fashion month wooing the fash crowd, with editors flown out to Cupterino to see the launch of the Apple Watch and a super razzy dinner in Paris hosted by Azzedine Alaia and Marc Newsom in honour of Jonathan Ive (definitely one of the more surreal moments of my time in fash land…).  Tech wearables may  have made a huge leap forward with the Apple Watch but what of the more intangible and complex relationship between technology and fashion.

It’s with this in mind that I revisit the work of Brooke Roberts as I finally, after all these years, managed to get a one hour plus sit down time with her.  She has spent the last few years carving out a very specific niche for herself that I’ve documented on the blog.  Whilst holding down a day job as an NHS radiographer, Roberts has then been taking medical scans and turning them into digital knitwear, combining science, technology and fashion in a way that makes her work pretty unique.  The balancing act of these diverse fields is reflected in her work and in Roberts’ working lifestyle.  “I’m in a position where I can make my collections but also get up and go to a hospital and realise that fashion is about fun – it’s not serious in the scheme of things.”

After a few seasons of showing off-schedule and taking her collections to Paris, Roberts took a break from doing formal collections and took on consultancy work (in addition to her work for the NHS!).  For S/S 15, Roberts relaunched her website and e-commerce site and repositions her brand with a bang.  In her “Super Women” campaign, she summarises in a visual nutshell why her work is an important conduit for conversation about fashion and technology.  On the way to work, Roberts came up with the idea for her look book, which features women in the tech and medical field wearing her collection.  “Imagine if I could get Ghada Mikhail, who specialises in cardiology for women, in this season’s collection,” said Roberts. ” imagine if her peers could see her in this light and imagine if the fashion world could see someone like her in my clothes.’”

Roberts set about compiling a wish list of super women who, in Roberts’ words “seek to learn something new every day and are curious and engaged with technology,” which is something that the fashion industry has been resistant to for a long time.  Now the worlds are merging (where the industry wants to or not) and Roberts is using her collections to reflect a dialogue between the two fields.  “These are the kind of women that are my customer – they work in fields that change everyday and advancing everyday.  They’re into innovation.”

At a fundamental level,  Roberts’ lookbook also celebrates women of influence and power in sectors that are still mainly male-dominated.  That’s another conversation that Roberts’ work is stirring up.  On a commercial level, Roberts can use campaigns and projects like this to find out more about her workings as a designer.  “I can have genuine conversations with the women I meet,” said Roberts.  “It was a huge learning curve for me.  I learnt a lot about how people respond to my product and women’s motivations.  It’s great to be around such dynamic people.  They were all taking part because they wanted to be there.”

But conversations and issues are pointless if the work doesn’t back up the message.  Roberts’ aesthetic in digitally created knitwear has been refined from her earlier collections.  Using small scale repeats, there’s more of a hybrid element to her work now as opposed to straight forward literal representations of brain scans.  Dissecting and re-arranging MRI brain scans, 3D brain maps from The Allen Institute for Brain Science and 8-bit video game characters like Pac Man, Roberts creates more abstracted patterns or her knits.  They’re open to interpretation as pixels and bubble-like formations dance across sweaters and dresses in a pastel colour scheme inspired by Tank Girl comics.   Once again, Roberts has experimented with yarn combinations to push the knitwear techniques themselves.  Where fash and tech can sometimes come together in shoe-horned unions, Roberts work reflects knowledge, research and curiosity on her part and a real personal crusade to get the worlds to meet.

The crux of the matter is though, would Roberts ever give up being a radiographer to turn to her label full time.  “With eighteen years as a radiographer, I’ve got so much experience and I feel like I’ve got a wealth of knowledge and I could continue creating from what I know.  I love interacting with patients and being part of a close knit team.  I do a lot of research at the heart attack treatment centre.  There’s a real sense of being on the cusp of things.”

Then comes the but.  “But you have to do what you’re passionate about,” Roberts concluded.  And creating and fashion is ultimately what Roberts has set her sights on.  In a crowded landscape of young designers, Roberts’ work stands on its own.  It might even have been to her detriment that her work is so idiosyncratic as beyond novelty and hype, fashion’s relationship with technology continues to be a bumpy ride.  That’s changing though and Brooke Roberts the laboratory-like label will reflect those changes along the way.  Roberts has big plans for merging and commenting on how the tech world can come together with fashion in future campaigns and events.   She’ll move away from formal seasons, dropping product on to her e-store when she feels like it and she’ll continue to speak to her customers directly.  “I’m an experimenter and a problem solver at heart.”  It’s these qualities that make Roberts a fascinating designer to watch evolve, at an exciting time in fashion where young design voices can be seen and heard (and consumed) in a multitude of ways.

8_cb3f632b-104b-4cc1-9f05-cc77da1c7e48_1024x1024Dr. Laura-Ann McGill, Cardiologist

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7_31e3f55a-0165-4883-a5f8-eec45433574e_1024x1024Kathryn Parsons, Co-Founder & Co-CEO, Decoded

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12_dad336b1-8403-4024-87dd-7aaeada79620_1024x1024Sue Walter, CEO of The Hospital Club

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11_998dead6-5b45-46c7-9664-da2f5072bfa8_1024x1024Reshma Sohoni, Co-Founder & Partner of Seedcamp

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9_0b5309c7-fcf0-42dc-9ac4-cb3ba0a0eaed_1024x1024Olivia Solon, Technology Editor of The Daily Mirror

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10_23eee185-48e6-4faa-99bf-17211df0fe81_1024x1024Rachel Bremer, EMEA Communications Director of Twitter

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5_a3d930dd-bf17-4e8d-b503-32d9268351ff_1024x1024Jude Ower, Founder & CEO of Playmob

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6_58e5ebce-912c-45e3-9825-7ca87917e2f5_1024x1024Kate Russell, Technology Reporter & Author

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4_8d0c9132-4e5b-4344-8f99-9d95cb6462ad_1024x1024Jemima Kiss, Technology Editor of The Guardian

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3_41e82d0a-841a-498b-a659-f7c25381faa8_1024x1024Elizabeth Varley, Founder & CEO of TechHub

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2_6a1f3958-949a-40b3-a53d-3e08f36f8b00_1024x1024The designer and radiographer herself… Brooke Roberts!

IMG_9513Brooke’s fiance Moin is equally crafty and technical, creating this Stoll knitting machine entirely out of Lego!

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slideshow_3Brooke Roberts A/W 14 collection