Patch Work

Embroidered patches are the accessory of the moment

Just as enamel pins are having a fashion moment, embroidered patches, too, are enjoying widespread adoption among the style-conscious. As consumers shy away from overt branding, patches lend an easy way to infuse one’s wardrobe with a distinct personal brand. From high fashion runways to high street retailers, the unisex accessory is quickly becoming the new graphic T-shirt.


Co-founded by a pair of good friends, illustrator Christabel MacGreevy and model Edie Campbell, London-based Itchy Scratchy Patchy was conceived as a cheeky remedy to the minimal, yet somewhat bland, styles that have become so ubiquitous in the fashion world. The line, which has gained fans among the likes of Gigi Hadid and Courtney Love, includes designs as varied as sumo wrestlers, (presumably magic) mushrooms, flowers, and artful nudes. The brand recently expanded to include an 85-piece collection of vintage Levi’s jeans and Sunspel T-shirts, all artfully adorned with the patches.


More than a year ago, a North Carolina-based creative known simply as Woodie designed a patch that became a surprising Instagram phenomenon. A red rose encircled by the phrase “F*&% Forever,” the first run of the work (50 patches) sold out in just 12 hours. That initial design has since grown into a full-fledged brand, Ball & Chain Co., that includes not just patches but also pins, hoodies, and tees infused with the line’s charmingly misanthropic sensibility. Since that first social media hit, Woodie has collected high-profile collaborators, including streetwear brand Mishka, Brooklyn-based tattoo artist Tessa BX, and Johnny Gloom, a Parisian tattoo artist whom he reputedly discovered through Instagram’s Explore page.


While some believe imitation to be the highest form of flattery, it’s difficult for indie designers to be anything but outraged—rightfully so—when major retailers rip off their work. Such was the case recently when Montreal-based Stay Home Club learned that UK high street retailer River Island was selling a patch that was so close to one of its original designs, it couldn’t possibly be called an “homage.” While it’s unlikely that Stay Home Club will see a penny of the big guy’s sales, press coverage of many such unfortunate occurrences of late (see: Tuesday Bassen vs. Zara) have at least brought positive consumer attention to the brand.