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De Rien: Tear and wear fashion

A father and son team in London's East End are championing their own brand of ragtag fashion. And its catching on.

"We've got socks that are more darning than socks," Richard Wise 54, says with pride. To the untrained eye - actually, to most eyes - Wise looks like a man who is rather down on his luck. His clothes are patched, his socks are loose around his ankles and somewhere beneath his hat is a clump of matted hair. But there is glint in his clear blue eyes which is particularly noticeable when he is discussing 'the beauty of a rag' with his 25 year old son Cosmo, who is wearing a 'man dress' of his own creation, wool trousers and a pair of boots which are heavily worn after 'walking all over Palestine'.

The pair run the clothing business De Rien which speciliases in the type of used garments that you are unlikely to find in Oxfam. 'Good as new' is not the motto here. Instead, they sell clothes that are thoroughly and very obviously worn. 'I wear things every every day until it falls apart then stick it on a rail and sell it,' Richard jokes.

This is a very specific aesthetic, but one that has a growing number of admirers. Pete Docherty, John Galliano and the American rapper Def Mos, for example.

Richard explains that designers from the fashion houses Comme des Garcons and Ralph Lauren have popped into De Rien's multi-floor showroom in Hackney Wick, east London, for inspiration.

One needs look no further than Ralph Lauren's heavily washed out and patched up Double RL collection to see how it may have been influenced by De Rien.

Much of the stock comes from France where the pair sources workwear garments and peasant's clothing that date from the late nineteenth century to the 1940s. 'They would patch and re-patch clothes and they had so many ways of patching,' Richard says. Alongside this is a steady supply of vintage Japanese 'boro' - a traditional folk craft fabric where scraps of cotton are stitched and patched together. The word 'boro' translates as 'tattered rags', which gives you an idea of the finish.

On Thursdays at Spitalfields Market and Fridays at Portobello Market, De Rien sells vintage garments that are in 'good condition', although one must bear in mind this is a relative term. Shirts cost from £30 and a pair of old French moleskin trousers can be anything between £50 and £150, depending on depending on age, rarity and original repair work. Prices start to go up if pieces have been fixed up or 'renewed'.

Since joining the business a few years ago, Cosmo has developed a line of new clothes that have been made from vintage fabric.

Sold under the label De Rien, it features work jackets made from indigo dyed Victorian hemp, sections of Japanese boro kimono and blazers made from 1920s French moleskin, linen and partially lined with material from a Japanese kimono. Others are made from old sack cloth, and Cosmo has recently designed a waterproof overcoat which was once a tent ground sheet. Because of the provenance and condition of the materials, each finished garment is unique and the prices reflect this. Available at Hostem, an independent menswear store in east London, a De Rien jacket will easily set you back £600.

By its nature, fashion moves on and Richard and Cosmo have plans to develop the business as well as the style. 'You have to keep moving,' Cosmo says. 'I want to travel more, be inspired by different silhouettes and look into the very limited idea that we have of how a man can dress. Why don't western men wear tunics or 'man dresses' like so many other cultures do?' he asks.