ANCIENT hand-dyeing techniques are being brought to the 21st century by two young designers who have launched an online fashion business from York.

Natalie Herbert and Ruth Gibbs are the names behind Meiji Designs, which specialises in hand-dyed and hand-printed silk scarves and pocket squares.

A far cry from ‘ready to wear’ mass-produced fashion, the women specialise in producing beautiful, bespoke pieces for customers through an online service.

The brand is inspired by Japanese dyeing techniques and design, with a view to keeping traditional practises alive.

All of Meiji’s products are handmade, and the nature of the printing techniques means the products are unique.

And they've already had the fashion thumbs-up from style bible Vogue, which has featured the scarves, as well as GQ & Elle magazines.

The women, both aged 25, met at the University of Huddersfield, and graduated in 2013, with degrees in Fashion Design with Marketing and Costume Design with Textiles. After graduation, they decided to relocate to York, Natalie's hometown, to build the brand.

From their studio in Monks Cross, they painstakingly follow Japanese dyeing and silk-screening techniques, following traditional methods that date back centuries.

"Our starting point is shibori, the name given to a range of traditional hand dyeing techniques from Japan," says Ruth, who adds that Natalie became expert in these methods during her final year at university.

Essentially an eastern form of tie-dyeing, fabric is twisted, tied, sewn and clamped, before coloured dyes are applied. The end results are stunning: a meld of colours and patterns, with no two pieces of fabric the same.

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The pair also colour some scarves through screen printing, which creates a bolder pattern. The fabric they use is a silk and viscose mix because they like to apply a devoré detail to create a burnt-out or transparent effect on their scarves. This isn't possible with pure silk.

Ruth said: "We want to provide our customers with a unique luxury piece, that special item they can treasure. Originality is important to us, and sets our brand apart within the luxury fashion market."

Natalie added: "Our customers can take pride in the fact that nobody else will have a Meiji Designs product the same as theirs."

The designers invite their customers to select their own colour combinations, or create a combination from an already existing product on their website. "If you pick a colour combination that has not been used before, we will name it after you!" explains Natalie.

The business officially launched this summer but both women are holding other full-time jobs while they try to establish Meiji. Looking ahead, they want to switch their energies full time into the business and develop a range of kimonos.

"That's where our hearts are really; that's the brand's identity," says Ruth. "Kimonos are so easy to wear, the are perfect as evening dress, for the beach, or to wear with jeans."

In the meantime, Meiji, which already sells bow ties, is about to launch some men's ties. They will sit nicely with the range of pocket squares already available.

Ruth said: "His and her scarves and pocket squares make great gifts and are popular for that special occasion, like a wedding."

Prices start at £50 for a pocket square, £80 for a bow tie and upwards of £220 for a scarf, from