Tonight at 12.05am, Ewen Spencer and Somesuch & Co's documentary Brandy & Coke premieres on Channel 4. To mark the occasion, we’re celebrating all things UK Garage – including the music era’s distinctive label-obsessed style. In the gallery above, stars of the doc – including Heartless Crew, Scott Garcia and Noodles – share personal photos and style memories from that time, alongside photos from the punters who worshipped them from the club floor.
We also spoke to those who grew up around the UKG hype and its obligatory style – as obsevers or full-blown obsessives. First up, photographer and ‘pop-ethnographer’ Nina Manandhar of What We Wore:
“Everything I know about UK Garage I learnt from a four month stint working at Morgan De Toi when I was 17. There was none of the scene dipping there is now, people had one-track-tastes back then. Morgan was a top spot for 'Garage Girls' and the changing room is where I came to understand the abiding style code of UKG: pure, hard cash. Spending it, and looking and feeling as expensive as the clothes on your back. Versace, Versace, Versace. A beg, steal and borrow attitude to designer labels. “Personally, I'd rather starve than not look my best,” one girl told me. Like modern day Pearly kings and queens, these turn of the century UK Garage boys and girls donned head to toe all over print: Iceberg History, Moschino, and Gucci loafers. They embodied the phrase 'dressing up for the weekend', while the rest of the nation walked around in beige, looking like extras from a GAP advert.”
Founder of Ninety Fly, Rhiannon Barry features in Brandy & Coke as the UKG fashion fanatic, pulling treasured Gucci loafers from her wardrobe and laying out printed Moschino and Versace pieces like artwork. She now lends her rare pieces to stylists through her designer vintage dealership, Ninety Fly. Barry tells us about an addiction that began aged 12, with her Moschino ‘uniform’:
Dazed Digital: When did you first get into UK Garage?
Rhiannon Barry: I first got into garage when I was in year six at primary school, so aged 11-12, about fourteen years ago. I was pretty young; my aunty used to babysit me after school. I had two older cousins who were 17-20; they were well into UKG, so I got into it from young from them.
DD: How important do you think fashion was to the UKG scene?
Rhiannon Barry: So important. It was all about image. I used to go to under-16 clubs and beg my friend’s older sisters to borrow their Moschino jeans and Patrick Cox loafers. I’d seen them going to raves and felt like that was a uniform, even at age 12.
DD: What was your favourite look?
Rhiannon Barry: A pair of off-key Moschino jeans and Gucci loafers. It still is now, classic.
DD: When did you start keeping your clothes as a collection?
Rhiannon Barry: When I was 18, when I started sourcing and buying rare pieces from the late 80s and early 90s. I still have loads of Moschino and Versace from when I was 13-years-old that luckily still fit me. Back then it was designer everything, so I never really classed my wardrobe as a collection.
DD: Can you tell me a bit about Ninety Fly?
Rhiannon Barry: Since I started collecting properly I have been addicted to buying online and sourcing. Some I would just buy for the sake of it, even if it wasn’t for me. As my addiction started getting out of hand, I sold a few pieces in the shop ZONE7STYLE on Redchurch Street, London, that sold rare vintage designer clothing. This time last year I noticed the style come back into fashion and people were asking me where I got it all. I wasn’t going to give away my secret, so I posted a few things on Instagram. Now I have a website launching soon, and stylists can view my personal collection online to hire it out.
In the gallery, we feature images and stories from Manandhar’s upcoming book ‘What We Wore’, a ‘People’s Style History’ of British Youth Style, to be published by Prestel in October 2014.
To submit your own photos to What We Wore, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or bring your photos to the Live Archive at Tate Britain this Friday 4th April.
Follow Natasha Slee on Twitter here @tashalouises