The Rise of Boy London

  • Sumo

First established in 1977, the BOY London brand became one of the most important indie fashion labels of the 1980s and 1990s, associated with everything from punk to acid house and rave culture. However, after a decline at the turn of the century, BOY London was revived last year, and helped by appearances on performers like Rihanna, is now a bestselling range again. Appearing at Selfridge’s and online, BOY London is aiming to tap into the still strong associations the brand has with the music world.

boy london

BOY London’s current range relies on relatively simple black and white designs, from unisex vests and tops to leather jackets, beanie hats, and skirts. The emphasis of the brand is still on translating a punk style into a mainstream context, with the basic look of outfits not too dissimilar from those popularised in the late 1970s and 1980s by The Sex Pistols and Boy George. Label heads Stephane Raynor, Garth Emmett, and Rhys Dawney, are particularly looking to position BOY London as a vital brand, with its roots in East London.

The original BOY London developed out of a smaller Acme Attractions fashion label in the 1970s, which became closely tied into the emerging punk movement in London. A shop on Kings Road selling the BOY London brand was raided by the police on its opening day, and became part of a new wave of both punk and later New Romantic and electronica bands in the 1980s, while also drawing support in the United States from Andy Warhol an Madonna. BOY continued to be at the forefront of London fashion for the early 1990s rave scene, and had branches in Carnaby Street. Financial problems caused BOY to shut down by the early 2000s, before its recent return.

A major part of BOY’s comeback in 2012 was down to Rihanna choosing to wear an outfit from the label on The Jonathan Ross Show, sparking interest in clothes that had previously been limited to online searches and the occasional thrift shop find, as well as the Sick clothing store in Shoreditch. Tumblr photo campaigns, and LONG X DJ and CLUB BOY parties in London helped to spread attention for the brand, with co-runner Garth Emmett describing the appeal of BOY as being ‘all about how you wear it as an individual’.

The current success of the clothing line has been founded on the brand’s continuing willingness to court some controversial designs with celebrity endorsements, and high street prices for items. Rihanna’s wearing of BOY London clothing reinforced what was already a growing use of the brand in photo shoots, and as a label of choice for celebrities like Jessie J and Chloe Sevigny.

The recent push to make BOY as established a brand in North America as London has also included a BOY Hollywood live DJ set on Hollywood Boulevard, as well as some more major endorsements and online promotions designed to keep the brand growing in reputation. 2013 should consequently see BOY London grow from strength to strength, while still lacking the high cost of other boutique brands.