Rock keeps reborn Gio Goi fashion label on a roll

LONDON, April 26 Thu Apr 26, 2007 1:00pm BST

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LONDON, April 26 (Reuters Life!) - Seems like everywhere you look these days, edgy young people are wearing trendy Gio Goi street gear.

Even James Bond, the suave British agent code-named 007, was recently spotted donning a track top from the cult Manchester label. Well, at least Bond star Daniel Craig was.

The Gio Goi label born out of the electronic music scene of the 1980s and relaunched in 2005, is on a roll, dressing a new generation of musicians ranging from rock icon Pete Doherty to hip hop star Mike Skinner from The Streets.

"Sales are going through the roof," Gio Goi co-founder Anthony Donnelly, 42, told Reuters in an interview at the label's brand new London offices.

"In the last two years we achieved what it takes other brands 20 years to do," said brother and co-founder Christopher, 37.

The Donnellys, who are tight-lipped on specific sales figures, claim that Gio Goi now ranks among the top three selling streetwear brands in Britain.

FROM SCRAP TO FASHION

The Donnellys have been in fashion for nearly 20 years. Their label has its roots in the 'Madchester' band scene of the late 1980s, that mixed indie rock and dance music.

The brothers, who come from a family in the scrap metal business -- they joke they were raised in a scrapyard -- hosted some of the first warehouse parties of the rave culture in Manchester and London.

With no fashion expertise, they used their street knowledge and connections in clubland to sell T-shirts to party goers.

"We decided to go into the clothing game. We believed we had an eye for the ladswear. Our brand has its roots in dance music and in football," said Christopher.

Soon they were designing clothes for their friends like Shawn Ryder, singer of The Happy Mondays and dressing British rockers of that era including Oasis, New Order, and Primal Scream.

But the fashion business got tough, at some point there was litigation with fashion giant Armani over the rights to use the Gio name, and in the late 1990s Gio Goi stopped trading.

The label was re-launched in 2005 with new investors and now the brothers are back in business, riding the wave of guitar rock revival and the blurring frontiers between the music and the fashion industries.

With a staff of about 30, they moved to a new London office earlier this year, and the label is now selling in Greece, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Benelux. It is also planning to tackle the United States and Japan soon.

DOHERTY BET

One of their recent coups was making Pete Doherty the front man of their fashion collection. At first sight it may have seemed like asking for trouble, but the Donnellys are delighted they bet on the turbulent rocker.

"We are very proud of what we did with Peter," said Christopher.

The 28-year-old Babyshambles frontman, who is battling drug addiction, inspired Gio Goi's 2007 spring and summer collection, which includes a range of t-shirts featuring slogans such as 'Drug Free' and 'Too Much Rock and Roll'.

Collaboration with an icon of the new generation of rock musicians who is also the boyfriend of supermodel Kate Moss has helped Gio Goi capture the market of "indie kids with skinny pants," said Christopher.

The Donnellys say they were convinced Doherty, formerly of The Libertines, was right for their rock and roll brand as they often work with high profile bad boys of the music industry.

"We target rock and roll types. We have always chosen that route," said Christopher, fondly displaying a framed Union Jack flag with the motto "The whole world is our playground," a souvenir of the making of a Babyshambles video.

The Donnellys insist that they did not pay Doherty to wear their clothes, describing the contract they have with him as a "gentleman's handshake."

"We do not pay people to wear our clothes. That's one of our principles. A lot of people out there like Peter, Mike Skinner or Kasabian, they like what we are about, they get the clothes and association with the brand...Peter likes the clothes and we like him. That's it," said Anthony.

Doherty was on the cover of Vogue International in March, wearing his own Gio Goi line as well as Dior Homme by French fashion designer Hedi Slimane, a sign for the Donnellys that "we were right to do what we did."

Gio Goi is also currently dressing British singer Amy Winehouse for her world tour with their newly launched ladies wear collection.

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