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Gods Own Junkyard - East London's neon wonderland

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We recently launched our Soho Neon by Fred Perry collection. Designed in London, the collection took direct influence from the area surrounding it - specifically London's wild, neon-illuminated Soho.
Cafes adorn the streets by day, but come nightfall the streets of Soho are alive with revellers heading towards gigs, jazz bars and coffee hubs, guided by bright neon lights.
When designing the collection, a place that gave the Fred Perry design team key inspiration was East London neon wonderland "Gods Own Junkyard"
The brainchild of iconic neon artist Chris Bracey, "Gods Own Junkyard" is a visual feast of bright neon light.
By salvaging and restoring signage that is no longer being used, neon signs are resurrected and carefully curated to create an oasis of light in the middle of East London's Walthamstow.   
 
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We met with Junkyard curator Jon Blake, to discuss the history of the neon sign and how this had a direct influence on our Soho Neon collection. 
Hello Jon, nice to meet you!
Hello, thanks for coming down.
Tell me a bit about the junkyard, there must be a lot of history behind it? 
We actually moved about 2 months ago! We were previously at a different location not too far away for about 7 years, but we had to move. 
I think we are an interesting prospect - I like to refer to us as "a living tapestry". Old signs are found, restored and are woven into it. The order is not set. Pieces are added and moved as feels necessary. 
There is so much to look at! Its almost initially a bit overwhelming.
"Gods Own Junkyard" is the only section that is open to the public, a couple of days a week. We do a lot of fashion shoots and editorials here as visually the Junkyard is rather unique. People travel here especially to use it as a location.

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Where do all the signs come from? Everywhere I look I see something new. 
It's a real mixture. Many of the signs here are made by the artist Chris Bracey's company. We have a whole other workshop across the road. Some of the signs here are special commissions we have made for retail stores or restaurants that were only used for a small period. Some are from businesses that no longer exist. We also rescue, and restore many old neon signs - some are not in a great shape when they arrive here. We see it as a resurrection, restoring them back to their former glory and putting the signs on display.
What is the history behind the company?  
Whilst "Gods Own Junkyard" has been here for around 7 years, we've actually been a business since 1952 - which I believe is the same year Fred Perry first started producing clothing. It's very much a family business, and over the years we have been responsible for many of the iconic neon signs people will have seen, particularly around the Soho area. The iconic neon clock outside Bar Italia on Frith Street is one that Fred Perry readers will probably be most familiar with. 
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Do you currently have any exciting projects the business is working on?
 At the moment one of our biggest jobs is restoring the original Madame Jojo's sign (Madame Jojo's is an iconic Soho gig and nightclub venue). It's a huge undertaking! We are restoring the sign exactly how it was originally - a gigantic sign of a woman. The venue has just had permission granted by the council to display the sign again, which is really exciting - it's a great nod back to the Soho of the 1950s. 
Our Soho Neon collection was directly influenced by Soho in the 1950s..
Soho has always been such an individual area, with its own personality. It depresses me when I see areas overtaken by generic chains. Putting the Madame Jojo's sign back up I see as a way of Soho keeping hold of its roots. 
You recently created a sign for Fred Perry too! 
Yes a gigantic neon Laurel, as I mentioned we make the signs here on location. The Fred Perry giant neon Laurel Wreath was made here across the street from the Junkyard.  
Below - our giant Laurel Wreath neon sign in the workshop. 
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Tell me something I probably don't know about neon signs. 
Neon is actually the gas that runs through the signs. It's not just neon actually - neon is just for red signs. If the sign is another colour, the gas that runs through is called argon. Neon glows red, argon runs a dull blue. So a more correct way of referring to them would be neon signs and argon signs I suppose. 
If neon glows red and argon blue, how do you create so many bright colours? 
We powder coat the inside of the glass tubes we use argon gas in. Alone, it glows a dull blue, but with the colour coating it is much brighter and more colourful. Look at the bends next time you see a non-red neon sign, you will most likely see a dull blue colour seeping out. 
That's something I never knew. Anything else of interest you can think of? 
Far too much to go into detail now! However the longest length of a sign we usually deal with is 1 metre. This is then fused with lots of different 1-metre lengths to create the sign as a whole. This makes the glass much more manageable to work with, and as a fragile object it is much easier (and cheaper) to repair and replace a 1 metre section than an entire sign. 
Jon, thank you for your time. 
No problem at all. Thanks for coming down.
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Soho Neon by Fred Perry is available now in Fred Perry Authentic stores and online. 
View Soho Neon for men online HERE
View Soho Neon for women online HERE
Find your nearest Fred Perry Authentic store HERE
Find out more information about "Gods Own Junkyard" and the work of Chris Bracey HERE
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Thanks to Gods Own Junkyard, Chris Bracey and Jon Blake. 

One Stop: Reggae in London’s East End

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Pictured, the Crown Sweater, part of our Bella Freud X Fred Perry collaboration

We recently launched our AW14 Blank Canvas collaboration with British knitwear designer Bella Freud for our Laurel Wreath Women’s Collection. With the Bella Freud X Fred Perry collection heavily influenced by reggae and dancehall music we recently met up with Gio Di Stasio - DJ and promoter of East London-based Reggae, Rocksteady and Ska night “One Stop” to find out more about the scene that gave inspiration to the collection.

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Gio Di Stasio pictured above DJing at “One Stop”

Originally from Rome – Italy, Gio initially got into reggae music through the Italian Mod scene - he heard Reggae, Rocksteady and Ska played alongside R&B, Soul and 60s and started to investigate further – “It started me off buying records. The scene wasn’t always huge back home, so everybody would come together on the Mod scene and it helped me to discover different music”.

Moving over to London in 2004, Gio discovered a broader scene with more variety compared to what he was used to – “London is a huge city, with so much history behind it. The Caribbean community moving over to England in the 1960’s meant a much wider scope for access to reggae music. Not just in London – but in places like Birmingham and the North too. Meeting and talking to people you discover new music and things, my record collection started to grow”.

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Gio soon started to DJ on and off in Italy from the late 90’s to through the early 00’s, guesting at nights but never quite establishing a regular night.

Over the last few years he has come back to DJing in London, and soon started to look for venues to start a night of his own – “It can be tough to get venues to take new nights on at first. The weekends are the busiest time, and Friday and Saturday nights are when venues want guaranteed crowd pleasers to make sure they are busy.” 

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Ridley Road is a famous market street located right in the centre of East London’s Dalston area. Ridley Road Market has strong roots within the East London West Indian community, famous for selling exotic produce from around the world. Ridley Road Market Bar located right in the middle of Ridley Road seemed like an ideal venue to approach with the possibility of starting a Reggae, Rocksteady and Ska night says Gio – I always lived in Dalston since I moved to London in 2004, and it’s amazing how the area I live in has both today, and in the past a very strong connection with reggae music.

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Back in the 60’s Ridley Road Market had a large West Indian population and record shops were very popular in the area as well. “Muzik City”, one of the first record stores in London was originally located on Ridley Road – “Muzik City” had direct links to the prolific reggae label “Trojan Records”. There was also a “Roy Shirley’s” shop on Birkbeck Road, “The R&B Record Shop” (owned by Rita and Benny King) in nearby Stamford Hill, “The Four Aces Club” on Dalston Lane and many other places where music (reggae in particular) were a key aspect of life.

For me being Italian - and therefore coming from a different background - it seems amazing to be able to run my own night in London, a night which is now getting recognition from people that have being doing these things for a long time”.

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Gio was soon offered the choice between a Thursdays or a Sunday night slot at Ridley Road Market Bar. Choosing Sunday’s “One Stop” was soon born, and runs every second Sunday – “So far it’s going really well. We’ve been going nearly a year now and the night seems to get bigger every time. Reggae nights aren’t all about the dancing, it’s more about the music and the atmosphere, and I think “One Stop” has a really good atmosphere about it.     

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Running the night takes a lot of effort too, as I do everything by myself - all promotion, the design for flyers, planning everything - but there’s nothing as rewarding as seeing people coming down to my night and having fun, truly appreciating the energy and passion that I put into it”.

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Every month has a different guest DJ from inside the community – Sammy D played most recently. Gio says “running a night can be really competitive. London is a huge city with so much choice. I’m really pleased “One Stop” has had a good run so far. Ideally I’d like to it run for many years, becoming a regular fixture on the scene”.  

We asked Gio for his Top 5 favourite records to DJ, a task he didn’t find easy – “I don’t really have a top 5 as such as I like loads of tunes and always try to discover new ones - I like to say that the best tunes are the ones I don’t have yet.

Some tunes that I always enjoy playing are:

The Viceroys – Promises

Delroy Wilson – Somebody has stolen

Don Drummond – Smiling

The Paragons – Memories by the score

The Kingstonians – Put down your fire

Thanks to Gio and http://www.camillacandidadonzella.it/ for images

ONE STOP – Every second Sunday at Ridley Road Market Bar, Dalston. Facebook/Instagram/Mixcloud

See the Bella Freud X Fred Perry collaboration online HERE

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Behind the collection with Bella Freud

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Pictured above - Bella Freud with collection model Adwoa Aboah

 

New for AW14, we are proud to launch our first collaboration with British womens knitwear designer Bella Freud. The Bella Freud Blank Canvas collection is available in Laurel Wreath Collection stores and Fred Perry online now. 

We met up with Bella to discuss the collection, and discover the influences behind it -

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Born in London and studied in Rome, Bella Freud has established herself over the past 20 years at the forefront of British women's knitwear design. 

Launching her eponymous label in 1990, Bella quickly went on to win Most Innovative Designer Of The Year at the 1991 Fashion Awards. She is perhaps best known for her signature "Je t'aime Jane", "Ginsberg Is God" and "1970" jumpers, alongside her work in fashion film collaborating with John Malkovich, Lara Stone and Anita Pallenberg amongst others.

Bella, hello its lovely to meet you

Hello, its lovely to meet you also

I'm really interested to hear about the influences behind the collection, I get a strong sense of dancehall and reggae music influence when I look at it

Definitely. I've always loved how people look and dress on the reggae scene - they always look so stylish and well turned out. I remember being 10 years old and being in Dalston in East London where there is a large West Indian population, and being intrigued by how people dress - they always looked so cool! I kept this in mind when designing the collection and it was definitely a direct influence. 

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Is reggae and dancehall music, and the scene around it something you are personally into?

I love reggae music! Growing up my favourite band was called Matumbi who were one of the biggest British reggae bands of the 1970s and 80s. If you look at pictures of them now they always looked so smart and turned out. They are a great band.

Not just the music, I love the scene too - from the hardcore rastas to people really enjoying dancehall music - its got such a great vibe. As a designer I find the whole aesthetic endlessly appealling and I wanted to incorporate this into my collection for Fred Perry - a brand that also has roots in this scene. 

Ah yes, the collaboration with Fred Perry - how did this come about. Obviously you are a well known British women's designer...

It was suggested to me and I was really keen. I've always admired Fred Perry as a brand, I've always found it to be quite a personal brand - people get really involved with it, and it's never ever bland. I see it as being very honest, bold and British so I thought it was a good match for my ideas.

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Alongside the knitwear in the collection, you also got to reinvent the iconic Fred Perry Shirt - how did that feel?

Initially quite daunting! I love the Fred Perry Shirt - I wear the Fred Perry Shirt! I think as a piece of clothing it is quite perfect as it is. However it was really fun to get to put my own stamp upon it. I made the collars bigger to reflect the era I had in mind, and played with the tipping. Something I really enjoyed was translating the reggae influences into my collection. Stars feature throughout, and these are a direct reference to reggae artists - I always found them so flashy when growing up wearing all their jewellery and pins. The stars are about taking the Fred Perry Shirt and adding in that element, adding that flashy reference to the collection.    

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The model used in the shoot for the collection is extremely striking - did you choose her personally? 

Yes! The model is Adwoa Aboah. Shes gorgeous isn't she. I've known her Mum for years and I've seen her grow up and get more and more beautiful. I thought she'd be a great fit for this collection, and it was an honour to involve somebody I've known since a child in my work

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There is a Fashion Film to accompany the collection also, I know you had a background in film alongside design - did you direct it?

I didn't direct the film this time around, but I did come up with the concept for it. It's all about dancing, but dancing for yourself. Everybody dances in their bedroom at some point - even if they don't want to admit it! 

I love the song featured in the film

Yes, its called "Girlie Girlie" by Sophia George. Its a reggae classic from the eighties. I think the collection is very feminine, so it seemed like the ideal choice to soundtrack it. 

(see the film online here > http://bit.ly/YdY3Uk )

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There are also accessories in the collection..

Yes, hats and scarves sit alongside the main collection. I wanted to convey a sense of fun. Going back to what I said earlier about making the collection flashy - the accessories are an extension of that. I wanted to make the collection feel special, and adding a hat or a scarf feels a bit like adding a bit of flash to your outfit - it adds an extra something. I really like that idea.  

Bella, thank you for your time

No problem, lovely to meet you.

 

Pictured below, Bella Freud at the Bella Freud Blank Canvas Collection launch at Celestine Eleven in London.

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Our women's Blank Canvas collaboration with Bella Freud is sold in Laurel Wreath Collection stores - find your nearest store > http://bit.ly/1ojcdgu

View the collection online here > http://bit.ly/1rNUqkU

See the fashion film that accompanies the collection here > http://bit.ly/YdY3Uk

Thanks to Bella Freud and Celestine Eleven