your armani or your life

In Manchester, label fever has turned ugly. Gangs are holding fashion shops to ransom - but it's not money they're after. Oliver Swanton reports

Sly, a 19-year-old from Manchester's Moss Side, wears dark blue jeans by Armani (pounds 100), shirt by Versace (pounds 80) and boots by Rockport (pounds l25). His whole outfit was stolen by an "acquaintance" and cost him only pounds 100. He doesn't think there's anything immoral about it. "There's nothing wrong with a little bit of taxation," he says. "These shops take loads and never put anything back. Sometimes you just gotta take it back."

It's open season on Manchester's designer emporia: a fashion crime wave has left few of the city's clothes shops untouched.

Alex Ghelichi opened his exclusive menswear store, Marklynn on Deansgate, in mid-June. At 2am on 11 July it was ram raided by four men in two stolen cars. They left with bootfuls of Italian designer menswear. Three weeks later in the middle of a bright and sunny Friday afternoon a stocky red- haired white youth and a taller slim black youth strolled into his newly refurbished shop. They tried on several different pairs of Armani jeans, casually inquiring about any further stock "out back".

Finally they decided on the six pairs they preferred and had them neatly wrapped and bagged, before announcing they had no intention of paying. Ghelichi ran to the door, confronted them and managed to grab one of the two bags back. Because he put up a fight they came back first thing the next morning with three friends and threatened him with a knife. They only left (with another six pairs of jeans) when he dived over his counter and hit the panic button, wired to the local police station.

The day Ghelichi's shop was "taxed", the same two men stole 15 pairs of Armani jeans from another city centre store. The month before, a gang of youths raided another and walked away with pounds 4,000 worth of clothes.

This "trend" began last Christmas, when Manchester's notorious gang the Gooch Massive arrived en masse at a local designer menswear store. There was a jungle dance the following weekend and they wanted to make an impression. They dropped over pounds 5,000 in used notes, kitting themselves out in Armani, Versace and Valentino. Two weeks later the Gooch went shopping again. This time they wanted a 10 per cent discount. When the manager declined they purchased a couple of jumpers and left. Later that day members of the gang returned to clear the shelves. They could afford to pay for their designer labels but that wasn't the point: they had been shown disrespect.

Annabel works on the front line, in a clothes shop. Two months ago the shop was "taxed". She hasn't felt safe since. "I've never known anything like it. You're at work, in the middle of the day, in a shop for god's sake." She says she feels angry, frustrated and frightened. "They know where you work and they can come back for you anytime."

The police and local council are acutely aware they have a problem. Detective Sergeant Mike Rawlings, from the Bootle Street's crime management unit says that the police try to keep in touch with the fashion scene, in order to pre-empt raids. "What I'm always very worried about is the period when new styles change in the shops. We try to jack up our operations when we know that's going to happen." He says that targeted policing, fortified grills, and regular visits from well-briefed crime prevention officers have helped.

On the mean streets of Moss Side, three-figure designer casuals are not status symbols in the conventional sense. Malcolm, an extremely label- conscious young man explains: "It's about closing the gap. It's about saying 'Boy, we're doing it, we can afford this shit, it ain't nuffin'. We're just saying 'What you [the establishment] regard as heaven and earth are just garments, just material. We wear them, take 'em off at night and fling 'em down on the floor, it ain't nuffin' big.

"When you check someone from head to toe you can immediately see where they're at," says Malcolm. Armani and Versace and Rockport and Valentino is serious street wear. Dolce e Gabbana on the other hand tends to be favoured by middle-class wannabes. For the proper bad boyz, though, Tommy Hilfiger is still the man - he dresses gangsta rappers like Snoop Doggy Dog, 2 Pac and Coolio. "But sometimes you gotta look beyond the labels and read the attitude," adds Malcolm. "Man can do his research and buy all the right names, but if he ain't got the attitude you're gonna spot him."

Back on Deansgate, Alex Ghelichi keeps his store locked and alarmed during the day, vetting people closely before opening the door. The good news is that he may be spared any more visits this year: Valentino and Hilfiger are two labels which he has decided not to stock.

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee