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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone