Gabicci's greatest knits

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Gabicci first found favour with the 'casual' scene of the 1970s. Now it's celebrating being back in fashion four decades later, says Paul McKenzie

It wasn't supposed to be this way. Gabicci knitwear, with its suede trim and extra fly collar was designed by two friends, Jack Sofier and Alex Pyser, for the more discerning Seventies man, to be worn in the country club, sipping a G&T.

But the inner-city kids of Brixton and Hackney had other ideas. The year was 1973, the “casual” scene was just finding its feet and the young trailblazers of London were looking for labels to up the ante in the burgeoning fashion wars.

The casuals in the north were having a love affair with tracksuits and trainers, but down in the south it was about wearing designer “garms”.

“Pringle and Farah were hot, but the label all the tops boys were wearing was Gabicci,” recalls DJ Norman Jay MBE. “A Gabicci top was a must for young black kids come the weekends”. It completed a casual look of snakeskin shoes, full-length leather jacket, slacks, gold chains and sovereign rings. “Oh, and you can't forget the BMW 3 series,” laughs Jay.

Dressed to kill and followed by their white counterparts, they would head to dancehall sound-system parties and rave until sunrise.

It may not have been what Mr Sofer and Mr Pyser had in mind when they opened up their central London warehouse 40 years ago, but style moves in mysterious ways.

The label's fortunes suffered a dip in the 1980s and by the early 1990s, it had been taken over. However, Gabicci has always been held in affection by likely lads in the know.

Now a new generation of musicians including The View and Labrinth have started wearing the label. The powers at Gabicci picked up the scent and launched a project for the brand's 40th anniversary that celebrated its association with youth culture. Having explored its archive, Gabicci noticed that Norman Jay's name kept cropping up, and Jay couldn't have been happier when the brand got in touch to ask him to create a capsule collection, out in July: “They let me raid their archive and then they allowed me to put a new twist on it”.

While the famous heavy G logo can still be found on the left breast pocket, collars have been clipped, the colour palette broadened and the cuts streamlined.

“Today's generation of stylers are not just casuals,” says Jay. “They are mods, Northern Soul heads, rappers and indie bands. People like to be turned out well. Clean-cut and smart is now where it's at”.

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