A sharp look for the sound of the jungle: They'll be wearing Ralph Lauren, Versace and Armani at the Notting Hill Carnival. Sarah Callard sees high fashion get a street beat

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Oz has declared that 'this year's will be a junglist carnival'. Oz is a designer and the owner of Against All Oz, a shop in Ladbroke Grove, west London, that sells 'street fashion with a ragga vibe'. The music, a strange hybrid of hip-hop break beats and ragga samples, grew out of the hardcore rave scene and has been the underground club sound in London for the last two years. At the Notting Hill Carnival tomorrow, expect to see junglists alongside the extravagant Jamaican ragga styles that dominated last year. The jungle look is more practical and streamlined; it would be impossible to dance to jungle music wearing some of the more over-the- top, bulky, layered ragga outfits. The clothes are as eclectic as the music, with influences from ragga, hip hop, casual wear and high fashion. The men have chosen traditional jeans (Armani if they can afford them, Levi if not) and Ralph Lauren tops, while the girls wear the sexy, body-conscious clothes by high- glitz, high-fashion designers Versace, Ralph Lauren, Armani and Moschino.

These are not the names you would normally associate with an underground dance style. But these are the labels kids are wearing, or aspiring to wear. Whether they are fakes or the real thing is almost irrelevant - who can tell in a dark club?

Darren Sherman, David Dowarris and Darren Fergus, all aged 13, call themselves junglists. They shop at Cecil Gee, Woodhouse and Harvey Nichols. 'We wear straight-leg jeans, not the big, baggy, bleached ragga style,' says Fergus. Sherman agrees: 'I'll wear a nice silk shirt, straight jeans and white workout trainers - Reebok or Nike.' He got into jungle last year and goes to the London jungle nights, Orange and Thunder & Joy.

'The scene's very varied,' says Professor Stretch, who mixes jungle music. 'I think a lot of the clothes have come from hip-hop style; people wearing old trainers and jeans.' Can he differentiate between a ragga and a jungle crowd? 'There is definitely a different look: jungle people are wearing casual but smart clothes,' he says. 'I like it because they aren't judgmental about what you wear - in the end it's more about comfort because you are going to be dancing at some speed.'

General Levy, ragga MC, crossed over into jungle with his vocals on M-Beat's Incredible (the first junglist record to hit the Top 40). He is the biggest name in jungle but wears a mixture of ragga and hip-hop style. 'There are no specific labels I follow,' he claims. 'I wear anything that looks good. I really just want to be casual and comfortable.'

Jungle crosses musical and racial boundaries: it is the point where white hardcore techno and black ragga meet. Dylan Blakeley has been into the music since it took off two years ago: 'I was into hardcore, but it all got a bit silly and now I'm into jungle. I like the way it attracts all sorts of people - you see some odd characters like body builders.'

When Blakeley goes to his favourite jungle clubs (AWOL at Paradise in north London, or Lazerdome in south London), he wears straight jeans, white Reebok trainers and a Ralph Lauren Polo shirt - this last his token gesture to the label-conscious jungle scene. 'I think dressing up is pretty pointless because you end up sweating like mad,' he says.

Jungle girls have also moved on from the flashy clothes that were associated with ragga. As with the boys' styles, labels are important but not essential. Dionne Douglas, 19, cannot afford Versace but still wears the market version. 'Some people wear only Moschino and Versace, but I buy my clothes from anywhere,' she says. Her outfit for a night out would be just as slinky but at a fraction of the price. 'I wear next to nothing when I go out to a jungle club. You get so hot because you're dancing.'

(Photograph omitted)

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