Style: Well worn but none the worse for wear: Kate Moss, Bjork, Jean Paul Gaultier: they have all bought worn clothes from a small shop in West London. So has a chain store, reports Tamsin Blanchard

Frank Akinsete has a small shop in Portobello Green, west London, called Souled Out. It sells worn, sometimes threadbare, second-hand and recycled clothing. Similar clothes are available in Oxford Street: last summer, Akinsete started to supply Top Shop with the Souled Out line.

This year, Souled Out's two concessions in the Oxford Circus branch of Top Shop - one for men, the other for women - have expanded their floor space, and the second-hand clothing has even been on display in the windows. Meanwhile, its newest concession, in Brighton, is doing well despite the town's plethora of second-hand clothes shops.

'We are changing the whole face of Top Shop,' say Akinsete. Certainly he and his design partner, Govella Pangidzwa, have given it more of an edge.

Akinsete recently introduced a 'homo promo' window to Top Shop. Male mannequins wearing 'Gay Love' T-shirts (the slogan in the style of the Coca-Cola logo), with bare mid-riffs and sarongs, caused such a stir that the window was changed before customers 'got the wrong idea'.

Souled Out's own shop, which sells undiluted versions of what is available in the Top Shop concessions, is frequently scoured by designers for source material and inspiration.

When the Milanese designers Dolce e Gabbana were in town to shoot their latest advertising campaign, they bought pounds 400 worth of Souled Out clothes, which will appear on their catwalk in October. Jean Paul Gaultier openly uses the shop for ideas, as have the New York designers Anna Sui and Marc Jacobs, and the London-based Koji Tatsuno; Japanese designers sometimes buy out half the stock.

Akinsete is philosophical: 'They'll copy it, but that's fine - we'll have moved on to do something else by then.'

Pop stars shop there, too. Kylie Minogue, pursued by photographers, has been known to seek refuge in the shop on busy Saturday afternoons. The Brand New Heavies and Bjork have visited, and Take That wore Souled Out clothes on their most recent tour. Dee-Lite's Lady Miss Keir spent pounds 150 on some T-shirts, mini-skirts and baby dolls last week. Kate Moss and Helena Christensen have shopped there, too. Ask, and Akinsete will show you his book of polaroid snapshots. 'That's me and Elton John . . . my Mum and Jean Paul . . .' He also keeps an autograph book.

Much of Akinsete's stock comes from thrift stores in America. When he is not talking on his orange, fun fur-coated telephone, he is bringing back suitcases from America, bulging with clothes and accessories. On his latest trip to Los Angeles, he discovered quilted camouflage bags, now selling in the shop for pounds 15 each. As well as importing, he also exports clothes to American shops.

Though he makes a tidy profit, he does not believe in outpricing himself. The shop is very much in tune with its young customers, who want accessible, throwaway fashion at affordable prices. 'Most of our customers are broke,' he says - though presumably not those in his autograph book.

Little T-shirts are the mainstay of this summer's trade (Souled Out has sold out and is now selling new garments, too). Time-Warner in New York did not like the ones with a huge 'S' (for Superman) across the chest, and sent a stern letter forbidding Akinsete to sell them. In characteristic Souled Out style, he pasted a picture of someone wearing the offending T- shirt on to the letter, and now uses it for publicity purposes.

Then there are the afro-wigged Diana Ross T-shirts. 'Diana thinks it's a laugh,' says Akinsete. One gets the impression he would secretly like to be Diana Ross, and he is certainly determined to 'funk up her image'. So far, though, he has only made contact with her daughter through his New York agent.

Who would have thought a tiny shop in west London could generate so much energy and interest, sell out to Top Shop and still hold on to its street cred? The Diana Ross makeover may not be so far away: with Akinsete, anything is possible.

(Photograph omitted)

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk