Style: A marketing triumph

Thirteen years ago, a group of lads with big ideas started selling their favourite clothes in Camden Market. After trawling the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s, the Duffers have hit on a style that is pure Nineties, and have finally got recognition for it

The Duffer boys are pleased with themselves. Having anticipated almost every street trend worth mentioning in the past few years, the British Fashion Council (BFC), with votes from industry, have put the icing on the cake. On Tuesday, The Duffer of St George, a business set up as a market stall in 1984, is odds-on to be nominated in the Street Style category of the Lloyds Bank British Fashion Awards.

This in itself is no mean feat - when the award was set up in 1995, it seemed tailor-made for labels like Duffer, Komodo, Red or Dead, Sub Couture and PIL, or even designers like Copperwheat Blundell and People Corporation. Instead, nominations for both 1995 and 1996 did not seem to reflect the mood on the streets: Antonio Berardi, nominated last year, was clearly out of place, despite the "streety" feel to his high fashion, and the expected labels were curiously absent. In fact, many industry insiders suspect that the Street Style award was created especially for Red or Dead.

The award was scooped by

Red or Dead in 1995, 1996,

and they expect to be nominated again this year. Also in the running is Seraph, the womenswear label designed by Sherald Lamden, and YMC (You Must Create), a range of unisex utility clothes which are stocked in Duffer. The Duffers have one shop in Covent Garden, which has just reopened after a make-over with more space for the clothes and accessories, which become must-haves as soon as they are put on display. Eddie Prendegast, the frontman and buyer, is constantly on a quest for something new, and the secret of Duffer's success is that he is never satisfied. "Right now," he says, "people want Wallabee driving shoes by Clarks. They are made in Ireland, and available in Japan. We are getting them shipped over."

This is the tip of the iceberg. Duffer were buying old school trainers at pounds 5 a pair and flogging them for pounds 50 before Adidas and Puma realised their archive was a goldmine. They were the first to stock own-label fleece jackets, cult denim brand Evisu, Hysteric Glamour, and other difficult- to-get-hold of items, including limited edition Nike and Reebok trainers. "It's about under- branding and juxtaposition," says Prendegast cryptically. In addition, Duffer's own line of sports-influenced basics - including sweat-tops, selvedge jeans, baggy chinos and combat pants, designed by Marco Cairns - is sold to 300 stockists around the world, making the company pounds 16 million a year.

All of these items are the essence of London's street-style look. Not only are Duffer's innovations the stuff of fashion legend, but the concept for their shop has also been emulated. Both Browns Focus, which sells a similar mix with more womenswear, and Jones, which has realised the power of having "street"-focused men's designer clothing in one shop, owe a lot to Duffer.

As for the nomination, Prendegast and Cairns are nonplussed, "I'm taking it with a pinch of salt," says Cairns. "I'm not bothered," says Prendegast. But, I'm told, they're quite excited really.

The Duffer of St George, 29 Shorts Gardens, London WC2 (0171-379 4660)

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