NoWayBack – Fully Exploring The Ever Entwining And Inextricable Link Between  Music And Fashion:

We are all culture junkies, just by the fact that you are reading this indicates that there’s a fair to middling chance that you are a keen lover of both music and fashion.  

I personally am a fully fledged tee shirt addict, I live my life in the things, I’ve got literally hundreds of them.   For me there are a few basic staple ingredients of what makes a top notch tee:


Well made

Durable and comfortable fabric

Great cut

Looks and feels good 

Mix all of the above with collaborations of some of the most forefront and influential artists in today’s electronic music scene with one of the finest tee shirt manufacturers around and you can only be onto a good thing.

I was lucky enough recently to put my inquisitive ruminations to Helen Dukes, co owner and founder of the effervescent online tee shirt proprietors NoWayBack;


So H, where did it all begin?

We basically started NoWayBack after Chris & I realised between us we had all the elements to set up the brand and do something we were both really passionate about. Chris is a graphic designer / web designer / artist & had the vision for the brand. I have worked in retail for most of my working career – in fashion, then music retail.

Why NoWayBack?

The name NoWayBack came from the classic Adonis track and a track that we both love. Chris played with the logo one night and it all just seemed right. And here we are! What started as an enjoyable hobby is now a business but we intend to keep it all about quality, limited edition, hand printed and eco-friendly merchandise. We spent a long time sourcing the right t-shirts to use as we desperately wanted to avoid the poor quality often associated with music t-shirts.


The electronic music crossover is obviously key to the brand, where did your love of this music stem from?

We both have a real passion for house music and where it’s come from and how it’s made, its a real pleasure to be working with people we admire and a scene we love.  Chris has always had a real interest in making music and is constantly working on a new track up in his home studio & I was DJ’ing through the 90’s with a big love of vinyl. I was resident at Wobble in Birmingham  and guested around the UK & Europe.

Sounds like you had some great experiences!  Any in particular that stand out?

I started DJing back in the early 90s when I was a student in Liverpool spending most of my my student loan on 12”s from 3Beat records on Bold St.  I was hearing all these great records at the clubs I was going to – Back to Basics, Quadrant Park, LuvDup nights in Manchester & Monroes in Blackburn.  Then when I was home down South during the holidays going to the Milk Bar, Sign of the times & The Gardening Club in London when I returned from Polytechnic.  I had some great times in these clubs and I wanted to share all the records I was buying at the time and play them all out in a club myself.

I bumped into Phil Gifford at a party around this time and he was looking for a new resident to play at his all-nighter club Wobble. I played there on a weekly basis alongside the likes of Derrick Carter, Andrew Weatherall, Justin Robertson, Jon Dasilva to name but a few.  That lead to me guesting at other clubs around the country.

And then the infamous ‘Wobble’ trip to Ibiza where Phil & Si put on  Wobble night with Josh Wink & Dimitri (Delite) which we all went over for. A very memorable trip in many ways! 

I’m a massive fan of vinyl –  I much prefer my monthly vinyl orders to a download of files. I buy all sorts now probably more down tempo stuff and tracks which I somehow missed along the way on Discogs. With social media and the amount of good new music that’s out there it’s a constant battle to get hold of everything I’m after. My ‘want list’ gets bigger not smaller.


Where do the ideas/collaborations come from?

We started the brand with our own designs which we still add to alongside the collaborations which has become a big part of the business. We approached DJ Pierre to see if he’d like one of our t-shirts – as a lot of the design influences were based around the Roland 303 & 808 drum machines and other early acid house stuff. He was keen to partner up and launch his own range of t-shirts with us as he respected what we were doing.  

Later that year Mark E got in touch and asked if we’d do a MERC t-shirt with him for his label. We’d not met Mark even though a fellow Brummie. After that collaboration, one thing led to another and we’re now releasing our own designs alongside collaborations with DJ’s & labels we love. 

It must be great to work with such seminal artists, anything exciting in the pipeline?

We have been privileged to work with Junior Boys Own, Greg Wilson, Kelvin & Mike’s ‘Down to the Sea & Back’, Dicky Trisco – Disco Deviance, Secret Squirrels & most recently Brighton’s SKINT label for their 20th anniversary.


Where is your target market based?

We now sell our T’s to customers all over the world and have a range in Phonica London.

There are bound to be comparisons drawn between you and other retailers such as the inimitable Millionhands, what is it that sets NoWayBack apart from the completion and how do you think you differ? 

I guess the emphasis is on limited editions with us. We have never printed more than 200 t-shirts of one design. We like being small at the moment and our market is quite niche so it suits that. We also take a lot of pride in the shopping experience for the customer, because we are small they almost certainly deal with me if they have any questions or feedback, its always a nice feeling for a customer knowing they are not dealing with a faceless robot!

We really admire what Millionhands do, but we are very different and mostly catering for a different and often older market.


What are your plans for the future?

We aim to keep the balance between producing our own designs and working with DJ’s labels we like. Autumn and winter will see some sweatshirts / hoodies again & after the limited JBO patches we did ( Terry Farley’s idea) we’d like to do something like that again as it was really nice to offer that bit extra to our customers.

The brand has grown and grown over the last 2 years since we launched and its taken us in unexpected directions, we would like to grow of course and offer a wider range of garments but at the moment we are very happy to be working with some key figures of the scene who we admire greatly in fact we’ve just had a  DJ / label that we’d love to work with approach us this week – but that’s all I can say for now.

For some seriously good threads please check out at your earliest convenience.

Which School Are you From? – The Intricacies Of Music New And Old And It’s Affect On Youth Culture:

I was born in April of 1973.  This makes me (at the current time of writing) forty one years of age.

For as long as I can remember, electronic music with repetitive beats has dominated my life, I grew up on a diet of force fed electronic music, it completely dominated the charts; Yazoo, Kraftwerk, Yello, Gary Numan, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, The Human League.  Even the latest blockbuster films had synth heavy soundtracks, for example John Carpenter’s Escape From New York And Alan Parker’s Midnight Express, I could literally go on forever.

This broad introduction of the electronic synthesiser into modern day media caused a seismic change in youth culture and the way the way that young people interacted with each other.

There have been many changes in youth culture, all wide and varied and all inextricably linked to both music and fashion.  The first real example we see of it was in the 1940’s beginning most notably with Rock and Roll, leading onto the Teddy Boys of the 50’s, the Mods and Rockers of The 60’s, The Skin/Suedeheads and Punks of the 70’s and then the Acid House explosion of the 80’s.

Since then (in my humble opinion) there has been a drought with no really significant changes in youth culture, with Simon Cowell et al totally dominating the charts with their pre-fabricated churned out pop dirge, purely designed to do nothing but make the major record labels obscenely rich stockpiling gargantuan piles of cash.

Then the question occurs to me; where did all the creativity go?

For me an epiphany moment was in the late eighties hearing “Voodoo Ray” by A Guy Called Gerald. 

This music was unlike anything I had heard before, totally fresh and completely new, I still to this day count my lucky stars to be involved in such a burgeoning scene so early in its conception.  At fifteen years of age I attended various warehouse parties in and around the capital.  Acid House Music was everywhere and I was firmly bitten by the bug.  This was my time, my own youth culture moment.  My time to jump on something new and make it my own.

So here I find myself at the grand old age of 41 and still just as obsessed (if not more) with this incredible music.  But for me it is all about pushing forward, listening to all the incredible new talent that is rising through the ranks.  I believe there is more really, really great music around today than ever before.

So now we arrive in 2014.  What has happened to youth culture in the UK today?  For the last fews years we have seen young people “shuffling” at parties/raves/festivals. 

This dance movement has received some really bad press and received extreme ridicule, even accused of racism in some cases, however, I believe it is the single most exciting thing to happen in UK youth culture since Acid House and I applaud and encourage it’s arrival in equal amounts.  Its really, really great and refreshing to see something new and genuine being born out of the current UK House Music scene, but is it really new?

I read an amazing article written by a DJ so deeply entrenched in the UK electronic music scene that he literally has become an integral working part; Mr Greg Wilson.  Last summer he pointed out on his blog that foot shuffling has indeed been around a lot longer than most people think.  Below is a youtube video of a recording made in the Moss Side Community Centre in Manchester on September 27th 1987, so well before messers. Oakenfold, Holloway, Rampling and Walker returned from that genre spawning trip to The White Island

Here we see young black teens enjoying some very early house and breaking out some very similar moves to today’s shufflers.  Food for thought.

There is always and will always be a glut of “back to 88” or old school nights.  I personally have nothing against these events and agree that we should never ignore the past, however, I don’t think its healthy to live in it. 

Absorb the past and use it as inspiration for creating something new, push the boundaries of this wonderful sound.  It would be truly extraordinary and inspiring to see the youth of today create a new exciting culture to give Cowell and his cronies a run for their money and bring creativity back to the masses.

You can read more on Greg Wilson’s blog: