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:
Durable and comfortable fabric
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.
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 http://www.nowaybackstore.co.uk/ at your earliest convenience.