If there’s one fashion brand inextricably linked to the Manchester music scene, it’s Gio-Goi. In the late 1980s, founders Christopher and Anthony Donnelly began selling T-shirts in clubs in Manchester, including the infamous Haçienda, which was owned by Factory Records.
After “too much rock ‘n’ roll”, according to Christopher Donnelly, production ended but the young fashion brand was relaunched in 1995 following investment from USC co-founder and now chief executive David Douglas.
However, the music connection never ended. “Our whole brand is a lifestyle, an ethos. It’s not just putting clothes on a shelf,” says Donnelly. “We worked with Pete Doherty [to launch a clothing line in 2006] when no one would touch him with a barge pole. We saw the poet in him.”
Less partying and more focus on product development - “it took us four years to get denim right,” says Donnelly - resulted in Pentland Brands, the UK’s largest brand supply house, taking a 20% stake in 2008.
Not that Gio-Goi has gone all serious. To celebrate its “loose” 21st birthday, it will launch a series of 21 short films. “I interviewed prostitutes, homeless people and celebrities and asked them random questions. For example, I asked Mike Joyce of The Smiths what his most embarrassing moment was and if he’d ever been in love. But I’ve edited the films so that no one knows what the questions were. It’s called ‘Live Who You Are. We Are Gio-Goi’ and will go live on our website. It’s an antidote to boring marketing,” says Donnelly.
The brand will also launch an album to celebrate its anniversary, with tracks mixed by former Haçienda DJ Graeme Park and DJ Mark Knight.
“Manchester is a creative place and there is more to come from here,” says Donnelly. “There’s a lot of raw talent, whether in music, art or fashion. Other than London, I don’t see many brands coming out of one city as they do here. But we’re an international brand and while our roots are in Manchester, we have to look further afield.” Red or blue? Red.
Christopher Donnelly is co-founder of young fashion brand Gio-Goi