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Bobby Langley

The merchandising boss at Sony Records talks to Martin Teall about the music label’s Deconstructed T-shirt brand.

Does coming from Manchester influence your style?
One of my earliest memories as a kid growing up in Manchester is watching my mum on one of the old Singer sewing machines making scarves for [scarf brand] Tootal. When I got older, me and my pals used to support Manchester City and travel all over the country. The football was just an excuse to get to another town and see what gear they had in the shops in London or wherever we were. We’d get on the first train out of Manchester in our Lee jeans, Sabre lambswool V-necks and Nike Wally Waffles and pile into the clothes shops. Oddly enough, I’m wearing the same gear now - just minus the hair.

You moved from music to fashion. How come?

I’ve been involved in the music business on all different levels, not just on the frontline being a DJ. I used to be head of merchandising at [streetwear brand] Bench but before I did that I built up a company called Slipstream. I was doing the A&R finding new artists but also landing major deals for the merchandising rights at gigs for bands like Franz Ferdinand and Oasis. I had loads of mates who were in bands at the time so they would all wear Bench gear. I’m an ideas man. I know what works visually. I was the king of product placement. Bench was a colossal brand at the time.

What’s the inspiration behind the Deconstruction T-shirt range?

I can’t walk past a charity shop without going in because I’m convinced I’ll find an original Picasso or some other piece of treasure. That’s how I feel about the bank of archived graphics we’ve got at Sony, which feature in the collection. There’s a kind of Stussy vibe going on but it’s more than just a music T-shirt. The collection was launched at London trade show Stitch and we got everything we wanted [in terms of sales]. Deals have been done already at Harvey Nichols as well as Harrods to be stockists.

How does fashion feed into music and vice versa?

Just look at the impact cinema and Broadway had on fashion and music - for example the rise of the gangster and his role in men’s fashion, jazz music. That wasn’t created by marketers, it just happened.

So Deconstruction is more than just a record label?

Deconstruction has always been a way of life for us [at Sony]. A club or a gig, a sock, a record, a T-shirt, a saying, a bag, a sandwich … I’d like to think we could produce anything we really wanted to. We’re surrounded by acres of talent to make it happen. It’s not rocket science. We make music that makes you bounce on your bed and stand in front of the mirror - I’m applying this rule to our T-shirt collection.

What was the hardest fashion lesson you’ve learned?

Don’t be a peacock because you’ll be a feather duster tomorrow. Me and my team stay focused on the task, stay humble and, you know, celebrate success.

Who’s the coolest person you know?
Dean West [global sales manager, Pretty Green]. A genuine bloke with an encyclopaedic knowledge of stuff you never think about. He can talk about buttons and make it sound fascinating.

Favourite band?
The Chemical Brothers know how to put on a show.

Favourite night out?
Rules is a top restaurant at Charing Cross, London. Also Chinese restaurant mini-chain Hakkasan. The roof garden at Sanctum Hotel [in Soho, London] is great for a drink (pictured).

Favourite brand?
Clarks shoes. I’ve been wearing them for 30 years.

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