Jazzie B: 'Fashion was integral to what Soul II Soul did'


The T-shirts have existed since the year dot for us.

We've been going since 1977 and been Soul II Soul since 1982. We came up with the design in 1979 – the original is by Derek Yates, who I went to school with. He drew the cartoon and we issued the T-shirts back in 1990. We came up with the Funki Dred – the idea was we came from a planet called Ard, and we were sent to the earth as pleasure-givers, to put on parties and get into the funk.

In the those days, we were West Indian kids growing up in a country where we didn't fit in. We were born in the UK but nothing in the culture related to us. That was the whole idea behind the Funki Dred. We were about being inclusive rather than exclusive, as other subcultures were. We had elements of fashion, music, club culture. It wasn't just for black British people – it was for everyone. That's why our motto was: "A happy face, a thumpin' bass, for a lovin' race."

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It wasn't just that Soul II Soul could only have happened in Britain, it could only have happened in London. It's the shop window for the rest of the world. It's quite interesting that in the aftermath of Thatcher's death, I'm reminded that technically speaking, she legitimised people like me. We set up a small business in an institutionally racist environment where it was difficult to get a job you wanted. The idea was to do it yourself.

Fashion was integral to what Soul II Soul did from the very beginning. At the time, combining music and fashion was very unusual – now it's become the norm. From Jazzie's Groove onwards, I talk about the importance of fashion in the world of Soul II Soul.

I am proud to say that we are now a heritage brand. We've recreated part of the shop we had in Camden in the late 80s and early 90s in Harvey Nichols. It's about the right moment and the right opportunity. Technically, we're 80s but Soul II Soul carried on into the 90s too. People are looking at that time again, and it feels like everything's come full-circle for us.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by As told to Lauren Cochrane, for guardian.co.uk on Thursday 11th April 2013 16.15 Europe/London

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