I caught up with Laurence the owner of Margate’s premiere Mod clothing shop Rat Race for a chat about his passion for fashion.
1. When and how did your passion for fashion come about?
As a young man growing up in Thanet, I experimented with many different styles of clothing. As I got older, I got more into stylish clothes but also wanted to wear something other than what could be found in regular department stores. I was fully aware of Margates’ role in harbouring the youth subcultures and styles from the 1960’s to 80’s and I loved looking at old photos of my father and his friends wearing their crombies, boots & braces.
2. When did you turn your passion into your profession?
I accompanied a friend to a trade show in London and spotted some classic Harrington jackets with an embroidered badge ‘Keep the Faith Margate’ on the sleeve. I thought the people of Margate would love them, the jackets were well made and in the original 60’s style. I opened my first fashion store in Margate in 2010 with the classic Harrington jackets, sta-prest trousers and traditional button-down shirts amongst other styles. This is where my passion for Mod and classic styles developed. I did not see the Mod trend as a sub-culture revival; I knew the style had never really gone away.
3. When and where did Rat Race first open?
During the Spring/Summer of 2014 and after experimenting with opening other stores in the South East I decided my passion for Modernist menswear was much better suited to Margate. I joined our two high street shops together internally, re-named and re-branded the stores to open as Rat Race and solely as a classic British clothier. Towards the end of 2015 my partner Bonnie and I expanded further, occupying our third neighbouring shop, which became Rat Race Girl, a store which stocks Mod, Skinhead, Rockabilly and Vintage girl styles .
4. Rat Race is a very popular amongst the Modernist fraternity, please tell us more about the clothing range available in the shop?
We’re a 21st century take on the 20th century’s finest subcultures, Mixing up mod clothing, skinhead style, a touch on the fifties and then adding a contemporary twist. We are official stockists of Merc, Art Gallery, Knightsbridge Neckwear, Brutus Trimfit, Trojan Clothing, Dr.Martens, Delicious Junction, Ikon Originals and many more. Rat Race also stock many other iconic brands, plus Rat Race Girl holds collections from Freddies of Pinewood, Collectif, Lindy Bop and Dolly & Dotty.
5. Are all the items sold in the shop available online?
We opened our online shop only at the beginning of 2016, a lot of our core items are available on our website. We’re growing our website all the time and new collections are added regularly. We always like to hold a few pieces back just for the shop-floor and for our not so web connected customers, so you’ll always find something which isn’t available online – I believe you still can’t beat that moment of stopping into the street to gaze at something in the window.
6. Any famous clientele dropped by the shop?
We’ve had a few well-known customers shop at Rat Race including Neville Staple, Dave Barker & Buster Bloodvessel. Our most recent being Paloma Faith, Preston and surprisingly enough the chatty man himself Alan Carr.
7. Any plans for a Rat Race clothing range in the future?
We have lots of plans and ideas we’re working towards. Our next project will be working in partnership with the 60’s Suit Co. to develop an off-the-peg range of suits designed exclusively for Rat Race. We work closely with the 60s Suit Co. and we would both be involved in the design process to create and release a range of suits, tailor-made for the Margate mods & skins. We are also going to be doing four types of trousers, all in different fabrics, and something to appeal to the Mods, Skinheads and Suedeheads.
8. Do Rat Race cover men and women’s fashion?
We certainly do, we have three high street shops conjoined to make one large shop. Within Rat Race you’ll find ‘Rat Race Girl’ which is our latest addition. It’s great to have a space solely for the girls but also where men and women can shop together.
9. How important to the Rat Race philosophy is it to have local people who know their onions about Modernist fashion working in the shop?
It’s very important to have knowledgeable staff, our Rat Race team certainly know their onions and they also have the same passion and enthusiasm as myself for what we do. I also think it’s important that our staff share the same vision and drive for Rat Race and help create something unique that will stand the test of time.
10. Why do you think the sixties style is still revered, respected and revisited with each new generation?
People from every new generation want to look good and find a style that suits them. When you look good, you feel good, it gives you confidence and young people look at the sixties style and see that un-apologetic swagger. They want to emulate that feeling, they want to know that they look good enough to stand out from the crowd. There is nothing better than Modernist fashion for a clean-cut style and sharpness.
11. What are your favorite vintage and modern fashion brands?
That’s not too easy to answer, there are many brands that I’m into. I love the stories behind the brands and how they have become popular, for example: Brutus Trimfits’ story of Keith Freedman’s visit to Hong Kong’s in 66’ to discover a shop selling half sleeve button-downs shirts for off-duty American soldiers. The shirts were not available in the UK and so with a few adaptations he ordered them in 12 different colours and to this day they still fly off the rails! There are many stories like this and it’s all part of the history of the brands we sell and love.
12. Where do you see Rat Race heading in the future and any exciting projects coming up you want to tell us about?
We hope to continue as we are doing, finding new brands to offer our customers and building up our online shop. We have a meeting with Gabicci this month and hope to become a Gabicci stockist before the coming Margate Mod and Sixties Festival. You can also find us at Folkestone Skabour in September, this will be our sixth trade event for Skabour. It’s a great Ska weekend where we meet many customers and friends, both old and new. Check our website or pop in to see us if you get a chance.
13. With the Mod/Sixties festival coming up at Whitsun where can we find you in Margate and what are the opening hours?
You can find Rat Race and Rat Race Girl at the lower end of Margate High Street, just up from the piazza and harbour. We’re open 7 days a week until 5.30pm and 5pm on Sundays. but check the links below and our website!
Now in-store & online at www.ratracemargate.co.uk // Spring/Summer 2016 Collections from Merc, Art Gallery, Brutus & Trojan Clothing.
Classic British mens & women’s wear.
Open 7 days a weekly 10-5.30 (10-5 Sundays)
Main Site: ratracemargate.co.uk
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