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Get Familiar: Dukes Cupboard

Get Familiar: Dukes Cupboard
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Interview by Arman Zahawy

London's very own Dukes Cupboard has been a mainstay in the contemporary and vintage streetwear game ever since starting out as a Market Stall in Soho. These days we are proud to call them our neighbours as they moved into a brick and mortar location right by Patta London on Ingestre Place. This coming weekend they will be hosting a pop up in Amsterdam at Zeedijk 93 in celebration of 10 years of being in business so we knew it was about time to get familiar with the Dukes Cupboard family.

How did Dukes Cupboard come together?

Ned: We were both born and raised in London and lived here throughout. Growing up in the early and mid-2000s was crazy in London. The raves, graffiti, fashion, the different mad characters that were about and everything that was happening in between. It’s all naturally had a huge impact on everything that we’re doing with Dukes Cupboard.

So, how did you get started in the clothing game?

Ned: I always knew from a young age I was going to do something within the fashion and the clothing industry. I spent my early years watching my mum cutting patterns for children’s clothing which she sold amongst other brands in her shop throughout the 80s and 90s. Milo’s family have run a fabric company for over 30 years too so we were both pretty much born into this!

Who were your main influences growing up?

Ned: For me, it was a lot of stuff I saw coming out of New York. Graffiti writers had crossed over into the streetwear world with brands like ALIFE. And also it was where the whole graffiti and hip hop scene met the Ralph Lauren lifestyle thing. Also, the boys who run Trapstar have always been an inspiration to me in London as they always showed me love from young.

Milo: Growing up even before I started going out I remember seeing my dad with old Stussy and EVisu bits in his wardrobe and used to nick them from him! That was probably my first and main influence in this stuff as a kid. Also a couple of guys at my school a few years older were heavily into Polo. I always used to talk with them about it at school and ask them where they got it!

How would you best describe your style? 

Ned: I’ve always mixed it up style-wise so it’s hard to say exactly. One day I’m wearing a graphic vintage tee and some ripped jeans and the next day I’m wearing a Nike tracksuit. Just depends on what I’m doing that day and how I’m feeling I guess.

What does a normal day look like for you?

Ned: Recently a typical day for each of us will more than likely start with some exercise, a run or the gym. Then maybe meet someone to buy some new pieces for the shop. Followed by a few hours at the shop to make sure everything’s going smooth for the day! On the weekends it’s early mornings and lots of buying.

How has your year been so far?

Ned: This years is actually our 10th year in business as we started our market stall in 2012. Back then we didn’t have a big plan to be where we are today but for sure we have a plan now!

What's the biggest problem you've had to overcome so far?

Ned: It’s gotta be covid man! We struggled during all that shit. The main thing for us is to keep our physical shop open so that everyone can come through. We’re not interested in being another online vintage page. We’re working super hard still to get past all the pandemic issues just like loads of other businesses.

If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?

Milo: I think the industry can be pretty ruthless, and move quickly. It seems like people are becoming more and more fickle and watching what people do and criticise rather than actually creating cool stuff themselves. I think the way forward is to encourage people around you and support them rather than hold them back!

What is your dream goal/project?

Ned: Even at this stage in our journey we’ve already worked on a couple of dream projects but there’s a load more! I think the ones we would agree on for certain would be collaborating on a full collection with Ralph Lauren, North Face, Nike, Burberry or Stone Island. Hopefully, one day!

Milo: I think opening a few more stores around the globe would be great one day. It’s been amazing to see more and more different kinds of people wearing vintage over years!

How did you get linked with Patta?

Ned: I think the earliest link to Patta was when Gee and Edson used to come by our market stall on Berwick Street in Soho. And then they opened their London store, we got to know them even better. Since then we’ve built a strong bond with the Patta team in London and even a number of the Amsterdam team which has been amazing, you guys are like a huge family and it’s an inspiration!

What are your favourite parts about vintage clothing? 

Ned: It’s the history, all the stories behind all of the pieces. It links back to real-life situations and movements. Certain brands from the past had people forming tribes of young people, like look at the Lo-Life thing in NYC or look at football hooligans in the U.K. who wore Stone Island and Burberry. We’re always telling the younger customers about the past and they love it!

How important is collaboration to your process?

Ned: We have collaborated with some big brands on content projects like Ralph Lauren, Berghaus and Selfridges which has been sick. We’ve also worked on things with friends who have brands like The Lurkers, Round Two and more brands. It’s important for us to do both sides of things. The big brand stuff normally takes a bit more work and a lot of back and forth emailing / meetings etc but it’s normally worth it!

What was your style like growing up?

Ned: In the early years it was all about dressing like Roll Deep and all the other grime MCs so I would go to Shepherd’s Bush and Wembley to buy things like Akademiks, Lot 29 and other random bits from that era. Shoes wise it was pretty much always Nike with the odd Reebok or Adidas. Then after that wave I started wearing Ralph polos and North Face jackets and then got into Stone Island etc.

What is next for the Duke Cupboard camp?

Ned: There’s a few things in the pipeline at the moment. We have a collab with New Era coming out mid-late summer this year and in talks with a load of other people so keep your eyes peeled!

Milo: We’re currently working on a book to celebrate 10 years of Dukes and planning a party also!! So stay tuned for that.

What advice would you give to an aspiring young person in the same field?

Ned: I would say to work hard and not worry about what other sellers are doing too much. Make your own rules and go with them! We didn’t have a plan - we just kept doing it. Be prepared to work 7 days a week to make it actually happen so you don’t have to work another job alongside. Enjoy the journey and the process.

The Dukes Cupboard pop-up at Zeedijk 93, Amsterdam will take place April 29th - May 1st.

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