Diving Into the Past and Present of GForce, the Nottingham-Based Fashion Brand Regarded as the ‘Forefathers of the UK Streetwear Scene’

Photos: Curtis Powell
Interview: Addie Kenogbon
Wednesday 16 November 2022
reading time: min, words

If you were knocking round Nottingham in the eighties and nineties, you may have been familiar with GForce, an eye-catching shop nestled in the heart of Hockley. Behind its iron door made of sculpted shapes and forgotten objects was a shop that many have regarded as one of the forefathers of the UK streetwear scene, with fans including Eric Cantona and Cher. We catch up with founder Robin Kerr to find out more about the iconic GForce years…


It’s clear GForce was really special, but can you tell us how it all began?
I studied fashion at Nottingham Trent University and by my second year, I was making and selling things mainly to support the course but also because I enjoyed it. I remember there was a vintage stitch shop opposite the uni and they had these chenille curtains hanging up. I said to the girl, “I think I could make something out of them, what do you reckon?” And she told me they don’t sell them so I could take a couple and see what I could do with them. 

I made them into fitted jackets with a big collar and took them back to the store where she hung them up and sold them. From there it became something I did regularly with any chenille curtains they got in. 

Can you tell us more about the brand’s journey?
At our height, we had a factory in the Lace Market that employed in the region of twelve people. We had stores in London, Nottingham, Paris and Brussels, so it was quite big. We probably produced around 500 garments a week which we sold across Europe and Japan -  which was our biggest market in the late eighties. Back then, we sold everything in the store as well - whatever we made was sold. So we didn‘t actually buy anything in, it was all produced.

What was your reason for closing the store?
We closed our Nottingham store in 2006 when it became really difficult to trade. We would have had to produce in the Far East to be competitive, and labour and manufacturing costs were getting really high, which is why all our competitors ended up producing in China. However, part of the philosophy of the brand was to produce in the UK. Sadly, though, that just wasn’t viable anymore as the prices would have had to be too high. We didn’t want to be selling really expensive clothes as that wasn’t what we were about.

There was an image of Cher wearing one of our knitted jackets in the Mail on Sunday. Stereo MC's would wear our stuff constantly. You’d often see somebody wearing GForce on TV

For those who aren’t familiar with GForce, how would you describe the style?
It’s quite difficult to explain, but I would say it was one of the style forerunners of what is classified as streetwear today. So, a lot of denim and a lot of oversized garments. The style was built to last - heavy duty stitching, mainly British fabrics, often industrial fabrics. It was quite a strong look.

Can you tell us more about how Eric Cantona got his hands on some GForce pieces?
We sold to a store in Manchester and he was playing for Manchester United at the time. He must’ve gone into the store and bought it as we certainly didn’t give it to him. And then he just appeared wearing it on that day when he kicked somebody. It was amazing as we were doing kids’ versions of the jacket at the same time, so I remember making a tiny version for a three-year-old and sending it to him as I knew he had a kid.

Were there any other big names that wore the brand?
The problem is, it was all pre-digital so you just don’t have copies, but there was an image of Cher wearing one of our knitted jackets in the Mail on Sunday. Stereo MC's, who were big in the nineties, used to buy and wear our stuff constantly. You’d often see somebody wearing our stuff on TV - in fact, I still see people wearing them, particularly the knitted jackets as I think they last the longest. And when I go to Paris or Japan even today, I see people on the street wearing GForce, which is incredible. 

When I go to Paris or Japan even today, I see people on the street wearing GForce, which is incredible

How would you say GForce compares to the trends there are now? 
I think the reason it’s so wearable now is because the silhouettes and shapes are right. The types of fabric, the detail, the construction - it all falls into place with what is quite contemporary at the moment. But even ten years ago, you still could have worn them. They are timeless. My two daughters have raided my archive completely. One of them, in particular, just wears GForce constantly.

Does it tempt you to relaunch the business seeing how much interest the brand is still getting? 
Yes, on a very small scale, but I wouldn’t want to go back to when it became so big, due to the responsibility and problems associated with that. I’ve always said that at some point I’m going to start remaking some of the retrospective pieces from the archive, and each year I put it off. But now I’m doing it and I’m quite happy making things myself rather than employing people to do it. For example, I’m working my way through some more jackets and I’m actually designing them and knitting them myself. I'll knit it, wash it and sew it together - I’ve done the whole process. I don’t want to get into the whole production side as it changes the nature of it. That means there’s a limit to what I can make, obviously. So, instead the pieces I make just become one-offs. 

That must be really special then, as it’s like each piece is a unique piece of history.
Absolutely! All the knitted jackets have a number in the collar which says which jacket within the range it is - and there is a limited edition of ten of each of those, which means they’re really special. I’m working my way through three styles at the minute, so there’ll be thirty in total.


We have a favour to ask

LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?

Support LeftLion

Please note, we migrated all recently used accounts to the new site, but you will need to request a password reset

Sign in using

Or using your

Forgot password?

Register an account

Password must be at least 8 characters long, have 1 uppercase, 1 lowercase, 1 number and 1 special character.

Forgotten your password?

Reset your password?

Password must be at least 8 characters long, have 1 uppercase, 1 lowercase, 1 number and 1 special character.