Making a name for itself with its creative designs, rock ‘n’ roll attitude and memorable fashion shows, Sneinton’s bespoke clothing company, One BC, has clothed some of the world’s legendary stars, from The Rolling Stones to Pamela Anderson. Ahead of the brand’s 25th anniversary, which takes place next month, we caught up with head designer and co-owner Tony Brack, his wife, co-owner and creative director Reeta Brack, and their two dogs Skull and Bindi, to hear more about the wild, and beautifully chaotic rollercoaster ride that has been the One BC journey so far…
One BC launched in its current guise in 1998 in the city’s creative Sneinton Market area. But its journey started long before that, back in 1979, where it started life as Olto, before becoming Brack Clothing and then eventually One BC.
Throughout these many years and guises they have rubbed shoulders with the stars who lapped up their unique designs. “The very first band we ended up doing stuff for was The Police but we also did stuff for The Rolling Stones,” Tony says. “Ronnie Wood was going to be doing this solo tour then, and The Rolling Stones’ office got in touch and said he wanted to meet me. So, I went down to London on the train and of course there were no mobile phones then, so I called from a phone box and it was him who answered the phone, and invited me to his house. He answered the door himself in carpet slippers, a cigarette in one hand and a Guinness in the other. Then we ended up in the pub.”
Tony adds, “Or, there was the time one of the Stones wanted to wear a shirt I was wearing, so I took it off, pressed it, sprayed it with a bit of aftershave and put it in a pizza box and gave it to him. We also did loads of stuff for Kid Rock, and then all of a sudden he became famous and he's got Versace throwing things at him.”
One BC’s stars and stripes shirts can be seen worn by Kid Rock in his Cowboy music video released in 1998. Other One BC highlights include being involved with Carlton Television’s first digital British television channel, where the One BC team took part in a lifestyle programme called Let’s Get Beautiful.
“It was just mad,” Reeta says. “We were only meant to do one section on the show on fashion, but the next thing we know, we’re being asked to do screen tests and to present the fashion slot. I think we did 26 programmes altogether. They filmed all the studio ones in one week, with five shows back-to-back a day, and it was so intense.”
Reeta adds, “It’s hard to think of the highlights without also thinking of our clothes shows we used to do too. Since Covid, we haven't actually done any which is a shame, but they were great. Each of our shows were always really exciting, with a whole range of people involved - a whole posse of people we call The Fugitives. This includes animators, rappers, photographers, lots of people who all got involved with the live music during the show, or hair, make-up, jewellery - the whole lot. And, they all embodied the One BC slogan which is ‘fugitives from the law of averages’. In short, it was all just about that frock and roll ethos.”
The progressive attitude of One BC has always run deep in their shows. “The funniest one we ever did was when the city was doing Nottingham Fashion Week and they’d pretty much excluded all the independents,” Tony adds. “We'd been involved in several prior to that one, but it was all the likes of River Island, Topshop etc. So we actually did a protest fashion show and we got other independent brands involved. We all met down here at the studio and we did a parade through town in front of the big screens at Market Square which were showing the fashion shows, with the big high street brands. Our motley crew paraded through the city, through Trinity Square, and then back through the Victoria Centre.”
Today, the eye-catching One BC studio can be found in Sneinton Market with its one-of-a-kind designs clearly visible through the fully glass-fronted store. It focuses on top-quality bespoke garments, using fabrics sourced in the UK. Clients are able to commission them to make anything from custom-made wedding dresses, tailored suits, band attire, dog clothes, superhero costumes, and more.
It’s all about actually making their ideal, real. It's making their desires come to life. Whether that's the whole silhouette, the cloth, the style
“I think in terms of highlights, because it's personal to the client, each thing we make has got its highlights,” Tony says. “We've done stuff for seriously famous people, but doing it for somebody who's just down the road or for a local band is just as exciting.”
Working directly with clients is something both Reeta and Tony see as a bonus of their job. “It's always just really positive because everything we do is all about them,” says Reeta. “It’s all about actually making their ideal, real. It's making their desires come to life. Whether that's the whole silhouette, the cloth, the style - we do all that side of it. All the fabric and cloth that we use, it's always been really important to us that it's top quality British heritage too.”
The bespoke process involves the client creating visuals with a Pinterest board or something similar, which is then used to help get a better idea of what design the client has in mind before measurements are taken and discussions about cloth and colour choice are held. A toile of the garment is then created in calico so the client can see what the fit will be like before the full garment is created.
Reeta describes the whole experience as pure fun, for both them and the client. “Clients come in, and they can see the fit straight away and they’re so happy. They're always like, ‘Wow, I didn't realise I could look this good in a dress’, for instance,” she explains. “We cater for all sizes and shapes too, and rather than trying to fit into a garment, the garment fits them, so it’s a completely different experience to the high street experience for all our customers.”
For those looking for a more ready-made piece, people are also able to shop from a small collection of one-off pieces from the studio showroom.
Reeta adds: “We don't actually have a whole full collection. It's a load of creative, one-off pieces in the showroom as you walk into the studio which people can buy, but it’s essentially a showcase of some of our cloth and design details. Everything you see in there is to fit mannequins, so it's one size, but if anyone wants one, we then take their measurements. Or, if they see something in there such as another detail, it could be that we create a mashup piece for them, and then it's a fully unique outfit for them.”
With the birth of ‘slow fashion’ and discussions about fast fashion’s impact on the world now a hot topic that is widely discussed, it’s interesting to hear how a more considered ethos has been ingrained into the fabric of One BC, long before such conversations became in vogue.
The brand has an ongoing sustainability project called The Rejeaneration Project which encourages people to donate their preloved denim to be upcycled. According to Oxfam, research has revealed that the emissions produced from the manufacture of jeans in the UK is the equivalent of flying a plane around the world 2,372 times, or driving 21 billion miles in a petrol car. To help offset this, One BC turns old denim pieces into guitars, sculptures, dresses, suits, hats and more, with people able to also bring in old vintage pieces from loved ones, and the One BC team will breathe new life into them.
We had one customer bring in her late husband’s jeans which we made into a jacket for her. She said when she wears it she just feels as if she’s wearing a hug from him
“We had one customer bring in her late husband’s jeans which we made into a jacket for her,” says Reeta. “She said when she wears it she just feels as if she’s wearing a hug from him. And it’s those markings and memories too, we kept all the worn bits - it’s all storytelling.”
In terms of making use of fabric, nothing goes to waste. “It’s always been about trying to find new ways of utilising things,” says Tony. “For me, I started years ago by using recycled saris for shirts, but we’re always very frugal with stuff as well. One of our jackets in the showroom for example, is made out of all the edges of the bits of the fabric that I've saved over the years.”
“What we do isn't fashion,” he adds. “It's not about a fashion show, or a fashion store. We don't consciously follow trends. It's obviously an instinctive thing that goes on if you’re involved in clothing, but what's the point in us doing what everybody else is doing? That’s why the high street has killed a lot of great brands, and now the high street's killing itself too.”
In terms of what the next 25 years hold for One BC, it’s clear Reeta and Tony aren’t done yet. “I'd like to have a mini capsule collection of one-off pieces online, but I've just been trying to find manufacturers to do this,” says Reeta. “It’s been a challenge since all the manufacturing went abroad way back when, which meant the whole skillset was lost, but it's slowly coming back, which is great.”
“To be honest, our showroom is full of bits that we would like to do, and fortunately, or unfortunately, we've got so much commission work in, that we don't get enough time to get that as stocked as we would like,” Tony adds. “We've got more boxes of good intentions that are getting ever bigger, but I’d like to set some time aside to build on that. I think it's just about finding more fun and keeping it interesting for us and challenging.
“I still learn something new pretty much every week. It is living on the edge, but that's kind of healthy. In theory I should be retired sitting in the garden or out fishing or something like that, but there's always something more to do, which is why I'm still doing it.”
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