Peggs & Son has always been a favourite stop off on the odd weekend bowl or mooch up round Brighton town centre, there’s a distinction between the two which depends on how much purpose you’ve got in your stride. A visit to Peggs can depend on how much of the paper sheets in my oyster cardholder for a wallet is the queens and how much is receipts from the night previous. Being a student it’s often about scraping the best out of bare barrel and Peggs is as precarious as it is assured, because you are guaranteed to run out of fingers when totting up the coats that catch your eye. I’ve got a thing about jackets ask my mum who rolls her eyes when she sees another one walk through the door, or the coat hooks that have said no more under clinging hoods. Since moving to new premises a game of curby away from the old Minky, a browse around Peggs & Son is the most pleasurable type of danger I have ever met.
COVENTRY TO BRIGHTON VIA THE HACIENDA
Ian Peggs the shops owner grew up in the middle of England in Coventry. He paints us a picture he’s good at that, ‘it was quite hardcore, Ghost Town by The Specials, too much fighting on the dance floor, all that sort of thing, you know what I mean?’ Sounds just like I imagined it might. I’ve only been to Coventry once, I ask Ian if he knows a venue I went to that night called the Coliseum but it was a bit after his time. He didn’t really hang about. ‘I was fucking out of there as soon as I was 18 and I had 50 quid in my pocket, gone.’
A few of Ian pals were a bit older so they had motors to hitch in and go for away days to explore what lies at either end of motorways. Ian was in his mid teens in the late 80s and because there was no Internet or ‘instant access to knowledge’ as he puts it, they had to go get gone and see what was beyond the outskirts for themselves, ‘it was a lot more organic.’ One of the places they discovered was The Hacienda in Manchester where Graeme Park was resident. ‘As the legend has it, dirty old place full of fucking Mancunion gangsters selling brilliant pills.’ The other place they would go is Brighton by the sea, spending late nights and early mornings in The Escape (which is now Audio) and The Zap (now Digital), before kipping in their cars under the arches on Madeira Drive. ‘They were big clubs man they were like, super hip especially with that out break of the dance scene, acid house and that sort of shit.’
In August 97 after a stint at Uni studying academic philosophy Ian was at a bit of a loose end and Brighton was, ‘one of those places that sticks in your head.’ So he came down with one bag of clothes, 50 quid in his pocket ditched the motors and kipped on his mate’s floor in Portslade. He got a job in a warehouse where he, ‘earned enough money to get a suit, got the suit and started to get some more suity style jobs.’ He ended up working for an American firm in Crawley earning some half decent money and rented a £30 room on Preston Street, before buying a little two up two down in the North Laines. This was back in 98 when you didn’t need the sort of sums you need now.
Ian always loved clothes and growing up and out of Coventry in the air of the early casual scene left a lasting impression on him, ‘We were poor growing up we really didn’t have fuck all, I went out to earn money when I was 11 cause I really wanted fucking clothes, I wanted that shit. I remember going to school we’re talking a Coventry comprehensive, not the most delightful place in the world, in a second hand girl’s coat. You fucking learn how to take a beating you know?’
Although Ian was only young when the casual movement was in full swing, when you ask him about the brands back in the mid 80s he reels them off the tongue like it was yesterday, ‘I remember saving up and going out and buying my first pair of Farahs with the hop sack slip in the side, and there was some great stuff back then, labels like Liberto, Verte Vallee, Classic Nouveaux by Fiorucci, Chipie and Chervignon.’
It’s clear that labels and the intricacy that makes each one unique have always caught Ian’s eye. I can imagine him clocking the shoes that were kicking his second hand girl’s coat and being like, fair play. He took the positives out of Coventry and now he’s got some of the best clothes in the world.
Ian started to hang out with a Brighton Brummie called Gary Gilmore who used to own the shop Jell-o, which still resides in the same place on Gardiner Street. Ian describes Gary as a Charles Bukowski type character, who lived enough for 3 people, ‘There’s a lot of old heads in Brighton that will remember that boy.’ Crucially Gary had a stylish eye in fact he had at least two. ‘He was the first person to buy Maharishi back in the early 90s way before Hardy became the millionaire that he is now. The first person I saw rocking original Japanese Evisu raw denims.’
This was the key to the exciting as lightening is, future that Ian has carved out today, in other words his calling came. They talked about going into partnership before Gary asked Ian to buy him out, but he wasn’t the most reliable type to put it politely, and he ended up selling it to someone else. This would prove to be one of those nice dressed up blessings. Ian had learnt a great deal just by watching what went on in the shop and had taken up buying duties a few times when Gary wasn’t around. He came to the realization that he could try his own hand and got himself a little shop on a little lease in Sidney Street, ‘My first shop fit, god dam it from literally getting the keys and opening the door to this shit hole of a place to turning it into a shop; hangers, till, fittings, paint on the walls everything, I spent about 480 quid, begged and borrowed for some stock and that was it we were off.’
The shop was originally called Minky and the mainline was women’s wear. Ian was in Sydney Street for nearly 7 years, gradually he got better at what he did and the labels got better. His business partner went her own way when he moved to Ship Street in 07 and menswear was obviously more Ian’s thing so that is the direction it was always going to lead.
A SHIP SHAPE SHOP FLYING THE FLAG FOR QUALITY
Now Ian has moved over the Road he has considerably upped the stakes. Nothing less than the top notch of a master carpenter outfitted the new shop and with two baby boys on the scene the beautiful Peggs and Son is well and truly born. He has taken on board what shops like Oi Polloi have done online and they are now on a national stage. The difference between Peggs and new stores that open up on the block and sell the same 5 or so brands, is the handpicked feel of the carefully considered collections that Ian stocks, first and foremost it’s for his love of the product as it always has been. He has stocked the British brands 6876 and YMC since dot.
‘He’s a genius. I’m probably not clever enough to work out what makes it so good but just all my instincts scream at me. And he’s and interesting cat, he’ll talk your ear off for hours if you let him, funnily enough he’s just been made creative director of Fred Perry which I think is majorly interesting, because it’s a brand that I’ve always been quite ambivalent about. We’ve done some of their blank canvas stuff when they collaborated with Comme and that was nice enough but I’ve booked in to go and see him just because if he’s [Kenneth Mackenzie] doing it I'm going to have a look.’
Both Peggs and the stock in store emphatically succeed in borrowing from the past whilst pushing things forward with a renewed vigor. The wooden bushel boxes once full of clinking bottles or apples from the fallen orchard spill some of the finest leather soles and denim legs you will forever find this side of menswear heaven. The custom made oak tables, antique carts and cubbyholes reflect the tradition and craftsmanship of the labels that align the rails. ‘I like stuff where you can really just quite obviously see the quality. Which I guess is why the Cabourn stuff is so good, I mean you look at one of the parkas or the Camerman’s they’re a lot of dough but they’re fucking ace.’
Ian is passionate about what he does and it shows. It’s not about the fashion race it’s about an appreciation that he has had for style since he was a boy. From the Fila bj’s and Diadora Borg’s of the early casual scene to the long hair and sequined flares worn and torn during the outbreak of acid house. By the time he met Gary Gilmore there was only one thing that he was going to do. Between Ian’s comments about Kenneth Mackenzie there is at least 3 things that are also true about him, one thing’s for sure Brighton has got a quality store right on its step and if he’s selling it I’m going to have look.