To typify London’s the stock of Sign of the Times store as rave gear would be a gross oversimplification. Having opened up as a stall in Camden in 1986, before moving to Kensington Market, Fiona Cartledge’s business/passion project was the summary of a young life spent participating in multiple scenes. The moment it signposted was the dawn of dance music as big business, with house’s DIY boom, the early signs of riot grrrl, dressed the discerning side of British indie music when Creation popped off, while heralding the high-end meeting with club and street gear that spawned spots like Pineal Eye and Kokon To Zai and the ensuing world that allowed creative powerhouses like Kim Jones and Nicola Formichetti to help alter popular culture.
With a spot in Hyper Hyper in 1992 and a Covent Garden store that opened shortly afterwards, celebrities wore the gear (and, alongside Utopia in its Peckham days, Slam and M-Zone, SOTT was an early Stüssy stockist) and we provincial types, saw the bootlegs at our local markets. The Covent Garden space closed in 1996, but the seeds were sown. I still wish I owned one of their yin-yang knitted hoodies. With the likes of Jeremy Deller as staffers, the visual identity of SOTT was as bold (Paul Shobbrook’s art is particularly distinctive) as its music connections. This tribe’s — just one of few who were making colossal moves in London during that period — worldview is visible in your Instagram feed right now.
Fortunately, there’s a newly-released book on the store and its connected club nights via Wild Life Press. It costs 30 quid and is limited to 250 copies — flyer art, models, lots of 90’s style, plus glam on glam makes up much of the contents, but the multiple interviews shed a lot of light on the spirit of the era.