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Nellie Eden | Debrief Contributor | Friday, 14 July 2017

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Walking In Her Shoes: Rhiannon Barry

The Debrief: 'I used to buy pieces for going out - now it’s for Instagram.'

'My shoes were Gucci loafers. I had a Lacoste pin on my red l jumper and I wore a crisp white shirt with a Burberry print collar everyday- to school. I have no idea how I afforded it!'

It's not everybody that can say their first pair of school shoes were Gucci loafers but then Rhiannon Barry wasn't your normal teenager. Since bagging her first pair of Moschino print jeans aged 11, the Abbey Wood native’s obsession with buying and selling classic designer streetwear has blossomed from a hobby into a full time career. When Rhiannon’s brother, Andres, founded the Wavey Garms Facebook page in 2013, he had no grander intentions than establishing an alternative platform for people to buy and exchange clothes inspired by the late 90s and early noughties UK rave scene. Neither could have anticipated what happened next. The page now was a solid 80k followers, has fostered an army of 'Wavy Garms kids' and the duo have even released a photography book this year that’s an ode to the UK music scene that the Wavy Garms uniform is so integral to.

Rihannon's huge Moschino and Versace-heavy archive, that's updated daily, is now partially on display at the sister and brother’s Peckham Rye, Wavy Garms store. The shop is now something of a Mecca for those seeking out rare off-key looks, or much feted streetwear; from brand new Supreme and Palace to vintage Lacoste and Dior, it's a treasure trove that's worth a trip down from Scotland for some.

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When we meet it’s in Rhiannon’s natural habitat- a sunny pub garden in New Cross. As always she’s implacably dressed. A mannish navy pinstripe blazer, a red slip dress and mules, her tattoos on show. We talk tooth gems before settling down for a natter. 'My auntie Jackie was my babysitter, and my cousins, Nicky and Marc, were 18 at the time. They were really into drum and bass and garage. Nicky’s girlfriend Khan, would always be dripping in Moschino and she gave me my first hand-me-down.' Rhiannon is tracing her long-standing passion for a rare piece of Moschino. 'They were wearing it all to rave in.  Wavy Garms is still about honouring the UK music scene of that late nineties and early thousands era. All the music we post on the Facebook page is garage, grime, jungle- that’s where the looks come from.' She remembers the first piece she bought for herself well: 'I bought a pair of Moschino jeans for my twelfth birthday and there’s a picture of me in a limo wearing them on the Wavey page,' she beams.

Once of age (ish) it was through raving that Rihannon became known for her love for a full off-key Moschino look (rare, matching, printed, two-pieces, favoured by rave-goers in the late 90s). 'When I started going out in East London around 2009, to Dubstep raves' she cringes, 'people weren’t really wearing it. Indie was “in” but my Essex mates, who were into house, were always asking me where I’d got my pieces from so I started to sell bits on a Facebook page called “Allow The Bootsale” that was mostly flogging Misguided dresses.'

It was this recognition for always championing the old-school UKG uniform that got Rhiannon seriously into collecting. 'MCs like D Double E, would come up to you and say “Oh my days I can’t believe you’re wearing Moschino!” in the middle of a dance floor.' Soon Rhiannon was 'addicted' to eBay and on her days off from working as a Visual Merchandiser, her time was spent scouring charity shops, carboots and the web.

'Because no one was heavy into that stuff then, I was able to buy the rarest Moschino shirt for £2 off eBay.' Things suddenly became a little more formalised after a serendipitous meet with a guy called 'Seth who owned a shop on Redchurch Street called Zone 7' where he sold a small amount of off-key Moschino and let Rhiannon do the same. Then in 2012, before any of us, Rihannon started to use Instagram as a way of showcasing her archive and loaning it, under the handle Ninety Fly. It’s a side business Rihannon still keeps going, having loaned to the likes of MIA (a full Moschino Alphabet-print three-piece outfit FYI) and sold to Chase and Status’ Saul.

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Finally, in 2012, Andres established the Wavey Garms Facebook page. 'In a year it had 150k followers. It was all an accident really.' Andreas enlisted Rhiannon to manage the ladies page, that was getting a little flooded by high street body con numbers. 'I had to post rules about what could be sold and what happened was, we ended up setting a standard and cementing what we call the “Wavey Garms Kids’” look. You can spot the uniform a mile off now. It’s like a cult: Air Max 97s, Moschino printed jeans and a puffer jacket.' 

The Wavey Garms kids can now congregate at the Wavey Garms store on Rye Lane, spitting distance from where the look-a-like siblings grew up. 'We had no plans to open a shop. Andres was playing a jungle show at the Balamii radio space in Haldron’s arcade and casually expressed an interest in any shop spaces might come up. A week later he got a call- they wanted next to nothing for the rent…so I packed in my job at adidas and we opened the shop.'

So how does it feel now to see all their hard work come to life? 'It’s a mad feeling. Seeing these clothes being embraced a third time round. I used to buy pieces for going out - now it’s for Instagram' Rhiannon explains. 'I see kids coming into the shop and they’re 17 dripping in Moschino and they’re so nervous they can’t even make eye contact. Some kids come into the arcade head to toe, Moschino, and they’ll walk past the shop. Beyond our shop there’s just vegan cafe. It’s like, “you really going to the vegan cafe mate?”'

The siblings are clearly residing over something very special, even if their modesty prevents them from verbalising that. 'When we did a pop-up in Box Park, we threw a party for the launch, and kids actually came down from Scotland.' The shop has become a focal point of the high-street and has a constant flow of regulars, locals and first-timers. 'It’s community vibes at the arcade, you’ve got 16 year old graffers from Peckham, you’ve got Andreas’ mates, the local kids-everything goes.'

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The kids no doubt travel the distance to get in on the Wavey Garms community, and it’s a look and a lifestyle Rhiannon has lived and continues to shape. I ask her how it feels to have had her career and personal life collide in such a way. 'The shop means I now have an excuse to buy more! We went to Italy recently and we bought 500 pieces. I’ve moved home and two rooms at my mum’s are filled with clothes. I do get sick of clothes. I spend my life at the dry cleaners, the post office, at the ironing board and travelling back and forth from the shop.' She does however still find time to maintain her own personal collections: 'Versace sunglasses are my thing. I have about 22 pairs. Some are worth over £600.'

Really though, Rhiannon’s personal style is markedly unpretentious. It’s largely, and proudly, made up of pieces from charity shops and the carboot. She tells me you wouldn’t catch her 'dead in a full off-key look anymore! I cringe when I think about it! I’m too old now.' She’s 26. There are some things however that have remained consistent. Her tattoo collection grows steadily with large contributions from her great friend Diana Baraka and she’s still got a soft spot for Gucci loafers. 'I’d still wear one off-key piece- I just mix it up now.'

Rhiannon tells me she’s forever educating herself on the nuances of the scene, even if, by most, she’d be considered expert. 'I always knew which prints to look for because I recalled them from when I was a teenager and I still buy archive books and magazines.' What’s she collecting now? 'The whole Dior rasta collection.'

The next chapter for Wavey Garms is opening what is no doubt a long-awaited online store and- another trip back to Italy. For now Andres and Rhiannon are pretty much single-handedly running the business. As more and more offers come through their door, the pair vow to keep Wavey Garms true to itself. I ask her if she ever dresses differently for different parts of her job, like- meetings with brands, 'absolutely not. We’re the most down to earth, unprofessional, what-you-see-is-what-you-get people' she tells me with a broad smile - tooth gem glinting in the sun.

Shop Rhiannon's dress here and her trainers here, both from adidas. Plus, shop the full Campus range here.

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