Founded in the summer of l980, Fashion Records has been a rare success amongst UK-based reggae labels, and was one of only a very few British reggae labels to release records that were produced in their own recording studio. The label was the brainchild of John MacGillivray and Chris Lane, two reggae devotees, and was essentially a spin-off from MacGillivray's Dub Vendor record store. The first Fashion release hit number 1 in the UK reggae charts in the summer of 1980 - Dee Sharp's 'Let's Dub It Up' provided a benchmark for British reggae and set a standard that Fashion always lived up to: fine, classy harmonies, punchy rhythms, bright arrangements and above all else, strong songs. In the next few years a veritable who's who of British and Jamaican reggae turned up on the label: Keith Douglas, Carlton Manning (of Carlton & His Shoes), Alton Ellis, Al Campbell, Horace Andy and Johnnie Clarke among others.
In 1982 Fashion opened a four-track studio, essentially an expansion of Lane’s A-Class dub-cutting facility, in the basement of the new Dub Vendor shop in Clapham Junction. By this time the UK MC explosion had begun, and Fashion were at the centre of it with Papa Face, Laurel & Hardy, Pato Banton, Bionic Rhona, Macka B, Smiley Culture and Asher Senator. The dub-cutting service saw Paul Robinson (of One Blood) and Maxi Priest as regulars at the tiny subterranean studio and Robinson soon enjoyed hits with the label as 'Barry Boom', while Chris Lane played guitars and percussion with Maxi & Paul's legendary 'Caution' band, contributing to (and engineering much of) Maxi's debut album 'You're Safe'.
Smiley Culture & Asher Senator
Chirpy, fast talking MC Smiley Culture had one of the biggest reggae hits of 1984 on Fashion with 'Cockney Translation', but bettered it when 'Police Officer' went to number twelve in the national charts, and appeared on Top Of The Pops. Their connection with the UK MC boom made the step into ragga and dance-hall in the mid 80's a natural one, and the studio was busy enough to employ Gussie P and later Frenchie as engineers – both went on to be producers with their own labels, Sip-A-Cup and Maximum Sound respectively. Meanwhile Fashion was also cutting Lovers Rock hits with Michael Gordon and the under-rated Nerious Joseph, often coming out on another imprint, Fine Style. Two female acts were recruited, Janet Lee Davis and Winsome, whose 'Am I The Same Girl' and 'Born Free' proved themselves classics of their type.
Junior Delgado Winsome
Fashion also continued to work with a variety of top Jamaican acts, including Junior Delgado, Joseph Cotton, Leroy Gibbons, Frankie Paul and Glen Brown, as well as top session musicians such as Angus and Tony from Aswad, the legendary Jackie Mittoo, and even Augustus Pablo. In 1988 the label opened the new A-Class Studio, a sixteen-track facility in Forest Hill, South East London, and also began to lay tracks at Penthouse Studios in Jamaica, voicing and mixing them back in London. More reggae chart hits followed, with Janet Lee Davis’ 'Two Timing Lover' and Cutty Ranks' 'The Stopper' both hitting number 1. A second pop chart triumph - Louchie Lou & Michie One's inspired ragga cover of the lsley Brothers’ 'Shout' - further established the label's reputation, although it was 'Rich Girl' that hit in the US, its progress only curtailed by difficulties with the original publishers. Of course, this was the tune that provided the template for Gwen Stefani's worldwide hit some ten years later.......
Cutty Ranks also had phenomenal success in the States with 'Limb By Limb', possibly the most sampled and remixed tune in the entire Fashion catalogue, and the rise of General Levy - arguably the most accomplished UK ragga rapper to date - proved that Fashion stood virtually alone in British reggae as an entity capable of working with all of the modern strands of the music.
General Levy Janet Lee Davis
Throughout the nineties Fashion maintained its position as the premier British reggae production team, with frequent top placings in the UK reggae chart and a string of successful releases in Jamaica (and the US) with artists such as Peter Hunnigale, Sanchez, General Degree, and Janet Lee Davis. They also had the dubious pleasure of being the most 'sampled' reggae label during the Jungle era (which inspired the creation of a new label dedicated to Fashion’s own Jungle mixes), and supplied the vocals to the UK Garage hit 'Rip Groove' (Double 99 featuring Top Cat).
The studio was also busy with production projects for other companies and amongst other artists who had the 'Fashion treatment' were Michie One & Louchie Lou ('The Crickets Sing For Ana Maria'), Sayoko ('Sistren' with Michie One & Louchie Lou), and Phillip Leo ('Summer Girl’ with Glamma Kid). In early 1997 the A-Class Studio was again relocated and completely rebuilt, and the label was soon busy again working on new singles and albums with Janet Lee Davis, Starky Banton, Alton Ellis, The Dub Organiser, Neville Morrison, Ras Harry Chapman, Mykal Roze, & Sandeeno, amongst others. Fashion ceased recording operations in 2000, and no new projects have been undertaken since then, however the catalogue will be digitally relaunched in March 2012 and will be made available through Believe Digital. A new compilation album - 20 Significant Hits - will be the first of ten classic albums to be released, with the rest of the catalogue - including previously unreleased material - to follow in the coming year.