II have been playing and recording music since 2012. Working under my last name Boothroyd, I have gained a small, committed fan base through independent label releases and performing live. But in 2015, I decided to stop traveling after a main show at the Milton Keynes Gallery. I am a huge fan of the Beatles and, just as they stopped playing live in 1966, I did the same to concentrate on studio material. Also, it didn’t get a lot of reservations, it wasn’t exactly Boothroydmania.
Five years later, without yet having found my Sergeant Pepper, I was living alone in a trailer in Morecambe. One morning I received a message on Instagram: it was a photograph of the Argentine pop star Chule Von Wernich wearing a T-shirt with my name on the front and the poster for that final concert on the back.
A month passed and I received a text message from my mother: she had come across a photo of a woman on Facebook wearing a top with “Boothroyd” on the front and “Tri-Angle Records” underneath (a label that had released music). . It was definitely not official merchandise.
I did a reverse image search and found a South Korean ecommerce platform selling a collection of clothing with the Boothroyd logo on it. The presentation was elegant: there were models, professional photographs, even videos of people in T-shirts, hoodies, jeans and dresses that bore my name. Hundreds of buyers had left comments.
It was weird; I couldn’t understand how it got started or why it was so popular. I quickly realized that it had nothing to do with my dark electronic music: Boothroyd had somehow become a popular Korean clothing brand.
What started in South Korea soon reached Japan and China. I found a clip of Chinese TV presenters wearing matching Boothroyd jerseys. Using Facebook’s search engine, which has a text-in-image detection system, I began collecting photos of elegant East Asians with Boothroyd.
It felt more surreal when copies began to appear all over the world. Over the next several weeks I collected hundreds of images. Indians, Russians, Egyptians, Italians, Armenians and Argentines got on the train. I discovered a store in Buenos Aires that sold “Boothroyd Live in Milton Keynes” merchandise (it was probably there that Von Wernich had bought his).
The novelty of achieving near-global ubiquity finally faded and I began to wonder where all these things were made. Judging by the high quantities and low prices, this unofficial merchandise was probably not made ethically or sustainably. I received no response from e-commerce sites. Finally, I received a response from an eBay store specializing in Korean fashion. Not wanting to divulge trade secrets, he kept it vague, just telling me that he ordered directly from a factory in Guangdong, one of the largest garment manufacturing centers in China.
It didn’t want to be a brand synonymous with fast fashion and its long list of negative associations. He hated the idea that it was loosely connected to a possibly toxic supply chain.
She fantasized about entering the lucrative Korean fashion market with an eco-friendly alternative. If “Boothroyd” was no longer just my name, but a brand, I wanted it to mean something. I was going to try. He also needed the money, since he still lived in a caravan.
He needed to be in Seoul if he wanted to find the right local partner to help distribute and promote; my best option was eBay. I made 100 t-shirts with organic cotton and eco-friendly water-based inks. They sold quickly. I sent them in plastic-free packaging. I did another 200, again they were also. Clearly there was a demand.
Now I live in London, in a house. My brand is protected by copyright law and I have corresponded with the retailers in Seoul, and I plan to introduce the official Boothroyd team in the UK before other versions appear here. I intend to release music again, but right now I am fully occupied with this: my unexpected career as a fashion designer.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism