Peter Boothroyd was living alone in a caravan when he discovered he had accidentally sparked a global fashion brand.
To say the musician, from Bury, was bemused would be an understatement. Working under his name Boothroyd, Peter has been recording and playing music since 2012.
Although he has achieved modest success, he has never produced any official merch. So when he saw pictures of people wearing clothes with his name emblazoned across them, he was stunned.
The images, which he found littered across Facebook, showed people in countries such as South Korea, India and Argentina donning items of clothing with ‘Boothroyd’ across the front and ‘Tri-Angle’ records – a label Peter has released music with – underneath .
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“It’s so bizarre,” said Peter, aged 29. “I was completely isolated and living in a caravan whereas a lot of the people wearing this stuff seemed to be having a great time and living a better life than me. I don’t know how it started but it’s just continued to spread.
“I haven’t made any money from it at all but I just kept finding it funny and laughing. It’s so popular and they have no idea who I am.”
After leaving Bury for London almost a decade ago, Peter began recording “obscure electronic music”. He released a debut album “Idle Hours” in 2014 which led to him playing shows across the UK and Europe.
When the pandemic began in early 2020, Peter moved from London to Morecambe where he lived in a caravan while working on new music.
One day, I received a message on Instagram out of the blue. It showed an Argentinian pop star wearing a t-shirt bearing his artist logo. Although confused, he said he initially found it amusing.
He explained: “I was aware I had some fans in South America, a Chilean radio station recently aired a feature on my last album, which didn’t change my life, and I’d get the odd email from a Bolivian hipster asking me to listen to their tracks.My music was selling in places like Japan but I’ve never thought in terms of brand.I’d made a logo in Helvetica font in lower case and never made any merch.
“That’s the way the world’s gone now though. We are globalized, things spread online. When you release music you never know where it might travel or who it might connect with.”
After discovering more images of people wearing similar items of clothing bearing his name, Peter looked into it further. He worked out that the clothing had originated in South Korea before seemingly spreading to other countries.
I have explained. “Using Facebook’s search engine which uses a text in image detection system, I began collecting photos of stylish East Asians wearing Boothroyd. New ones were appearing every day.
“Although its logotype may be relatively uninspiring in and of itself, the Boothroyd brand had nailed global ubiquity without trying. Over the last year I have gathered over one thousand images. People from every continent were on the Boothroyd bandwagon, with different editions and styles in each region.”
Peter doesn’t believe those wearing the clothing know who he is, which has made the brand’s success all the more surreal. However, he quickly began to question how the clothes were being manufactured.
“Judging by the high quantities and low prices, it was obvious some of this unofficial Boothroyd merchandise appears not ethically or sustainably made,” he explained.
“I had no problem with accidentally becoming a global fashion brand but as someone much more ethically conscious and environmentally aware than I was years ago, I did not want to be a brand synonymous with fast fashion and its long list of negatives. I didn’ t like the idea of my music being at the beginning of a toxic supply chain.”
After emailing some of the websites selling Boothroyd merchandise and receiving no response, Peter eventually found an answer from a store selling Boothroyd shirts.
He said: “They wouldn’t divulge any trade secrets so kept it vague and told me they ordered directly from a factory in Guangdong, one of China’s large garment manufacturing hubs, plagued by poor working conditions.
“I fantasized about taking back my brand and entering the lucrative Korean fashion market with an ‘official’ eco-friendly alternative. I needed the money at the time, I lived in a caravan but more importantly it would give the eco-conscious consumer an option.”
Using organic cotton and eco-friendly inks, Peter had 100 Boothroyd t-shirts made which he then put up for sale online, targeting the Korean market. When they sold out, another 200 were made. They disappeared just as quickly. Yet copies continued to appear across the globe, some of which a misspelling of the word Boothroyd.
“There was nothing I could do,” he said. “I couldn’t control what was happening in some little shop in Buenos Aires or some street market in Delhi.
“There’s still new counterfeit variations appearing. Some of them have proper professional photography. There’s a lot of it in Italy now but it doesn’t seem to have spread to the UK or America.”
Peter has since managed to trademark the brand in the UK and plans to introduce official Boothroyd gear here in the near future.