The Modfather Clothing Company is a London institution that has been dressing and styling it’s customers since it first opened its doors in Camden back in 2012.
It is a father and son business run by Mario and Daniel Warner. The project was born out of a lifelong passion for Italian Scooters and British Subcultural Style. And it has worked! Their attention to detail and customer service has attracted “Mods, Skinheads, Casuals and Rudeboys” from all over, and they keep coming.
A visit to Modfather will always in our experience combine a superb soundtrack with an wardrobe upgrade , you never leave empty handed !
Merc is just one of the heritage brands that can be found in store and we are very proud of the superb working relationship we have with a company that shows a love for Heritage clothing , dressing sharp. It proves British Subculture is alive and kicking !
This is further enhanced by the fact that despite a worldwide pandemic, 2020 also saw the Modfather open its second shop , this time in the spiritual home of Mod, Brighton !
Merc caught up with Daniel who runs the Brighton store to find a little bit more about the Modfather ethic and history and his opinions on why “this thing of ours” is very much alive and going from strength to strength .......
Modfather has become one of the places to go if you love your Heritage brands, how did the Store first come about ?
Modfather started out nine years ago. My Dad had classic scooters & growing up I remember gravitating towards the music, clothes and lifestyle that seemed to go hand in hand with that.
Dad had worked in the record industry for over 35 years, but due to downloads and music streaming services, his industry was changing rapidly and he wanted out.
I was working as a personal trainer in Marylebone & also wanted to change direction and so I handed over my savings and Dad matched what I had.
It’s a long story, but basically we managed to get hold of the rights to design, manufacture and sell official Lambretta cafe racer helmets and so we started a company called Heritage Helmets, while at the same time registering Modfather Clothing, so we sold classic scooter helmets, goggles and gloves alongside classic subcultural clothing.
We opened a small single unit shop in Camden Market with no previous fashion retail experience and thought we’d fill the place with our shared passions. Raleigh Choppers on the wall, classic Carry On Movie posters and scooter memorabilia, a playlist that included classic 60’s sounds, R’n’B, Northern Soul and Jazz, but also roots reggae, ska, post punk indie and the sounds of 90’s Manchester.
When we originally opened the store, we also treated it like a a live music venue, a meeting place for scooterists, mods, skinheads and other subcultures to grab a coffee (or a beer in the summer), catch up, listen to music and shop. We had a couple of parties and events with over 100 classic scooters parked out the front of the shop.
You’ve an array of famous customers alongside everyday clients, is there a typical “Modfather Punter” ?
The lovely thing about the shop is it’s multigenerational. A young lad will come in with his Dad and grandad and they’ll all walk out with something.
Famous musicians have become repeat customers and it’s really lovely, when your heroes are genuinely nice people, but from day one we’ve put out social media posts entitled cool customers, these feature our everyday customers, regular cool people that walk through our door and we get on well with. Our customers are so diverse in age, sex, colour, and personal style, that I couldn’t really say there’s a specific type.
There’s usually a bit of eccentricity and lots of individuality.
Tell us about your relationship with Merc Clothing?
We have a brilliant relationship with Merc. When we started out, it was a brand high up the wish list. It’s not always easy to become stockists of established brands, but I remember heading over to their offices for a meeting & they couldn’t have been more accommodating. As I’ve mentioned, we had no previous fashion retail experience, so the brand took a punt & even loaned us a lovely custom classic Vespa with a Merc paint job from their Carnaby Street store. Definitely the best bit of point of sale we’ve had from any brand.
What are Merc’s Bestsellers in the store?
The Tobias Parka has been popular from day one & the women’s Tobella parka (a much more recent addition) is also proving to be a real winner.
The latest range of polo knits have surprised us with just how quickly they’ve moved & the same can be said for the swift track jacket.
*Music is a massive part of your business, from hosting Christmas parties to sharing Lockdown playlists from the Likes of Paul Weller, Billy from The Spitfires, Gary Crowley or Eddie Piller - what’s on the Modfather speakers at the moment ?
Since we had to shut the shops for the second lockdown, ‘The Universal Want’ the new Doves album has been on heavy rotation at home.
I’ve also been revisiting Weller’s first solo record, which is a personal favourite of mine & always puts me in a good frame of mind.
When both the stores are open, we made a real point of keeping the music upbeat, as there’s been so much doom & gloom on the news. So lots of 80’s soul, The new Style Council compilation & a bit of early House music 😀
The Camden store has survived lockdowns, changed premises and even a fire in Camden Market, what’s the secret of your success and longevity?
We only employ nice people, who will welcome you at the door & let you go off and explore.
We don’t hassle customers, if they want our advice they’ll ask for it & we’ll go the extra mile to help out. We’ve also always put on free events and have tried to give something back. When we opened and realised that we couldn’t get to rallies & daytime gigs anymore, we thought we’d bring a bit of that to us & share it. More recently that’s been book signings, album releases & even film screenings.
Ultimately, we’re a family business & we try to treat staff & customers as an extension of that. I don’t think we’re pretentious, or elitist & the focus has always been on fun.
Good friendships have been made in that store, likeminded people coming together at events we’ve put on, or been involved in. If you come see us on a scooter, we’ll park you up and buy you a coffee.
It’s a lovely place to work & so I hope it’s an equally nice place to shop.
When was the idea of opening another store in an area long associated with Mod culture, Brighton first thought of?
When I left school I went to Uni in Brighton, it’s an area where I’m resident again now, having moved back a year after opening the Camden shop. I’ve done that commute for eight years & it’s never bothered me, but I’m a Dad now & it is nice walking to work.
Part of the attraction of studying in Brighton was watching Quadrophenia, visiting the area in my late teens & being there for a sunny August Bank Holiday weekend.
Brighton was always the place that Modfather would open a second shop, but I don’t necessarily see that it has to stop there.
One of the most common comments on our social media posts are
“Why don’t you open a shop in...Manchester/Leeds/Newcastle/Liverpool/Wales/Italy/Spain....”.
Who knows maybe one day, but there’s nothing planned imminently.
It’s very important that any future shops aren’t watered down versions of Camden, that’s where it all started & I’m very proud of that shop.
How did you chose premises, was it a case of waiting for the right location to become available?
The Camden shop is in a beautiful Victorian Stables block, originally used by the Cavalry Guard.
Opposite the store are the famous steps on which the Clash were photographed for their first album artwork (when Camden was a lot more dilapidated then it is now).
Our Camden store is in a location steeped in history & so much musical heritage, that was a big pull when opening our first store.
A good friend of mine alerted me to the availability of the Brighton shop. It wasn’t on the market when I first saw it & I wasn’t in the market to open another shop either. My pal made me an appointment to see the place & I went more out of courtesy than genuine interest, but as soon as I walked in, I could see potential.
The building itself is a lovely old Regency property, with a huge wine cellar and tunnels underneath that go right through to Brighton Pavilion (although that was sealed off many years ago).
It’s a stunning old building on Church Street, in the heart of the North Lane. When I went for our second viewing, Dad came with me & ended up shaking hands on us taking the place there and then.
It just felt really right.
Unlike Camden, we’ve got two huge shop windows looking out onto the street, so I’m looking forward to putting together a Christmas display
How did it feel when the country went into lockdown just as you were looking to get the new store open ?
It wasn’t a huge surprise, but it was very disappointing. We’d been open for just over three weeks, so we will be closed longer than we managed to open.
If we’d had a lousy three weeks, followed by a month long lockdown, both myself & Dad would be feeling pretty gloomy right now, but I’m positive about our future. We’d started to see repeat customers, had regulars from our Camden store make a trip to see us & have been well received by locals.
Will there be any differences you anticipate between London and Brighton customers?
In regular circumstances, we get so many tourists that visit our Camden store, a lot of those customers come a couple of times every year, but Covid has changed that & we miss seeing their faces.
We’re hopeful that with talk of a vaccine & a return to some normality next summer, our international customers will return.
Brighton is also a popular destination with holidaying Brits, so we might have a slightly different customer, but I very much doubt it. It doesn’t seem to matter where our customers come from, it’s a shared love of certain types of music, clothing, film, scooters, football & all that other good stuff that unites them.
How close is the relationship between the Camden and Brighton Stores ?
The Camden team have been coming down at weekends to help me run the Brighton shop & I’m still responsible for buying in our menswear range for both stores. My sister Lucy who manages the Camden store has been our womenswear buyer for a couple of years & she’s also buying new bits for Brighton.
Next summer we plan to arrange a ride out from the Camden shop to the new store & we’ve got a few live music events planned for when we’re allowed to do all that fun stuff again.
When hopefully things return to normal , do you have big plans for the annual Mod Bank Holiday weekenders in August ?
This year my Dad went off to the Isle of Wight scooter rally, while myself, Zack, & Dave went to the Brighton mod weekender.
So my aim for next August Bank Holiday is just to be able to staff both our shops 😂
Are there plans for further stores ?
Not at present, but who knows...
Where do you see the Modfather brand in 10 years time ? This thing of ours ain’t going away !!!
I’m hopeful that we’ll still be doing what we love in ten years time. The lease on our Brighton shop is longer than that, so we’re not going anywhere.
In all seriousness, it’s a pleasure going to work every day and listening to good music, meeting likeminded people & having a laugh. We’re fast approaching ten years in business & to date we’ve been successful by having one eye firmly fixed on the past, but always adding new brands and lines to carry the business forwards.
I’m very much looking forward to the future.
Daniel’s Quick fire five’s
5 - Style Icons - David Bowie, Miles Davis, Charlie Watts, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman
5 - Songs - (I’ve gone for the last five tunes I Shazamed, which makes this a bit random & a lot easier for me)… Georgie Fame - Peaceful, BadBadNotGood- In your eyes, Sub Sub - Past, The Isley Brothers - Footsteps in the Dark , Amon Tobin - Slowly
5 - Items of Clothing - penny loafers, well cut strides, button down shirts, three button blazers, classic polo knits & good shoes always.
5 - Accessories - vintage sunglasses, colour matching socks, pocket handkerchiefs, tie bars, face coverings 😂
5 - Subculture Staples - my personal staples include a good Harrington jacket, button down shirts with a proper three, or four finger rolled collar, well cut trousers with classic detailing & penny loafers in black, brown or oxblood (& usually, but not always socks that colour match my shirt....because I’m a bit sad).
Words by Richie Kyle
Photography by Richard Carter