Connecting With Unified Goods Founder James Goodhead Ahead of his Collaborative Tour T-shirt Launch
To celebrate our ongoing partnership, Garbstore and Unified Goods have come together to launch a limited-run collaborative T-shirt featuring founder James Goodhead’s most treasured grails and personal highlights from his vast collection.
Limited to just x40 units, the special-release Tour T-shirt is adorned with 12 of James’ personal not-for-sale T-shirts hailing from the 90s and early 00s that range from extremely rare band tees and seminal retro gaming merch to cult Japanese manga.
"When Garbstore asked me to put 12 of my all-time favourite vintage shirts together on a collaborative product, I got really, really excited. Not only was it the chance to showcase the tees I had an overwhelming emotional connection to, but also a chance to immortalise this wonderful organic relationship we have formed together,” said James of the Tour T-shirt.
Made from soft cotton jersey, the white long-sleeve T-shirt features a front graphic of the 12 tees, as well as co-branded logos at the cuff and inside the neck. On the back, in mock band-merch style, information of the 12 iconic tees is displayed.
The Garbstore x James Goodhead collaborative T-shirt is available to purchase now, both online and in-store at Garbstore. To coincide with the launch, James Goodhead’s personal collection of T-shirts will also be on display at Garbstore.
We also had the pleasure of interviewing James, which can be found below.
1995 Ghost in the Shell T-shirt
Early 90's New Yorker Ed Koren Marathon Dog T-shirt
Early 90's W.M. Burroughs 'Naked Lunch' T-shirt
1993 The Beatles 'Beatles For Sale' T-shirt
1992 Nirvana 'Sliver' T-shirt
Mid 90's Anatomical Chart Company T-shirt
1990 Fugazi 'Repeater' Bootleg T-shirt
2002 Miles Davis 'Miles' T-shirt
1997 Edvard Munch 'The Scream' T-shirt
1993 The Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream 'Rock Invasion '93 Tour T-shirt
1991 Commodore CDTV T-shirt
Early 90s Earth Angels 'Meditate' T-shirt
With a wealth of industry knowledge gained working for some of the UK’s most-respected vintage and luxury retail destinations, James has seen and done it all. We sat down with the man behind Unified Goods to discuss his journey, experiences, music influences and just about everything vintage.
Hi, James! Thanks for sitting down with us. To get the ball rolling, could you tell us a bit about who you are and what you do?
My name is James Goodhead and I'm the owner and founder of Unified Goods, a progressive vintage retail concept, which has been going for four years now, with both an online store and physical space in London Bridge. Unified Goods is also a retail consultancy, and we have a lot going on with us at the moment and some exciting new things, but yeah, we’ll get into that later!
I’ve been in retail for 20 years now. I started in vintage and worked my way through some men’s luxury brands, such as Paul Smith and Selfridges, then with LN:CC, Ralph Lauren and also Browns. And Dior Men’s, so yeah, I have rich retail experience, but Unified is my baby!
Unified Goods is one of London’s premier vintage destinations. Was it always your plan to launch, or did things evolve organically from your time in luxury retail?
Yeah, I think it’s weird you mentioned that, with the luxury thing, as I felt conflicted at the time. Not so much with LN:CC, as at the time, they were really progressive and thinking outside the box, to give customers an experiential and immersive retail experience with the store. They still have that in their basement in Dalston. It felt like it was punk retail, you know, in a way that they were just trying to rip everything up and start again. For me, this was a real primordial soup moment when I realised what was possible in retail by doing things differently and working with creative people and having a real book to pursue goals. I think Dior, as it was LVMH, was when I started to feel conflicted a little bit with Unified and feel it was quite a mismatch.
But at the same time, Kim Jones is like a huge vintage guy and possibly one of the biggest collectors of cultural ephemera in the world. He would roll up into a meeting with a vintage parental advisory T-shirt from the 90s on and, you know, we kind of bonded over that. But I think the love of collecting, which you know started from a very early age, kind of with Star Wars figures in the mid-80s and band T-Shirts in the 90s, has always been there.
Even when I was working in these retail stores, you know, I was always getting stuff delivered and my wife was going crazy that more T-shirts or records were getting delivered. I think she was quite happy when I stopped collecting for myself but started collecting stock for the business instead, and just evolved naturally out of that.
Let's take it back for a moment then, to your start in vintage.
I started in vintage in 2002, which was my first job in the ‘indie-sleaze’ era. I was kind of the main guy in a vintage retail store in Nottingham called Wild Clothing, which was run by a couple of amazing guys who were ripping it up in the 70s and 80s. The Strokes had just come out, which was an amazing moment. Everyone was wanting skinny jeans and vintage T-shirts, the varsity stuff, suit jackets, old military wear. So that was a great moment for me, my first retail experience selling vintage during a real boom. Everything was in demand with The Libertines and all these other bands. I’d sell students The Strokes look and go to the gigs that night and kind of meet everyone, it was really fun.
Then I worked out of vintage and then ended up rediscovering it, like 15 years later. After completely rejecting it, I rediscovered it and started to enjoy the smell of vintage T-Shirts again and the hunt. The funny part is that Unified Goods is actually quite nostalgic for me because my first job was vintage. So, it’s a full-circle moment.
How do you think the fashion scene, particularly vintage-wise, is shaping up in London at the moment?
London, as you know, has got a real scene of vintage, physical and online stores and, you know, we all know each other. It’s quite a small word. Some people have been going for a long time now, you have Duke’s Cupboard in Soho, which it's fair to say has become a bit of an institution, and it kind of feeds into the fact that they earnt their chops on Berwick Street and then that part of Soho has become a huge retail Mecca with Supreme there and Palace etc. with queues round the block. They’ve got that bit covered nicely. Then there are those people just doing great stuff online, working from studios, and us, of course.
But in terms of nationwide, you know, I started in Nottingham in the early 2000s, but there were also some great shops in Leeds, I seem to remember. All my focus has and always is ‘What is my store doing?’ You know, it's nice to get influence from other places now and again but I tend to find that I work best when I just concentrate wholly on Unified Goods and what I think it should be like. That’s not to say there aren’t some amazing vintage stores.
What cities do you gravitate to when sourcing for Unified Goods?
We just spent three months in New York at the start of the springtime and that was incredible, culturally speaking. Whether it's music, film or art, it just seeps out of the bricks and mortar of Manhattan. It's everywhere, the history. So, personally, my favourite place to acquire product is probably New York. Just because so many of my heroes over the years are from that city and If I could exist in any timeframe, I would probably be drawn to that kind of downtown, ’81 era. Basquiat walking around, the whole new-wave movement. I’d love to be in a little band, hanging out with artists and going to completely dilapidated underground places in the city. So, for me, my favourite place to buy is New York because I’m super pumped to be within the city and be influenced by the people there and let that dictate what the buy is like in terms of interest in product.
I think Japan would be the second one. A lot of people go to Japan for clothes and the Japanese are massively into their vintage clothing, it’s a huge scene over there. But for me, I’m more of an object guy. Just because of the detail and the design they execute on the releases. Whether it's a record or a book or a fanzine or a calendar or whatever it may be, an old VHS. The level of design and detail and execution is so considered. No one else can touch it, you know.
So yeah, they’re probably my two favourite places to get stuff from. But then you can also find things in those plastic IKEA tubs that people leave on the street. Old books and magazines in there, or an NME issue, the Ian Curtis memorial issue that’s from 1980 or something. You know, you just find stuff that people threw on the street. I have this thing where I’m walking down the street and my eyes are always somewhere else. I live in Margate right now and people always leave stuff on the streets for people to grab. You never know what you might find. It’s like a drug at that stage. It's very addictive.
Why do you think vintage is having such a boom at the moment?
I think, over the last 5 years or so, vintage has become the focus of sustainable fashion. Also, I think it’s because we’re on our 20-year cycle of one of the most interesting cultural moments, the 90s. The 90s has the same kind of flavour that the 60s had, but still feels contemporary, so I think because some of the 90s are seeping into the early 2000s, it's a super-rich period. There was more music than ever, more film than ever, and more art than ever. The 80s were great, but after the 90s everything just exploded. I think it’s just resonated with the younger generations who weren’t there or were super young, and now they get to excavate that period and be influenced by it.
What factors do you look out for when thrifting for yourself, and how do these factors differ from when sourcing for Unified Goods?
That’s a good question. You have to have a more overarching commercial sensibility with it. So, everything that is on Unified Goods, I would very happily have in my house. However, that is not possible considering we've had thousands and thousands of products over the last four years.
What’s great about it, is that I still get to source these amazing pieces, but now they arrive at my studio rather than my shared house with my family. You get to feel that you own them for a period of time. I could find a Gummo VHS from Japan. We get it sent from Tokyo to London and it’s in the studio for maybe a month or a couple of weeks or whenever we shoot it, and it's in our universe for that period of time, and then, most of the time, it feels really nice that we’ve been present with it. You know, we’ve had time with it, and we’ve owned it.
After that, I feel like we can let it go out into the world, maybe someone in LA buys it and it sits on a shelf somewhere. I really like this idea of energy and inspiration from objects just passing through the world. It’s fascinating. My point is that you already feel like there is a feeling of possession. It’s just fleeting, but that feeling of possession is actually enough most of the time for me. And then I can release it into the world. But very, very rarely something will come in and maybe it could be in the store for like 6 months or so just sat there. And then I’m like, I’m going to have that. It's not that often to be honest, but when it does happen, it’s like a holy shit moment. Thousands of products have passed through this month, but I really want that and I’m going to put it in my house, you know. It’s just made my choices more defined and super disciplined and tight.
All the stuff I buy for United Goods makes sense to me. And I feel they all correlate somehow. They’re all interconnected. Whether that is through my subconscious or whatever it is, so be it. I don’t think there is one thing on there that I wouldn’t have. I have a very strict system, whereby if I don’t feel it in that second, it’s not part of the store. It's very much my intuitive gut feeling on every single piece you see in there. Sometimes it’s a bit of a punt. Or we’re pivoting on a genre but sometimes when you do that, we might experiment a little bit and have something a bit more recent.
Do you ever source pieces that some might not deem 'vintage enough', but you feel still hold an immense amount of cultural value?
Yeah, definitely! Like with Boys Don’t Cry, the Frank Ocean magazine from the Blonde record. It was only 5 or 6 years ago, but we've expanded our horizons a little bit, especially with pieces like that, which are already definitely collector's items because Frank Ocean is that kind of artist. He’s elusive, does all this cool stuff and you can just tell it's going to be big. We’re more than happy to put something on our site that maybe came out a couple of years ago, but shit is hard to get hold of. You know, an A24 thing that was released just once, and you can’t get hold of anymore. I like the idea of it not being ‘oh it has to be vintage, true vintage, it can’t be less than 10 years old’. But it’s been really exciting. I just open the doors up a little bit and say well maybe this is still relevant. No, it’s super relevant. And it’s collectable and it's sick. That was a bit of a punt doing that and I would imagine some purest vintage heads going ‘ah you know, selling stuff from 5 years ago, is a no!’ But I don’t focus on that.
Can you remember your first connection with a T-shirt or graphic?
I remember wearing graphics on clothing from like four. I had a grey A-Team B.A Baracus sweatshirt with B.A on it. He was flexing his bicep and there was a huge explosion behind, with the A-Team van coming out of all this smoke. I still remember all this, and it was like 1985 or something. This graphic on a grey marl sweat – I wish I had that actually – was when I remember being like ‘this is what I want to do.’ I was really young, but I was connected with this piece of clothing.
We all have loads of memories as children from that time, but that one, I can literally remember just opening the drawer and pulling out the sweatshirt and having a connection with it. I don’t think that has ever left me, you know, and that kind of evolved into the band T-Shirt era, the glory days.
So, let's talk through the T-shirt you've designed for our latest Selector's Market. Are the band tees featured on it from your personal collection?
Yeah, that’s correct. They are the ones I would never let go of apart from lending to you guys to put in your store on display. I was asking Felix when I can get them back! It’s been a while. They are the T-shirts – and we’ve sold thousands of them over the years – that really mean something to me.
They are T-shirts I wear and have chosen to keep, which is a big deal considering my job. They’re T-Shirts that can tell you who I am or the kind of historical moments in my life that are relevant.
So, it doesn’t have to be a hype T-shirt, it doesn’t have to be a £1,000 T-shirt, it could be a £20 T-shirt that stirs an emotional response in me. That would mean that if I lost it, I would be absolutely destroyed haha! I trust you guys, I know where Felix lives, and Ian too!
There’s an interesting graphic with Meditate wording. What’s the story behind this one?
That depicts a man in his study, or something like that. But it’s actually a drawing by revered German artist Albrecht Dürer from the 16th-century. Like a Renaissance piece. That was one of the first T-Shirts that came into Unified Goods, and it was in one of our first-ever drops. On the day the website launched back in 2018, I actually had that moment where I was like, I’m having that one. And that was on our launch day. So that was quite a moment for me.
I have a real connection to meditation and wellness and sound and therapy. I currently do gong baths and sound baths and I think seeing this sketch with the word meditate above it, it was such a beautiful combination of one amazing word and this glorious Renaissance sketch. And whoever did that, I think it was a brand called Earth Angels from the early 90s that basically did 4 or 5 graphics and basically went bust, so they’re super rare. They’re not worth a super amount of money but, for me, it’s just the placement of that image with that word, it just connects for me and talks to who I am and that is one I would never let go. And recently we just recreated that T-Shirt for an NTS capsule that came out last week, which you can also buy. I do retail and merchandise for those guys, and we reinterpreted that graphic for a collection based on frequency, sound and how it affects the human brain. And that’s why that one is so important to me.
One of my favourites you selected for the tee is the Fugazi band merch. Could you talk us through your relationship with the band?
Yeah, the Fugazi tee has a cool backstory. I’ve been obsessed with this band since I randomly found a VHS of theirs in my WH Smiths, which clearly shouldn’t have been there. I don’t know how it ended up there, but I bought it and then, you know, I spent years completely obsessing over them. So, I was in Nottingham at Uni when they had just released their last album The Argument, and actually, I think they were playing on my birthday, so already I was like this is kind of amazing. I was set to go to the show later that day but had been having a birthday lunch with my parents. When we were leaving the restaurant, I peered out and saw Ian MacKaye.
And I was like: Oh. My. God.
So, I said to my mum and dad ‘Can I go over there’ and they were like yeah sure, whatever. And I kind of walked over to Ian and I realised they all had maps out. They’ve literally got physical maps of England trying to find the venue. So, I kind of walked up to them and was like ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ And they said we can’t find the venue man. I was like, okay, well shall I walk you there? So, there’s this moment. It was me, four members of Fugazi and a couple of roadies or tour managers or whatever. And we were walking through the town centre, and I was like, what the hell is happening? It was amazing to meet one of my heroes. One thing to meet them but to actually help and assist them was really cool.
Garbstore’s Autumn/Winter 23 collection is inspired by the Mountain Grill café that once inhabited Portobello Road, the birthplace of British beatnik culture and a hotbed for underground magazines and up-and-coming artists.