Leo B. Stanley

Leo back in 1988Firstly, I want to introduce myself and apologise to my immediate family for the photo on the left! But I thought it should be included as it was taken at about 4 or 5 a.m. coming out of a rave, and was captured by a photographer from the Sunday Times. I have included it because I think that it is important that people are aware of how hard we partied back in '88!

I am Leo B. Stanley and I was born in Moss Side, Manchester in 1955. I spent most of my youth in the family business which was Stanley’s Army and Navy Stores. Situated at the bottom of Piccadilly approach, it was the original shop front where the Malmaison Hotel now stands.

This experience led me to opening my own shop in Affleck’s Palace in 1983. Using the retail knowledge I had gained in the family business, I continued to sell army surplus gear alongside fashion clothing. We went through a few names and image changes before we came up with ‘Identity’ in 1986.

Alongside working in the shops I was a mobile DJ gigging at weddings, 21st birthdays, Mecca etc - a proper time served DJ! I eventually had enough of this and got my first opportunity to DJ in Manchester at a club called 'Devilles', just off Albert Square (thanks Jeff), followed by a stint at 'Manhattan', Spring Gardens (thanks to Peter and Dennis). But perhaps the most well known place that I worked was ‘The Venue’, just along Whitworth Street, a few doors down from the Haçienda.

When the Haçienda really kicked in I was already doing the Venue, and I thought 'How can we compete with that?' The obvious Leo with Ian Brown at Creamfieldsanswer was we couldn't, so I just carried on doing what I had always done. My tag line was 'From Motown to Motorhead'! Anyway, what started out as a club to go to if you couldn't get into the Haçienda, soon formed it's own queue even when the Haçienda didn't have one!

I always appreciated the musical freedom Paul, the owner of ‘The Venue’, gave me, in fact all of the managers I worked for let me play what I wanted. Having been a time served DJ I felt I was more qualified to pick the music than the managers! Also, you haven't heard anything until you have heard my mix of ZZ Top and Public Enemy! Owning several clothes shops in Affleck’s Palace and the Royal Exchange, and DJing at one of the most popular nights in Manchester, gave me great insight into how the scene was changing.

I had been in Affleck’s Palace since 1983 trying different retail ideas, but eventually came up with IDENTITY in 1986. In its time it went through quite a lot of fashion phases but obviously its claim to fame was the ‘Acid House’ period - baggy dungarees, baggy jeans and then flares. Whatever you have heard or read about who started the whole flares revival, let me tell you the truth.

The Baldricks - Mancunian's with flare!The scousers should really have the credit, but for us Mancs it was Phil Saxe, Happy Mondays, Cressa and Ian Brown. Phil Saxe was the first manager of Happy Mondays, and they all met through the stall he had in the Arndale market selling semi-flares. In 1988 Ian Brown came in the shop and asked if we could get any Wrangler flares as they were hard to get hold of. I thought ‘why don’t we produce our own range’ so I got in touch with 2 local guys, Joe Moss and Phil Wildbore. As well as being the original manager of 'The Smiths', Joe Moss had a clothes shop in Stockport and along with Phil they set up ‘Go Vicinity’ clothing. From this came the very baggy jean and finally the flares and the rest is history.

One of the other things I am most proud of about Identity is that we were involved with selling the very first range of Smiths t shirts. Designed by Elizabeth Taylor (no not that one), an amazing girl who worked for Phil and Joe, hence the meeting. We were the first shop to sell the now infamous daffodil and gladioli print t shirts.

I never really realised how exciting it all was at the time, although there were a few surreal moments when we had such icons as Debby Harry, David Beckham, Terry Hall and Alice Cooper, Robert Plant - Led Zepplin (27 inch flares before you ask), along with all of the Manchester legends standing in the shop!

To sum it all up, the common denominator in everything I've done is this fantastic city, Manchester, so much to answer for!