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An oral history of Cyberdog, London’s trailblazing techno-goth utopia

The Camden shop has been ground zero for every sort of raver and club kid since 1994. As the brand is being embraced by a new generation, we look back on its bonkers backstory

A collage of cyberdog dancers
Image: Time Out / Jamie Inglis
Image: Time Out / Jamie Inglis
Written by
Daisy Jones

It’s 11am in Camden Town and the place is already heaving. Buskers in trilby hats singing Britpop covers dot the cobbled streets. Punks in stacked Doc Martens and crispy mohawks linger around the soupy green Regent’s canal. Food vendors stir giant vats of ‘Chinese-style’ chicken, the smell of oil and fried meat blending with exhaust fumes from passing buses.

Listen closely, too, and you might hear the distant sound of banging techno. Dip beneath tunnels and weave through market stalls, and you’ll soon come across a large brick building, flanked by two towering metal robot figures with chrome armour and light-up eyes. From the outside, it looks and sounds like a club. But it’s not a club. It’s Cyberdog, a shop and the centre of a brand which has been around since the early nineties. 

A brick building with two metal alliens
Photograph: Shutterstock

Over the years, Cyberdog – a retail chain specialising in rave clothing and effervescent club gear, with a gothy twist – has become a cultural institution. What was once a stall run by a couple of dedicated ravers who enjoyed making wild, futuristic garments to dance in has since become a bustling tourist hotspot, as much a part of Camden as Amy Winehouse anecdotes and bars like the Good Mixer. Since its inception, the store has undergone multiple eras, opening outlets everywhere from Ibiza Town to Sharm el-Sheikh and Brighton, many of them now closed. But the Camden store, now situated in the Stables Market, remains the brand’s everlasting nucleus, a reminder of what makes the area so offbeat and strangely appealing – even today, amid the ever-tightening grip of gentrification.

These days, you might associate Cyberdog with goths – or ‘cybergoths’ – in towering Buffalo shoes, neon hair extensions and rubber tongue piercings. But the goth side of things actually came a little later. Initially, the brand was born from a love of raving and dance music, with designer and co-founder Terry Davy wanting to make clothes for people who were into sweating it out to loud techno and acid house. Since then, the brand has branched into everything from streetwear (their recent Kappa collab did particularly well), children’s clothes, festival fashion and even fetishgear, with a basement dedicated to sex toys and head-to-toe rubber. 

A brightly lit wall with a DJ
Photograph: Shutterstock

At a time when Camden is dotted with Pret A Mangers and Urban Outfitters, gastro pubs and bank branches, Cyberdog often feels like one of the last vestiges of ‘old Camden’. It’s a reminder of the area’s weird and chaotic past, in which alternative subcultures reigned supreme and you could grab a dirty pint for £2.50 with someone from Elastica. In some ways, it’s astonishing that Cyberdog has lasted this long – it’s remained independent, with all garments designed and made in the UK – but its survival is testament to the brand’s ability to evolve with the times. With Gen Z’s love of everything Y2K, the brand has also found new, younger customers, keen to embrace all things nostalgia with a futuristic twist. 

To celebrate and look back on a brand that is as distinct as it is enduring, we spoke to those who know it best. Here, then, is the story of Cyberdog. 

Camden in the 1990s, the birthplace of Cyberdog

To understand where Cyberdog came from, you’ll first need to understand Camden in the mid-1990s, the time and place of which the brand will forever be inextricably linked. 

Emma Rice (visual merchandiser and Camden retail worker throughout the 1990s and 2000s): ‘Camden in the 1990s was its heyday. It was fashionable and interesting and uncommercial – very different to how it is now. There was a huge, eclectic mix of styles. There’d be your punks, which still remain in Camden today. There was also a big rockabilly and psychobilly scene. They’d all hang out at the Elephant’s Head and rock up in Cadillacs. And then you’d have your high fashion people. And obviously there were the many shades of goth…’

Five women in a tunnel
Photograph: Cyberdog

Terry Davy (Cyberdog Co-founder and Creative Director): ‘It was always a place where alternative people hung out. It was very different to how it is now.  That is why we chose Camden [as the place to open Cyberdog]. It was a mecca. You felt like you could belong, whoever you were.’ 

Lindsey Jones (Cyberdog’s longest-running employee): ‘Camden was very alternative. Very different to how it is now. There was a real excitement in the air.’

It’s a reminder of the area’s weird and chaotic past, in which alternative subcultures reigned supreme and you could grab a dirty pint for £2.50 with someone from Elastica

Christopher Sims (Fashion photographer, lecturer and former Camden resident): ‘Camden was a big community. It just sold secondhand stuff in the early 90s. Cyberdog was one of the first, big modern fashion outlets. Camden was very eclectic. There was this authentic rock ‘n’ roll thing, from people living and working in the area. And then you had this rave scene, which was kind of still going on. You’d even get raves in some of these big buildings in Camden. Fashion hadn’t been corporatised, and Camden had a local identity. It was a very eclectic mix of clothing.’

Cyberdog’s early beginnings

Cyberdog didn’t always resemble a mega club. Once upon a time, it was a little stall alongside all of the other stalls, selling vintage wares, old furniture and general brick-a-brack. But it didn’t take long for clubbers and dance music fanatics to become obsessed. 

Terry: ‘We began as a tiny stall in Camden in the early 1990s. We say that we started in 1994, but that’s just because we don’t know the exact date… We used to have to queue up for a market stall at the crack of dawn. Then 1994 is when we got our first shop. 

‘The whole rave scene was exploding, so we started making clothes for that scene and playing banging techno on the stalls (in the early days we’d play underground psychedelic trance by DJs like Mark Allen and Tsuyoshi [Suzuki]). That was really important early on – to create the vibe of a club. At first, people would just be like “what’s this weird place?” but then a lot of people started coming through. There was a gap in the market. I remember seeing people wearing our clothes in clubs like Wag, Heaven and Milk Bar and thinking that was quite cool.

Two people standing next to a clothes display
Photograph: Terry Davy

‘In 1994, we did a trade show in Angel, Islington, and were absolutely mobbed. So it sort of exploded from there. That’s when we realised that it was something that people were looking for. We had a non-permanent store – a little wedge of land [in Camden], and then we were offered this huge tunnel. It was from there that we grew.’

Christopher: ‘It was younger people who’d go to Cyberdog… working class kids, students. It was on the back of the rave scene; the next version of rave. We have to remember that rave obliterated fashion, because it was so drug-fuelled, but Cyberdog was one of those subcultural [brands] that actually had a vision of style. It was an idea of the future.’

Lindsey: ‘I’ve been working at Cyberdog for 27 years. I’m 56 now, and I started in 1996. I said I was looking for a job and someone was like ‘oh my god, Lindsey, you love clubbing. You should go and work for Cyberdog.’ I had an interview in 1996 – the day of Terry and Spiros’ first son’s birthday. That was the day I started. I loved it. Not long after, I became the manager of the shop.’ 

Plastic manniquens
Photograph: Cyberdog

Spiros Vlahos (Cyberdog Co-founder): ‘[Camden market back then] was only a weekend thing. Then we started opening Fridays and Thursdays, etc. Even now, the owner of the market says “thank you” because we made it a seven day thing.’ 

The Tunnel era 

Before the shop as we know it today, Cyberdog existed in a giant system of tunnels – nicknamed ‘The Camden Catacombs’, now unreachable – beneath Camden market, originally built as stables for horses. Those who went said it was like going to an actual club, with DJs, a bar and dancers. 

Lindsey: I remember going into their first [proper] shop – the tunnel, literally a long tunnel, all done up in UV – and their whole ethos was that they wanted it to be like a club. When you walk in, the music is on, the lights start and you get that excitement. I think they hit the nail on the head. You just wanted to party… then you saw the amazing clothes.’

Spiros: We were there for at least 13 years. It was a much bigger shop than what we have now.’ 

A tunnel shop
Photograph: Cyberdog

Emma: It was this dingy, grubby, dusty arch with all this UV and people on podiums who had clearly been out for the last week. It was just mental. It was completely and utterly absurd that this was going on, but that it was a shop. The thing about it then was that it was a rave thing.’

Spiros: ‘There was a bar [in there] as well, and people used to come in the mornings on Sundays, like it was an after party. It had this very underground feel.’

It was this dingy, grubby, dusty arch with all this UV and people on podiums who had clearly been out for the last week

Terry: ‘We didn’t want to move, but the market was redeveloping, so we were forced to. We were quite gutted at the time. We were really able to create this club shop with different zones, which was the dream. But they offered us this other building with a basement, and we had no choice anyway, so we went for it and that’s the shop as you know it now.’ 

The evolution of Cyberdog

Since moving into the current shop on Chalk Farm road and growing online, Cyberdog has expanded and evolved in all sorts of ways. These days, you can buy everything from butt plugs to nipple clamps and karaoke machines. 

Spiros: ‘We’ve opened shops in Covent Garden, Manchester and Leeds and Brighton. We also had a shop in Ibiza, but it was seasonal. In 2001, we opened one in Tokyo. There were a few in various places.’

Terry: ‘The shop is so amazing, and although we did try to recreate that in a smaller way in some of the other places, it wasn’t quite the same. It became more of a headache than it was worth. Whether we will again, who knows.’

Spiros: ‘Futurelovers [the sex toy section in the basement, selling dildos, BDSM gear and lingerie] came in 2010. We had this extra space and thought we might as well do something with it, something more alternative, more edgy. It’s part of Cyberdog now.’

Figures wearing green clothing
Image: Cyberdog

Terry: ‘Obviously the clothing started with the rave scene, but as the years went on you’d have different scenes. I went to some of these fetish clubs and they were playing techno, so I started to look at what we could do with them. They really embraced it. So the sex shop [in Cyberdog] was what you’d find in that genre. We don’t sell videos… it’s just fun, naughty stuff and there’s a club scene in that.’ 

Nathaniel Bianco (Cyberdog dancer from 2010 onwards): ‘I’ll never forget the first time I saw Cyberdog and its two tall robots standing out of the shop. You could hear the house music, so obviously I had to go in to check it out. The atmosphere was incredible – it genuinely felt like walking into a spaceship. Each staff member had their own style.

‘As a dancer, you’re giving a performance to anyone who walks in the shop. It’s all improvised and freestyled, so the moves come natural with whatever music is playing.’ 

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Meow Meow AKA Delilah Belle (22-year-old DJ and Cyberdog fan): ‘My first memories of Cyberdog were my parents taking me when I was a kid. I was always in awe of their staff who used to be dressed in full cybergoth: huge hair, white eye contacts, six-inch platform boots.’

Ava Akira (musician and young Cyberdog customer): ‘My entry level into Cyberdog was seeing it on a Mary-Kate and Ashley movie as a kid. The one where they go to London. I was like, “I wanna dress like that!” It wasn’t until I got into my teens I realised it was part of the rave movement and that it had all this sick history behind it.’

Lindsey: We’ve adapted to changes. There was a point when dance music wasn’t really in, so we went a bit streetier, and then we dealt with the gothier client as well. But we’ve always stayed true to the idea of having a good time, and having a party. A lot of brands who came up at the same time, who maybe even made more money, are no longer with us. I guess it’s down to good design as well. Something will be on trend and we won’t follow the trend, but will do something with a twist.’  

Cyberdog’s cultural legacy

Interest in dance music might have ebbed and flowed in the years since the brand began, but the shop remains beloved. Now, Cyberdog has gained younger fans who are into Y2K styles and weird, futuristic fashions. 

Nathaniel: ‘My favourite [story] was when Nicky Minaj’s stylist came in to pick some outfits for her while she was in London. It's always a bit surreal when you get to work with famous people, but Cyberdog is worn by everyone. I've also helped some famous drag queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race [choose their clothes].’ 

Christopher: ‘They’ve stayed true to their ethos. Young people find a form of expression and anti-establishment in it. With fast fashion now, it’s difficult for [subculture] to germinate. But Cyberdog has had a relevance for 20 years. It’s still around. Also, Cyberdog is very futuristic. To the young, Cyberdog probably represents now. Whereas Cyberdog in the past represented the future.’ 

To the young, Cyberdog probably represents now, whereas Cyberdog in the past represented the future

Daisy Davidson (owner of alternative style blog ‘If you were an alternative kid, going to Camden used to be such a big thing and Cyberdog was a focal point. The brand still has an influence [on fashion] now – the big raver pants are such a staple, then the layering of pieces, fetish wear, and accessories like the fluffy-eared hat – there’s a big element of Cyberdog infiltrating a lot of different subcultures.’

Meow Meow: ‘My age group is relatively new to rave culture. Cyberdog serves as a good introduction to that kind of lifestyle. Alternative people [still] tend to congregate there, which means it can be a good place if you’re looking for like minded people who are into fashion subculture.’

Ava: I think Cyberdog has lasted as long as it has because of the 1990s and 2000s revival in current trends. But also, with Cyberdog, there’s always a futuristic appeal to it so I don’t think it’ll ever go out of fashion. It’s always one step ahead by continuously being original and true to its branding.’ 

A photoshoot of a girl wearing yellow
Image: Cyberdog

Meow Meow: ‘I have this [T-shirt] of theirs that says “fuck off” – it always seems to get a good reaction from strangers in the club – whether that be a thumbs up or a middle finger. My friends always want to borrow it, and I think it serves as a good creep repellent.’

Terry: ‘It’s still an underground label, even though it’s grown. And then you turn a corner and become a bit of a heritage place. It’s probably because we’ve stayed true to the original ethos: this is about people who want to express themselves and remain true to who they want to be. If they want to wear their clothes upside down, inside out, whatever, let them express themselves and let's embrace music. There were people that tried to copy us. But we’ve managed to survive and grow.’

Lindsey: ‘We’ve existed for this long and we’ll carry on. We’ll have to keep moving with the trends, with a Cyberdog twist. I’m 56 and still wearing Cyberdog and even my friends’ kids are wearing it now. Dance music will always be around – you just adapt.’ 

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