Category: Fashion


I called in to Manchester Art Gallery. I love this institution and go a lot. I’d like to say I’d gone in this time to immerse myself in great art and bathe in high culture. But I hadn’t. I’d come into Manchester in search of Zombies (more later) and had just gone into the gallery to use the bathroom facilities. They are top notch if you are caught out in this part of the city, clean, well cared for and fragrant. They come highly recommended by this blogger. As do the ones in the Royal Exchange Theatre and on the top floor of Harvey Nichols. The Arndale Centre ones are well looked after as well.  I’m speaking from a guy point of view here but I assume the facilities for women are of as high a standard. If you want to see some original Victorian facilities, you should go to the John Ryland’s Library on Deansgate. They are exactly as they were when the building was built and are worth a visit. Well the men’s are, I’m not sure about the women’s. Their’s may be a little austere for ladies today. But I get off the point…

I was about to leave when I spotted a stunning garment in a room just off the main foyer. I went to investigate and thought I’d walked into Audrey Hepburn’s wardrobe. It was full of stunning gowns (I think that’s the best word for them) designed and made in the 1050s. They were all designed and made in Manchester when cotton was still a significant industry in the city though it was no longer ‘King Cotton’ and Manchester had relinquished its pseudonym of ‘Cottonopolis’ to some nondescript city in India. They were made to shout about the quality of Manchester cotton and the quality of the designs and level of manufacture that could have been accessed if people did business in the Manchester garment industry. With the quality of design and manufacture seen in these garments, I’m at a loss to wonder how Manchester isn’t a fashion capital like London, New York, Paris and Milan. Of course the answer is obvious. We are just too close to London and that is the centre of the fashion industry in the UK. That, and the cotton industry in Manchester was about to enter its period of terminal decline.

These dresses have been brought into the city centre form the Museum of Costume in Platt Fields Park in Fallowfield. It’s housed in a Georgian mansion in the corner of the park just by  where Wilmslow Road leaves the Curry Mile behind and enters leafy, green suburbia. I’ve never been in it. I’m going to have to go and see what’s in there.

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My trip to London has occupied my blogging time out of all proportion to the amount of time I spent in the city. It was a good day, we packed a lot in and I came back brimming with metropolitan culture. I’d booked my return trip 1st class, it’s a bit of a bargain, costing only a few extra pounds if you book at the right time on the right trains. It’s worth it when you consider you get access to the 1st class lounge at Euston, lots of extra room on the train, free Wi-Fi, free drinks and food brought to you seat and so on. However, I was a bit annoyed when my travelling companions to Manchester were on a stag weekend on the way to Manchester to party with the groom and then go to Liverpool to watch the Grand National. I said that if I’d wanted to spend the trip with drunks I’d have booked myself into cattle class and I didn’t expect that kind of behaviour in 1st! In spite of this inauspicious beginning our relationship, the two guys turned out to be good fun and were more talk that action. They were 39 and 40 and more interested in knowing good places to eat in Manchester than heading up Canal Street in search of hen parties and trying to hook the hapless groom up with a drag queen. In fact we had a long discussion about one of the guy’s sperm counts which was low and he and his wife were trying for a family. This was going to be his last party before a summer of no drinking and loose underwear in an effort to boost the quality of his little soldiers. I salute his honesty in discussing this sensitive subject with a complete stranger and wish him luck. He seemed a nice guy and would make some one a nice dad.

I woke up next morning shattered with feet and legs aching dreadfully.

It’s back to Manchester now for my next posts but I really must do a few more trips to new places. For this post I thought I’d look at Manchester style again and I’m featuring some of the pictures from one of my favourite Manchester blogs, The Mancorialist. You can either visit this fascinating, clever blog that documents some of the fabulously dressed people in Manchester, in the blog roll to the right or by the link below. Do people dress like this in Birmingham, Leeds, Newcastle? I think not….

http://themancorialist.tumblr.com/

This is a bit of a naughty picture taken with a bit of subterfuge. This lady on Bridge Street certainly has her own style, I certainly wouldn’t argue with her about it. I’m loving the cigarette glued to her lips, she’s Salford Shopping City through and through…

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An ebony, Victorian beauty on Oldham Street. I thought of Cathy in Wuthering Heights. Usually busy Oldham Street is closed to traffic at the moment due to a fire last week, you can see the building on the left behind the fence…

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An incredible outfit in neon outside the Civil Justice Centre. I have no idea what they garment that links her waist to her calves is called but I think there are shops full of them in Affleck’s Palace in the N4…

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This guy looks like a younger, more smiley Morrissey sitting on a bench on Corporation Street. I want this coat. I couldn’t decide what he did. In his shirt and tie, tailored trousers and his beautiful coat I thought he worked in one of the glass towers of Spinningfields, shifting vast amounts of money around the planet. Then I saw the shoes. Check them out. Now I’ll put my money on him working in one of the designer stores Like Selfridge’s or Harvey Nichols. He’s just outside enjoying a smoke before restarting work. I will have that coat for next winter….

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This guy rocks the aging, metal rock star look on Short Street. A cross between Ozzy and Mick….

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I wonder if the dog was dressed to match the girl or did the girl dress to match the dog’s coat?…

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The Rocky Horror Picture Show was on at the Opera House which may explain the guy on the right. I was worried about the guy on the ground until I worked out he was taking pictures…

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Proving you don’t have to be 23 to look great. I love his jacket and like that his purple trousers and mustard coloured scarf exactly match the checks in the jacket material…

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I’m about to revisit the world of Manchester fashion. I was wandering through Kendal’s late this afternoon and i was spotted as the guy who had posted the opening of the Mary Portas store in Kendal’s back in the Spring. Although the Manchester store has only been open a few months, the concept of the Mary Portas stores is a year old now. I believe it is doing really well. Mary Portas has had a high profile year with her TV show about bringing back manufacturing from abroad to the UK and her work to set up templates for the revival of  some of our depressed high streets. I imagine this has helped boost her stores. And as she has done so much to help UK plc I don’t see why her businesses shouldn’t benefit a little as well.

There will be a party at her store on Saturday and I’ve been invited! Might even be a glass of champagne! So I will be there with my camera ready to post.

The first Manchester Fashion Week has just finished and as the dust is settling people are taking stock of how it’s all gone.

I’m not really in a position to comment on any of it as I didn’t get to see any of it. The first I heard about it was when I saw a big spread in the Manchester Evening News a couple of weeks ago and thought ‘that’s a fun idea.’ Manchester certainly likes to shop and you do see a lot of well dressed people about the city so we are not exactly ignorant of fashion. The streets are lined with high end shops, filled with world famous brands. It must be the best shopping experience in the UK outside of London.

And that’s part of the problem for Manchester Fashion Week, it’s proximity to London, two hours away by train and a long established world fashion city. And we are less than two hours from Paris by plane. So having those cities on our doorstep would mean that Manchester would always be in their shadow. No international designer would choose Manchester to launch a collection when they could do it in London or Paris.

Having said that Manchester DID manage to attract designers to the city to show their collections and the week was filled with showings but maybe some of the audiences were a bit thin on the ground at some of the shows I have heard. I’m not sure how London Fashion Weeks work but I’m led to believe that the great and the good of the fashion world fly from around the planet to attend their shows and London has a lot of high profile fashionistas who would turn out for the opening of an envelope if a camera was there and free champagne on offer. So there’s a ready audience for any show. Even in London I doubt if the rest of the population, the proverbial man of the Clapham omibus, is whipped into a frenzy of excitment about the fashion shows.

Manchester, being a smaller city, does not have the critical mass of fashionistas with the time on a Tuesday afternoon to attend a fashion show but, I believe, that problem could be overcome with the lessons learned from this year’s week.

As Manchester’s eqivilant of London’s ‘man of the Clapham omibus’ (the guy on the Altrichcham metro maybe) I was expecting to come across some evidence of Fashion Week going on. When we have a festival in Manchester (and we seem to be in a constant state of festival in the city throughout the summer) you turn a corner and there it is ready for you to enjoy it. This is done by having free events alongside the main festival. The Jazz Festival and the Manchester International Festival do this brilliantly. There are the big set piece attractions held in the theatres and concert halls that you have to pay for, but then there are free events where you can listen to music and drink wine in the sunshine. This gives the general public a chance to get involved. If this was done with Manchester Fashion Week it would give the event real roots in the city. While we should keep the fashion shows that allow designers to show off their collections as has happened this year, other events could run alongside the main programme that eveyone could attend.

I had a few thoughts:

A catwalk set up in the Arndale Centre that the clothes stores such as River Island, NEXT, The Gap, Marks & Spencer’s and so on could put on shows for the public. Another one could be set up in the Trafford Centre. I’m sure both malls would come on board, theydo these kind of events already at other times.

Stores such as Selfridge’s, Harvey Nichols, Kendals could be encouraged to run their own fashion events during the week. They do so anyway so why not in Fashion Week?

The little high-end stores on King Street could get together to run an event like that did when they all got together after the riots to show that they were open for business. Something similar could happen in the NQ.

I would like to see a market selling  locally made jewelery in the magnificent hall of the Royal Exchange Theatre running during the week.

St. Ann’s Square could have a fashion market, inviting fashion students and local fashion businesses to set up shop for the week.

The Science Museum could run an exhibition about Manchester’s textile past, at one point most of the world’s cotton cloth was made in and around this city remember.

Local businesses that still make clothes in the city region could be high lighted . I’m sure there are more than Mary Portas and her knickers.

Local girl made good, Vivienne Westwood, could have a retrospective of her work at Manchester Art Gallery. Or maybe, Sarah Burton who designs for Alexander McQueen and is from Manchester. She designed the wedding dress for the Duchess of Cambridge not to mention Pippa Middleton’s show stopper of a dress.

TV, radio and the press need to be brought on board. Manchester fashion experts doing makesovers…..

It wouldn’t be London Fashion Week with all its preciousness but it would be MANCHESTER Fashion Week and all the better for it.  After all, Manchester is the only city in the country that can look London in the face and say ‘This is how it is done!’

At Christmas 1996 about twenty Christmas stalls set up shop in St. Ann’s Square surrounded by bomb damaged buildings and a traumatised city. That has grown into one of the top ten Christmas Markets in Europe pulling in an extra £50,000,000 a year and visitors from all over the UK. Carefully nurtured, as I’m sure it will be, The Manchester Fashion Week could do something similar and become a real asset in the city’s calendar.

For a review of the proceedings by someone who actually went to some of the events click on the following links to Fashion Rambler’s blog:

http://fashion-rambler.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/manchester-fashion-week-where-to-go-now.html

 

 

Since I’ve been keeping my blog about Manchester I’ve become interested in other people who keep blogs about the city. One of my favourite ones is Fashion Rambler who posts about a side of Manchester that has been closed to me, up until Wednesday night that is, the fashion side of the city.

The guy who runs the blog, Jordan, seems to get invited to all the parties and events that I seem to miss out on. I like his witty, insightful posts on what happens in that world. I wondered if he’d be at the party and I’d just checked his blog just before I came out to see if he’d mentioned it, but he hadn’t. Unlike me, Ghostly Tom, who you don’t get to see except in a reflection somewhere, he seems fine about being on his own blog. And at one point in the evening I spotted him and went over and chatted. He is a nice guy who was happy to chat which is, after all, what parties are for. He was hoping for a few words with Mary but I’m not sure he had any success.

He was happy to be on my blog and you can check out his blog either at the link below or where I have linked it to mine on the right of this page. Check it out and enjoy. As well as keeping the blog he writes for several online magazines including Manchester Confidential which is a great one to look at if you want to find out what is happening in the city.

http://fashion-rambler.blogspot.co.uk/

http://www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk/

I think he’s going to be busy and posting a lot over the next few weeks as April sees Manchester’s inaugral fashion week. We may not be London, Paris, Milan or New York but we are getting there.

Sadly what doesn’t come across well in this picture is his red, school boy satchel bag that he was carrying. I liked it a lot and thought I’d caught it but you can only see the strap. It looked brand new. I was going to ask where he found it but forgot. Plus I really like my brown leather FOSSIL bag still. It’s about 3 years old now and just seems to look better the older it gets, as leather can.

Among all the well dressed, well groomed ladies at the Mary Portas Shop opening party, one particular young lady stood out. She looked wonderful in a 1950s retro styled print dress with perfect accessories and beautifully made up hair. At one point I found myself next to her and felt I had to compliment her on how she looked. I don’t normally go up to complete strangers and do this but maybe we all should. She seemed pleased and flattered.

I thought she was one of the Manchester, well presented ladies here to see Mary Portas and celebrate the opening of the shop but that wasn’t so. She is one of the sources who provides things to be sold in the homeware section of the Mary Portas shop.

She designs and decorates china which you can buy. Her china is made in Stoke on Trent, the traditional heart of the English china industry. This is good because the Stoke on Trent china industry is another of the UK’s once great industries that has all but died. The city once used to provide the world with fine china but the companies have relocated to the Far east leaving only the top end of the industry in Stoke on Trent. This has led to unemployment and another economically depressed city.

The finished china from Stoke on Trent is then sent to Sheffield where this lady, Lianne Mellor, decorates it in her unique way. It’s another completely ‘Made in UK’ product that Mary Portas seems to be on a mission to promote, providing jobs in British factories. I liked her charming china a lot. You can buy it here in Kendal’s in Manchester and in Liberty’s in London. If you can’t get to either of those places you can contact Lianne through her website or visit her in Sheffield at her workplace.

www.MellorWare.co.uk

At first I thought that the other china on show, with the butterflies on, was hers as well but it belongs to another supplier to Mary Portas. Lianne was happy to show the other china off as well so I hope she doesn’t mind me including it here as well. It’s designed by someone called Ali Miller who may have been somewhere at the party as well, but I didn’t come across her. She mustn’t have had such an eyecatching look as Lianne.

www.alimiller.co.uk

I’ve been so busy with work the last couple of weeks, especially in the last few days that I’ve not had time to post. By the time I get in, have dinner and a bit of a chill, it’s bedtime. Today has been my first free day in a while and even then work called. They want me to consider a team leader position. I have a week to think about it. It will mean me being in charge of people and will mean more meetings in nice restaurants and hotels in Manchester but I get to choose where! Go Tom!

I had planned to have Wednesday afternoon off as I had been invited to the official opening of the Mary Portas shop in Kendal’s on Deansgate. I had planned to go home, chill for the afternoon then travel into the city in the evening. Work really needed me for the afternoon so I did that for them. Maybe that was why I got the call this morning about the team leader or it may have been the deal maker.

I left about 4 and when I turned the radio on I heard disturbing news. We might be having a strike of the people who transport the fuel to our petrol stations. There is no final decision about when it will be, the two sides are talking about reconciling the dispute but the government waded in and told people not to panic. Nobody was until then, but I heard that there had been nasty scenes over fuel on The Wirral (the posh side of the River Mersey facing the city of Liverpool). So I decided to get some fuel as I was down to 1/4 full. I drove to the petrol station at the huge ASDA near the Trafford Centre (close to where I was and cheap by UK standards) and found it closed and out of fuel! I was just wondering where I could do my panic buying when I spotted that the BP petrol station at the Trafford Centre was still open and there was no queue so I drove in and filled up with their extremely expensive petrol. Goal achieved it was home for a shower and an attempt to make myself look fabulous enough to be seen at a fashion store opening.

I arrived at 7pm and strode into Kendal’s in front of the assembled paparazzi but they didn’t seem too interested in me.

Inside the entrance of the store there was a cool jazz band to welcome us.

I was directed up to the second floor where the shop is and did my strut down the specially laid orange carpet put down in Ms. Portas’s honour. I thought it was a good touch.

People had already arrived and the shop was already quite busy with well dressed, well groomed Manchester ladies cooing over designs and colours and prints. Waiters were deftly making their way between the guests with trays of champagne and wine and water. I went for the champagne option. I’d already broken my Lent promise not to drink alcohol in this very store so I decided if I was going to burn in hell I might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb if that’s not one too many mixed metaphors. There were also delicious little bits of food which I believe are called ‘amuses bouches’ in the circles I now seem to be moving in. The savoury ones were nice but the one I ended up managing to have four of was a coconut cream and almond confection which was delicious and I loathe coconut.

I chose to wear my dark blue Paul Smith suit and, for contrast my orange silk tie and some little, subtle bits of bling from Tiffany’s. I’d noticed that Mary seemed to like both these colours so it was a little homage to her. I was pleased to get compliments on my appearance with the tie getting a lot of attention. I’d bought it in Cambridge a couple of years ago. It was in the window of a gentleman’s outfitters near the colleges. I can’t remember its name. I think the store had been there for nearly 400 years and had been outfitting gentlemen at Cambridge University for all of that time. There was no price on it in the window (it one one of THOSE stores) so I just went in said I wanted it, here’s my card and DON’T tell me the price! I’m still unaware how much it cost but I have never regretted it. Like Edith Piaf ~ ‘Je ne regrette rein.’ 

Here are a few pictures of the Manchester fashionistas enjoying the party and networking like their life depended upon it.

Once the party was in full swing the great lady herself appeared looking effortlessly stunning in black trousers, the acid green top, black shoes, a piece of statement jewellery and her trademark red bobbed hair. (That was my poor attempt at being a fashion reporter, I have watched Gok Wan only occasionally). She tirelessly worked the room meeting and greeting fans and customers. Apparently she had already done her official interviews with the Manchester Evening News and the online Manchester Confidential (I think it was) so this was for the public. In some of the pictures you might spot some of the cast of local soap opera, Coronation Street, at the party which was fun to see but Mary was the star tonight.

The band from downstairs had joined us as well playing and singing their interpretations of everything from classics from Frank Sinatra to modern songs by the likes of Katy Perry, serenading the ladies at the party. Here’s their website and a couple of youTube videos to enjoy.

http://www.thelondonessentials.com/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SmEHOXZ6F8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2UOaE0Qx6g&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X217mdTmH8o&feature=related

I didn’t get to talk with Mary but I did get to chat for a while with Lesley Cracknell who is one of the 7 apprentices who Mary has taken on to actually make the knickers in the factory in Middleton in North Manchester. She was a delight to meet and we talked for a while. She’s had a variety of jobs from working in a pickle factory to doing security work she told me. She had an accident a while ago and broke a leg which made security work difficult and had been unemployed for 18 months in an area of the city where jobs are few and far between in a time when the country is experiencing difficult economic times.

Meeting her, you get the impression, that at some time she would have made it and done something that would make an impact. Living in the part of the city she does, that would be difficult though and Mary has come along and given her the opportunity she needed. She is a natural leader and communicator and I’m sure Mary will have noticed this and she has had a heightened profile in the Channel 4 TV show that has been following the process of making and marketing the knickers. I’m sure that this will lead to opening doors for her in Mary’s organisation or other areas she may be interested in. All the apprentices have been affected by this experience and on last night’s programme we got to see how the having of a job and having a reason to get out of bed in the morning has transformed their lives. One, Andrew, was able to take his girlfriend out for a meal for the first time, something most of us take for granted, and he was able to buy things for his little son and had broken the cycle of living on benefits that his family was locked into. I thought that was moving and showed what could be done with imagination and determination. People from areas like the poorer parts of Manchester were vilified after the riots last Summer and while the ones who rioted needed to be brought to justice, the vast number of people who lived in these areas are just law abiding people who need a break.

Back to Lesley. She is one of those people who has an innate sense of style and the ability to wear something and make it look wonderful. In my picture she’s wearing what looks like a schoolboy’s shirt and trousers, like I used to wear and looked bad in. She added a little of the lace edging that appears on the knickers, casually over her shoulders, and looks wonderful. Last night, on TV, she wore a tie and waistcoat outfit at the official launch of Kinky Knickers at Liberty’s in London and outshone all those London ladies who had turned up for the event.

She did tell me something about her clothes which I will not reveal on here or anywhere else. If she reads this, her secret is safe with me!

And as I left Kendal’s I was delighted to see that they had bathed the iconic, art deco, Deansgate store in orange light in honour of the occasion. It was good that they coordinated the building with my tie. Will this be happening every time I enter the store I wonder?

The Manchester Evening News revealed that the business is doing so well they have had to take on more people. There is talk of opening more factories and exporting the knickers abroad. I hope the factories will be in Manchester. It seems that the TV coverage will continue later in the year. I liked the way Mary finished the programme last night. We have become used to seeing the people who make the knickers in the factory and have realised that buying the knickers will support their future employment. Last night Mary showed us all the other people who were being kept employed in packing, lace making and lace dyeing and so on. One pair of knickers was keeping around 30 people employed. Those people with money in their pockets were spending elsewhere keeping others employed, a virtuous circle……… It’s not exactly difficult is it?

The Manchester Confidential interview with Mary Portas states that the knickers are virtually sold out in all the stores that stock them across the country and it will be a while until the factory can make enough to do another drop. Out of interest I went on eBay to see what was there and what do you know? Kinky Knickers on sale at 3 times, and rising, the price you pay in the stores. Though be warned, if you put ‘Kinky Knickers’ into eBay’s search engine be prepared to see a lot of items that don’t have the Mary Portas seal of approval! Capitalism in the raw I guess. 

And many thanks to Nicola for getting me on the guest list. I had a great time.

Last week I wrote a piece where I said I was ‘a great believer in serendipty and being taken where fate blows me.’ Well last week it blew me into Mary Portas’s new shop in Kendal’s / House of Fraser on Deansgate. I posted about what I saw on here and they liked it and that has earned me an invitation to the official opening of the shop to be attended by Mary Portas herself and the people who have appeared in her latest programme about reviving a part of the, once great, Manchester clothing industry. I suppose a lot of the Manchester fashionistas will be there as well so it should be fun. Now this is the kind of place and event I like fate to blow me to. I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully I will be allowed to take a few pictures and do another post. I know it’s still Lent and I shouldn’t do it, but if a glass of champagne should come my way, I may have to drink it. It would be rude to do otherwise I think. Here’s my invitation that has arrived by email this afternoon and had already been replied to.

It was a warm, sunny day so I went for wander around the city. I was in Kendal’s department store on Deansgate (known as House of Fraser to it owners but as Kendal’s to Mancunians or even Kendal Milne to give it its Sunday name) and it popped into my head to think about what was on TV this evening and I remembered that the Mary Portas programme that started last week, ‘Mary’s Bottom Line’ was on. By coincidence, as I was thinking about it, a poster advertising her new concession in the store came into my view as the escalator took me up from the ground floor. As I’m a great believer in serendipity and being taken where fate blows me, I thought I’d go and see what was there.

For those who don’t know her, Mary Portas, is one of the big figures in British retail. We found out last week, on her new TV programme, that she came from humble beginnings and by sheer, dogged determination she has carved herself a career right to the top of the retail business in the UK working for companies such as Harvey Nichols. Apparently, at one point she wanted a job at Harrods in Knightsbridge in London. She telephoned the guy in charge of what she was interested in, daily, until he gave in and granted her an interview. Lesson for us all there I think.

Lately she has carved herself a TV career presenting programmes where she takes on run down retail stores that have lost their way and turns them around often, unbelievably,  in the face of opposition from their owners.

She has been asked by the government to come up with ideas to sort out some of our dying high streets. While the British love to shop, we have been turning our backs on the traditional high streets in favour of the mega malls like the Trafford Centre and other out of town developments. And while the shopping area of the centre of Manchester goes from strength to strength, some of the suburban high streets around the city are looking well past their sell by dates and Mary has been charged with finding ideas of how to breathe life into them. Stockport and Rochdale keep hitting the news as particularly badly hit areas around the Manchester area with both places suffering because of nearby developments.

Her latest venture is to save British clothes manufacturing no less. Manchester, of course was at the centre of the cotton industry with raw cotton being brought into the city, it was then spun into yarn, dyed , woven into cloth and turned into clothes that were exported around the world. It made the city rich.

But the industry has all but died now with most of it having gone to China, India and other countries in the Far East. Manchester, of course, found other things to do. And if, like me, you live in one of the comfortable suburbs and hang out in similar places and spend your time in the city centre where the great buildings left by the cotton industry have been converted into theatres, apartments, offices, Jamie Oliver’s latest restaurant and the like, you tend to think that all is well. But the death of the cotton industry has taken an appalling toll on some parts of the city, completely taking away the reason why some communities were established and leaving blighted suburbs filled with disillusioned and dispirited people who cannot take part in the prosperity that is enjoyed in other parts of the city.

Mary Portas has  noticed two things. The first is British people like to buy British goods if they can find them. The second is that the people who make the cheap goods in the Far East are demanding, and getting, better wages. Also the cost of moving the finished goods to Europe is going up. This means that, for the first time in a long time, goods being made in the UK can compete with goods being made in China. Mary has come to Manchester, found a mothballed sewing factory in Middleton in the north of the city, has taken on 7 long term unemployed people from that area, got the ladies who used to work in the facory to teach the new guys how to use the machines and has got them to make, good quality, made in Britain, ladies knickers which will be sold at a reasonable price. She even managed to find the lace the knickers will be made of in the remains of the, once great, Nottingham lace industry which seems to have gone the same way as the Manchester cotton industry.

I’m not sure how the experiment has panned out as we have only seen one of the programmes so far, but the knickers were on sale in Kendal’s this afternoon so I’m thinking it has gone well. My only problem with it, is that she is only making women’s knickers at the moment. Now guys like cool underwear as well and I’m sure that a coolly branded, well made pair of British, well priced underpants would go down well. Guys do seem to be quite happy to shell out £20 a pair on pants from Italy, America and Australia so I’m sure we wouldn’t mind spending money on good British pants. The ladies’ knickers have a kind of 1930s sexiness about, all seductive lace and the like. They have been called Kinky Knickers. Maybe they could do a kind of stiff, upper lip, 1930s action hero thing themed pants for the guys. Stylish pants that Lawrence of Arabia or a WW2 Spitfire pilot might have worn while leading an army of the Bedouin across the desert or doing battle with the Luftwaffe across the summer skies of England in 1941, but with a modern cool twist. Just a thought. Here’s a picture of the slightly naughty knickers. They are rather nice and I bet they look good on.

Here are some pictures of the Mary Portas concession in Kendal’s. I got talking to one of the assistants, Nicola, who could not have been more helpful in showing me around. She also gave me a glass of champagne as they have just opened. I enjoyed it a great deal and it was only 20 minutes later that I remembered that I had given up alcohol for Lent! Oh well, I suppose I was always destined to burn in hell. Mary has a range of stylish clothes that are designed for classy, well groomed ladies to wear. Apparently, they were selling them even before they came into the store such was the demand for them from Manchester’s classy, well groomed ladies. They are all displayed on mannequins wearing Mary’s trade mark bob hairstyle which is a fun touch. I liked the way they had used unwound bobbins of, hopefully Manchester, orange cotton to lead you from the display at the top of the escalator to the concession itself across the floor.

She is also selling nice things for the home. I particularly like the cushions with the dogs on which are also made in Middleton in Manchester. I can see a couple of them on a sofa near me soon. And here is Nicola coordinating  beautifully with the wall of the concession.

American store, Hollister & Co are opening their second store in the city. They already have one in the Trafford Centre which is doing so well that they have decided to open a second one in the Arndale Centre in the city centre. It is part of the Abercrombie & Fitch family, having a California, west coast vibe about it that is perfect for the OC and the surfing communities along the Pacific coast, but sits uncomfortably the further you get away from it. And Manchester is a LONG way from the Pacific Coast of the USA.

I liked it a lot when we lived in California for a while, and bought into the blond surfer dude look big time but was never allowed to dye my hair blond and being naturally dark, it never got that sun kissed look that guys with other hair colours get. I still like to visit it now and have a lot of their clothes but, apart from the hottest, sunniest days in Manchester, I don’t feel as comfortable in them as I did when we lived in Los Altos, a short drive across the coastal mountains from the Pacific or visiting our friends in the OC and hanging out at Laguna or Newport Beach.

In fact, I may be getting old, but I find the stores to be a little irritating these days. I don’t think the store was officially open yesterday but it was functioning. They pump whatever Hollister fragrance they want to sell you into the air of the store. It, inevitably, escaped into the mall and I could smell it was open as I got to where the Disney and Apple stores are. Once you get to the store the fragrance is joined by the fragrance wafting up from the LUSH Cosmetics store on the lower mall. It’s almost overwhelming. People will be passing out for lack of oxygen in that part of the mall! God alone knows what will happen if the the Hollister boys start dating the LUSH girls!

Then there is the problem of getting a job at Hollister & Co. You don’t apply at a job centre. It’s no good knocking on the door and asking for an application form. What I believe happens is that existing Hollister people wander about the city prior to a store opening and target people who have the ‘right’ look for Hollister. That means they have to be extremely good looking, look incredibly cool and, it has to be said, have a body that will not look out of place in one of their advertisement campaigns. This, I have been told, has been happening in Manchester and  I want to know why have I not been head hunted?!!!

Then there is the layout of the stores, especially the light or lack of it really. Most of the store is in a kind of gloom. I imagine that those good looking vampires from the Twilight series of movies shop in here. I can just imagine them checking out the cool clothes in the dark corners waiting for someone pretty to pass by to sink their teeth into. This has not happened to me yet but I was startled in the store at the Trafford Centre where one of the assistants appeared at my side out of a dark corner asking if he could help. I really hadn’t spotted him in the gloom. Then to see what you are buying you have to move the item to one of the intense pools of  light that they have every so often. You have to do this or you will make the mistake I did by buying a black and white check shirt which turned out to be blue and white when I got it home.

With the Manchester store being new there were a couple of Hollister boys hanging outside the store in flip flops and boards shorts but nothing else. Well if I looked as buff as these guys do I think I might be in shorts as often as possible as well. But I’m not so I won’t. I’m not sure what these guys fuction actually is. In California where they have a beach culture it somehow seemed OK for guys to go shirtless even away from the beach.  But in autumnal Manchester it feels a bit uncomfortable. They seemed comfortable enough as they chatted to passers by but I wonder how people react to them? Would be interesting to find out but I possibly couldn’t report it on a nice blog like this! They seem to be greeters of some sort but they are also sending out a subliminal  message as well I think. It is either come in buy a shirt and you will look like us (unlikely) or, unless you look like us, what the **** are you doing coming in here? You choose.

There is also their noses! The have sunblock on. The guys in the Hollister stores in California, aware of skin cancer, wore sun block all the time, it was a necessity, a practical reaction to a danger of living in sunny California. But these guys are wearing it in grey Manchester, in October and indoors!

And they’re wearing shades! Indoors!