the city talking: fashion in leeds, vol. 1 — special editionBack
The City Talking
The City Talking: Fashion in Leeds, Vol. 1 is a film that tells stories from Leeds’ clothing industry, style and social fabric. It’s our third feature-length film, following documentaries we’ve made about Leeds tech and music scenes using the same creative sensibilities and stories found in our newspapers.
To accompany the film the new issue of The City Talking is a special 100-page edition, now available for free from select stockists in Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield.
The stories in this issue are tales of clothing, retail, manufacturing and people: their dreams, personalities and passions. Fashion in Leeds is about twentieth-century tailors, big brand retail stores like Burton and Hepworth’s, and the thousands of factory workers who went to work every day so that men in England could wear suits from Leeds. Fashion in Leeds is also about a Saturday afternoon in a coffee shop looking your best; a Sunday morning with friends, feeling your worst; about dancing and walking and looking and making in the city, about streets and scenes and new sounds. Challenging the status quo, and designing your bit of the world, a bit better.
We decided to start somewhere near the start, or a start, of fashion in Leeds, and so we talked to people like Danielle Sprecher, PhD researcher at the University of Leeds, and Eric Musgrave, the fashion journalist. They told us about a Leeds from not so long ago; had you lived in it, you, your mum, your next door neighbour and your best friend would probably be making or selling clothes. The suit was one of Leeds most popular exports, and for many of the people that lived here during those years, it was their livelihood.
That didn’t last forever; fashion evolves and, by the 1970s, people weren’t buying suits like the used to. New attitudes and lifestyles meant that the OGs of Leeds’ fashion scene had to adapt or perish; from the dusty debris of the manufacturing industry rose new stores like Strand, Accent and The Hip Store, and alongside them, parties. We talked to people like Martin and Louise Schneider, who helped people in Leeds choose what to wear on big nights out; and Suzy Mason from SpeedQueen, who brought black lipstick and alternative ways of thinking, dancing and dressing to the city. It was these individuals, and many more, who made the city a place to be seen, so that when Harvey Nichols decided to open its first store outside London it looked to Leeds, and in 1996 opened its doors on a main street emboldened by the independent retail of the arcades.
The arcades are still home to independents: we talked to Ben Holmes from Village about opening a coffee shop and bookstore and working with The Hip Store, and to Rosie Lyness, who has been inspired by clothing shores like Chimp and Welcome in the cozy, creative streets that flow into Briggate.
The impact of fashion in Leeds extends beyond the clothes we wear; Julian Kynaston told us about the impact the death of Sophie Lancaster had on the launch of flamboyant makeup brand Illamasqua, and Ria Sharma about travelling from Delhi and taking the fashion course at Leeds College of Art, changing course halfway through to start an organisation, Make Love Not Scars, that is using fashion skills to fight on behalf of acid attack survivors in India.
These are some of the tales we’ve told in our new film, and in this special issue of The City Talking; and there are many more. This issue also includes stories from our neighbours in Sheffield and Manchester, because our fashion is never without ideas from other people and not-so-faraway places.
A city’s style is the every day choice to show off who we are, and who we want to become. In Leeds that choice is infinite in its influences, and takes inspiration from our own lived fantasies and the city streets.
Our film, The City Talking: Fashion in Leeds, Vol. 1 is coming soon. You can pick up a copy of our new magazine in the places you already go to read our newspaper.