Jennifer Lee O'Brien
One year, Rosie Lyness — the founder of online shop Second Store — moved to Paris to study French culture and French language. She lived in a studio apartment; her toilet was in the kitchen. Every Wednesday she’d sneak off from classes to do a jewellery design course. She had a great time. She arrived to Paris in a leopard print dress and green cardigan.
“I found it very strange when I was there, coming from studenty Leeds and feeling free, like I could do whatever,” she says. “I got on the Metro and everybody’s in grey and black and navy and camel beige.”
Rosie thought about her green/leopard outfit of the day and smiled. Then she stopped that too. “Noted: no colour. No smiling.”
Things Rosie loves about Paris: the history; how compact it is. The feeling that world renowned artists have lived up the road. Seeing photographers and filmmakers everywhere. People watching. Simone de Beauvoir. She says that despite the muted colour palette and the frowning on smiling, it’s an exciting place to be.
“I also love how, if something is wrong, the French get up and do something about it,” she says. “I went to visit my friends in April and they were protesting about the working hours in France. They do this thing where they stand in the Place de la République. They just stand there. And they’re still standing there. Mind: blown.”
Rosie smiles. “I wish we had that get up and go.”
Rosie moved to Leeds from a village called Donaghadee, on the east coast of Northern Ireland. She arrived at the airport with a 20kg suitcase. “It was my entire life.”
Rosie wanted to be a singer so she did a degree in music and language. In Leeds she made friends with musicians. When Rosie volunteered as a presenter on East Leeds FM and began organising gigs for Sofar Sounds, she would bring her friends in for interviews and performances. It was for fun, but as Rosie’s post-graduation jobs were in project management and health and safety, it was also to keep her sanity.
When Rosie was a child, she used to collect tiny porcelain heels that came in tiny cardboard shoe box. She loved magazines and fashion. “I used to buy it all,” she says.
“I never really thought I would have the opportunity to get into fashion as a career. I always thought it would be something I enjoyed on the side.”
Rosie became an assistant buyer at Lambert’s Yard, seeking and showcasing new designers.
“You have to be interested in people, what they’re doing, what they’re up to, and be good at spotting a trend,” she says. “I’m a people watcher. I like going around shops and being a fly on the wall, and seeing what people like and why they might like it.”
Sometimes when Rosie people watches it’s in Paris. Sometimes she’ll go to Manchester. Her favourite shops to people watch in Leeds are Hip, Chimp and Welcome Skate Store. It was through shopping and people watching that she noticed how few independent shops cater to women’s fashion and sneakers in Leeds.
“You go into a sports shop and the shoes are not for you,” she says. “Yours are upstairs, or downstairs, or whatever. Then you get to the women’s shoe section, it’s like a tenth of the size and everything’s pink.” She looks down at her shoes. “Obviously I’m wearing pink trainers today, but they’re great.” She laughs, and adds: “I think a lot of industries have been geared towards men and women have kind of come as an afterthought.”
Rosie left Lambert’s Yard to start thinking about being an afterthought. Soon, she’ll launch Second Store: an online trainer shop for women.
We ask her about the name.
“Everyone thinks it’s awful,” she says. “Family and friends are like, ‘Really? You’re going to call it that?’ I’m like, ‘Yes. I can’t not.’”
Rosie named Second Store after Simone de Beauvoir’s book Second Sex.
“It’s a seminal feminist novel,” says Rosie. “She kind of puts it on the table like, women can choose exactly the same way that men can. They’ve got all this opportunity and options that are possible to them so they don’t have to remain in this state of imminence. They can transcend that.
“That was the inspiration behind the store, so I definitely set myself a challenge. But I guess the whole meaning for me in that book is you’re redefining something, aren’t you?”
Originally published in The City Talking: Fashion