Two weeks ago I was introduced to the delights of Manchester to celebrate its Heart Of Fashion campaign. Aimed at showcasing the fashion offer of the city, I was given a tour of the Northern Quarter (AKA vintage heaven), treated to an audience with Amanda Wakeley at Harvey Nichols and wined and dined in the Harvey Nichols restaurant. In between, I managed to shoe-horn in a three-hour vox pop session with most excellent photographer Jason Lock for a travel mag. During our ‘stylish people of Manchester’ scouting, we spotted the most incredible trio of 70-somethings, straight off the Corrie set (circa 1968). There they were, ‘aving a fag and a mother’s meeting on the street, resplendent in pastel-hued raincoats, shampoo-and-set coiffs and sheer Northern character. And – I swear to God – one of them sported a handful of ghetto-fab nails that put Willow Smith’s 3-D claws to shame. Did we get a photo? Hell no, the poor biddies were camera-shy and ‘running late for bingo’. I could’ve wept.
We drowned our missed photo-op sorrows at Harvey Nichols as local girl, Amanda Wakeley presented her AW10 collection in an animated presentation. Super-luxe leathers, suedes, cashmeres and jerseys, scissored into capes, coats, sculpted jackets and ‘scuba’ dresses, were accompanied by Camilla Skovgaard asymmetric heels. All flattering for all ages and made to last. I was impressed with the attention to detail; Wakeley’s cashmere cardigans are lined in satin and all the stretch pieces are lined in stretch silk so they feel as good as they look. We discussed the commercial side of fashion. Wakeley believes that “in a recession, people buy things that stand out but have a longevity. They want value in the fabric, the make, the cut.” On the subject of fashion and the web, she’s a firm believer (next season Amanda Wakeley will be sold on Net-a-porter.com), but doesn’t think online will kill bricks and mortar. And of the moment Angelina Jolie wore Wakeley’s silver beaded gown to the premiere of Salt, she said, “the follow-up was phenomenal, the blogs went berserk! The power of celebrity and online has surged.”
Following a make-your-own-mojitos session, we feasted on slow-cooked Cheshire beef, truffle gnocchi and baby leeks in the Harvey Nichols restaurant, where I discovered that the best selling labels in the Manchester store are Juicy Couture and Roberto Cavalli. Who said bling is dead? By bedtime, I was truly spent. Thank God then for the Lowry Hotel, who comped me the biggest hotel room I have ever seen – think floor to ceiling river-view windows, a massive bed, ocean-liner size desk, leather chaise longue, plus an entire separate dressing area (makes a change from the usual foot of rail space and two meagre hangers).
It would have been nice to have free in-room wi-fi but luckily I’d come equipped with my mi-fi dongle *smug face*. After an emotional half hour watching the Chilean miners emerge triumphant from their hellhole, I drifted off into a deep and blissful slumber.
Day two involved a tour of some of Manchester’s high end boutiques and stores. Manchester is a city where old and new exist proudly side by side. While 175 year old Kendals is the oldest department store in the world, there was much ado about the Armani store opening in the newly built luxury destination, The Avenue at Spinningfields.
There’s clearly something of a Westwood following in Manchester, judging by the two shops and an Agent Provocateur store (not strictly Westwood I know, but loosely-related). However, the highlight for me was Hervia Bazaar. Owned by the same team who run the Westwood franchises around the country, it stocks an eclectic edit of labels including Rick Owens leathers, Elke Kramer jewellery, Pierre Hardy shoes and bags, A Child of the Jago menswear (see, the Westwood connection again) and Pyrenex outerwear, all beautifully merchandised. The store has also been a great supporter of emerging British labels – unsurprisingly my eyes went straight to the Sibling knitwear…
A Child of the Jago