Historically speaking, Manchester and fashion have gone hand in hand since the textile industry placed the city on the map at the start of the Industrial Revolution. Since then, the city has evolved enormously, redefining itself as a fashion city to rival London. A highly influential figure from the sixties, Ossie Clark has since been labelled ‘king of the mods’. He attended the Regional College of Art in Manchester, now part of MMU, where he met his future wife, Celia Birtwell, and close friend, David Hockney. The Clarks’ flamboyant designs oozed sophistication and proved to be extremely popular; the pair racked up a client list that included John Lennon, Twiggy, Mick Jagger and Jimi Hendrix.
Fast-forward a few decades and meet the now 40 year-old Matthew Williamson. With Moss, Christensen and Miller on speed dial, Williamson is another important memeber of Britain’s fashion industry to hail from Manchester and take London by storm. He introduced boho-glamour to the 90s, leaving grunge to shrug off its denim jacket and trail behind as his models burst onto the catwalk with an eruption of colour and print. Whilst he has lived and worked in London for most of his life, Williamson speaks fondly of Manchester: ‘There is a certain buzz about Manchester’s fashion that I have always loved. It has so many diverse areas that you get a real sense of a modern cosmopolitan city.”
Next up: Karen Elson. Discovered in Manchester by Boss models at 16 years old, Elson’s career took off after she was the cover of Italian Vogue at 18. Her lengthy list of magazine covers, alongside her work for brands including H&M, John Lewis, YSL and Lanvin, place her as one of Britain’s most successful supermodels. She won the British Fashion Award for Best Model in 2005 and was one of the eight models to appear in the Olympic Closing ceremony, being paid to wear Burberry and strut to Bowie: lucky girl.Photo: Wenn
A personal favourite Mancunian duo are Henry Holland and Agyness Deyn, best friends since 13. Growing up in Greater Manchester before moving to London where she was spotted at 18 (whilst shopping with Holland), Agyness Deyn evolved into a supermodel turned household name; a pixie-crop sporting Kate Moss if you will. Her list of campaigns, covers and awards is breathtakingly extensive yet her polite disposition and down-to-earth nature means she is loveable and popular in the industry. She recently turned her hand to acting and secretly married Friends star Giovanni Ribisi in June, causing fans to worry that she may drift from fashion.
Rest assured: after recently releasing her debut range for Doc Marten, it’s clear Aggy won’t be going anywhere. Deyn’s partner in crime Holland fell into designing only six years ago after he graduated as a fashion journalist from London College of Communication. His cheeky yet highly popular 80s-style ‘Fashion Groupie’ tees, flaunting slogans such as ‘Give Us A Blow Daisy Lowe’, stormed the industry and he has since become one of the coolest and daring designers of the decade. House of Holland is now an international operation whose stockists include Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Barneys. The pair are at the forefront of British fashion; Holland’s infamous Tintin quiff teamed with Deyn’s effortless androgynous look makes them my favourite fashion figures to emerge from Manchester.