Manchester: A Northern Powerhouse of Fashion

Paris, London, New York, Milan. When someone asks which cities rule the fashion industry, the “Big Four” usually spring to mind. Marking their territory, with everything from production, fashion houses, to some of the biggest retail stores – the existence of fashion within those cities is partly the reason why they are sought-after destinations. But among the big contenders, Manchester, a city with just under three million inhabitants, has quickly established itself as one of the UK’s most important style hubs, and the gleaming HQ to some of the globe’s most lucrative online fashion brands.

We’ve not for-cotton our history! The Foundation of Manchester’s Fashion Legacy

An abundance of fashion history, Manchester became the epicentre of the British cotton industry, undertaking the nickname ‘Cottonopolis’ in 1854. A Victorian industrial dream, Manchester became rich in textile production, with over 80% of the world’s cotton being produced and exported from this humble northern city. Although the last cotton mills shut down completely in the late 1980s, the character of Manchester completely transformed throughout this period. Buildings predominantly located in the Northern Quarter and Ancoats remain as historical reminders of the cotton empire which once stood, and despite refurbishments to their exterior, they still hold a distinctive significance, and are the HQ to some hugely successful online brands.

The city of Manchester encompasses a feeling of freedom when it comes to creative expression, even gaining the nickname ‘Madchester’, which was coined by Tony Wilson in the 1980s. Owner of the iconic Haçienda nightclub, Wilson gave this label as a nod to the way Manchester dramatically changed the existing artistic landscape. Notably thriving architecturally, artistically, theatrically and musically (Oasis, Carl Cox, Barry Gibb, Morrisey – ring any bells?) our city is rich in culture. And where culture goes, fashion follows. The standing idea that fashion is almost hierarchical doesn’t seem to exist – instead our fashion tells a story of history and culture – whether that be a trend created by a music scene, or a reflection of one of the diverse communities within the city, its a love letter to the Mancunian lifestyle.

From ‘Cottonopolis’ to ‘Madchester’: How Mancunian Culture Transformed the Fashion Industry

Fast forward to present day, and Manchester’s fashion scene doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Home to three award-winning universities which all offer fashion related courses, on top of the Manchester Fashion Institute, the city is constantly generating the next fashion trail-blazers ready to further propel this  northern city as a fashion powerhouse. Manchester Fashion Week, a bi-annual independent showcase established in 2011, has seen a plethora of upcoming designers feature alongside global names, such as Vivienne Westwood, Mulberry and Ted Baker.

The legacy of the city’s fashion history has meant that trends and style have had room to flourish- and there really is a place for everyone. Alongside our main high-street stores, Manchester caters for all tastes. If you head over to Northern Quarter, not only will you see a myriad of sustainable, bohemian-esque outlets, but you will see the shining jewel that is Affleck’s – the ultimate ‘go to’ spot if you’re looking for eclectic, vintage items across a multitude of independently run stores. But after a short-ten minute walk, you’ll find yourself in Exchange Square – which is home to the luxury designer stores such as Selfridges and Harvey Nicholls – inside harbouring huge names such as Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., and Chanel.

The heart of Manchester is the people and the diversity we bring to the city – which has enabled us to provide such an iconic fashion history (and future!). Alongside the people, the city benefits from its geographical location. We sit close to other major cities such as Liverpool, and our developed lines of transport such as the Metrolink have enabled smaller, neighbouring towns to contribute to Manchester’s economy and build our reputation. Globally renowned online fashion brands, such as Pretty Little Thing, Boohoo and N Brown Group call Manchester home, a few of which set up their HQ in refurbished cotton mills.

Manchester to Milan – How is Mustard Making a Difference to Market Research in the Fashion Industry?

As our office sits in the heart of Manchester, we are engaged in this industry from all aspects. Many of the existing HQ’s sit on our doorstep; with the individuals running these hugely successful brands existing within our network. In the past, Mustard has delivered projects for online fashion brands – providing crucial insight for our clients so they can make better, more informed decisions about their business. We’re immersed in emerging trends, shopping hotspots and the behaviour of consumers, and as some of our Mustard staff used to work for online fashion brands, we have gained further understanding of these businesses and their consumers. Manchester has always been the heart of the textile industry, and more recently, is a location mapping the rise of online fashion brands. Alongside the benefit of our location, our team skilled, passionate researchers whose knowledge specialises in retail means that ultimately, our client’s couldn’t be in better hands than the ones at Mustard. We’re all about making a difference, and we love to see our clients win!

Written by Bruna Pani
Posted on 7th Nov, 2023