Creatives on Tour - Leeds
In the first part of its Creatives on Tour series, leading men’s fashion brand Farah embarked on its exploration of some of the most creative people and businesses in Leeds. As a champion of alternative culture, it is important to Farah that individuality is celebrated in a world where it’s sometimes difficult to stand out from the crowd.
Creativity can manifest itself in hundreds of ways. And in Leeds, it truly does. Hiding in the arcades that stray from the beaten track or residing in the structures of its Victorian past, Leeds is awash with creative minds, daring attitudes and busy hands.
In a bid to uncover those behind the city's creative spirit, Farah headed up north to meet some of the individuals currently driving Leeds' innovative surge towards a new and exciting future. From bohemian barbers to contemporary coffee shop owners, here are some of the cities most creative people giving their view on one of our favourite towns.
Ben Holmes, Village Bookstore
What is it? Established in 2012, this store specialises in independently published magazines, journals and books. We find the mantra behind Village’s shop window. It’s an attitude that acts in the present and worries if, and when, it has to. It’s a mantra that places style, art and talent ahead of the here and now – and most importantly, in a world that’s rapidly becoming instant and disposable, it’s something that’s built to last.
What do you do? "We sell books. Or at least try to."
Why Leeds? "After university, there were a lot of people here giving things a go. There was more of an openness to trying new things. The traditional way can be to graduate and then move down to London to get a job, but in Leeds you have the freedom to try something and be different."
Brian Dickinson, Northern Monk Brewery
What is it? Established back in 2013, this independent brewery has come a long way in such a short space of time. Within their brewery, we see the likes of ‘True North’, ‘Monacus’ and ‘Northern Star’ – all of which were nothing more than an idea inside their master’s mind not too long ago, and yet today, they are the cause for boozy celebration across the UK and beyond (six international markets, in fact). It’s staggering how far they’ve come in such a short space of time. The recipe behind Northern Monk’s success is one of desire, dedication and, as Brian candidly puts it, “physically exhausting work.” But apart from this, Northern Monk are the first to recognise the importance of collaboration within their Yorkshire home.
When quizzed about the ways in which Northern Monk present themselves in the city in which they reside, Dickinson wastes no time in highlighting the work that the team at Northern Monk do outside of the brewery. “We try to be a social hub and work with other local independent people or companies,” says Brian. “It’s really important that we keep learning and improving.”
As far as craft beer goes, Northern Monk are doing everything right. Collaborative, dedicated and full of revolutionary ideas (hints of hazelnut, anyone?), under their ripped jeans and stained T-shirts we see creativity in full swing – and boy is it refreshing.
What do you do? "I brew beer, package it, clean, clean, write recipes, give brewery tours and talks, and clean."
Why Leeds? "As I lived in Huddersfield, I was bang in the middle of Leeds and Manchester, but for a good few years it was always better to go to Manchester for interesting beers and bars. But in the last two or three years, the bar scene in Leeds has grown and, as a result, more and more breweries have moved here. Suddenly Leeds had much more appeal and much more going on."
Leeds in three words is: "Hive of activity."
Alex Galantini, La Bottega Milanese
What is it? Established in 2009, La Bottega Mialnese is an Italien espresso bar boasting two outlets in Leeds city centre. Citing “Milanese lifestyle” and “continental café culture” as two of the main factors behind his business, we knew that when we found Alex and La Bottega Milanese. “We bring real heritage and in-situ experience of the Milan Espresso Bar scene,” argues the founder of La Bottega Milanese. “We bring the public a progressive take on something that is part of our national DNA. The appetite for better coffee was clear with the arrival of Starbucks in the UK. We just decided to go one better and anticipate the demand for the real thing.”
What do you do? "We provide a Milanese lifestyle through continental café culture."
Why Leeds? "I came here for a summer to learn the language and do something a little bit different. I was totally fascinated by the scene here, I loved Leeds straight away - the young vibrant life that was going around here was definitely appealing."
What is the company’s style? “Subtle elegance, classy and detailed”
Leeds in three words is: "Innovative, happening, buzzing!"
Myke Greaves, King Koby's Chop Shop
What is it? A barbershop that, in their own words wants to ‘exist with purpose’. By basing their philosophy around a set of principles now believed to be fading, the team at King Koby have tapped into a market for those who aren’t afraid to look over their shoulder as they move forwards towards their future – and if there’s anything we can learn from the world of fashion, it is that nostalgia can often be a good thing.
What do you do? "At King Koby I am a barber/stylist. I cut and style gents hair, I also trim, shape up and shave beards."
Why Leeds? "It’s just such an awesome city and it’s just going to grow and grow over the next few years - and I can’t wait to see what happens."
Owen Brinley, Department M
What is it? Established in 2012, Department M are a band. The fact that Department M are working with Leeds-based label Hide and Seek tells its own story. In a city currently boasting a distinguished crop of musical talent (think Alt J, Eagulls etc.), there’s a real sense of endeavour, belief and spirit flowing through the streets of this particular northern town.
What do you do? "Our sound is impressionistic pop, I suppose - weird-dream hangover music. Sonically, a marriage of electronic experimentation and indie-rock."
Why Leeds? "There are other towns and cities in the UK but Leeds just has everything you need to be a musician. As opposed to somewhere like London, where I suppose it’s a nightmare to find affordable space to make music or art in, Leeds has that in spades."
Chris Lambert, Tattooist, Snake and Tiger
What is it? Established in 2015, the experienced tattooists pride themselves in their ability to adorn the highest-quality designs onto the skin of their loyal customers.
What do you do? “I started tattooing 8 years ago. I initially did my apprentice at Ultimate Skin, I worked there for about 2 years. Finally I came back to Leeds to set up Snake and Tiger which is my tattoo shop in Thornton’s arcade.
Why Leeds? My client basis at the end of the day, I think I have a really good client basis here with a lot of regulars. Business is good in Leeds for me anyhow. I like working with people from Leeds because I think that they know what they want, and they are willing to pay for quality, which is not what I have necessarily found at the other places I have worked. So the people of Leeds are good, and that’s what has brought me back.
This was brought to you by Farah, leading men’s fashion brand who embarked on its exploration of some of the most creative people and businesses in Leeds. As a champion of alternative culture, it is important to Farah that individuality is celebrated in a world where it’s sometimes difficult to stand out from the crowd.
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