Archive for May, 2010


London V. Manchester- Fashion

May 29, 2010

Coming after my blog posts about London, I think the best approach to this would be to acquaint ourselves a bit better with Manchester overall. However, before I go into depth about that, I’d like to make some more simple comparisons between the two big cities of the UK.

The Wheel of Manchester, not as big as the London Eye, but still a nice addition to the city.

The London Eye, a lot bigger, a lot more of a tourist attraction, Kind of like London it self?

My time here in UK has ended, after spending about a week in London, and 2 nights in Manchester, I’ve come to the conclusion that Manchester is a lot like Milwaukee compared to New York City (not Chicago because of the size).

Manchester has the same unmistakeable appeal of and dedication to its small, or not so small, privately owned businesses as Milwaukee does. Londoners are a lot more about cheekier in their demeanor and wealthier for the most part, and they like to show it off. Manchester was built on the backbone of the working class, and its citizens seem to view, and pride, it as the revolutionary black sheep of the UK. It prides itself as having its ideals and identity existing outside of the aristocracy rather than in accordance to it. Manchester definitely still has all of the bells and whistles of a big city, but the history and people are what make it different from London. I once wondered why Londoners told us as a group through passing conversation that Manchester is “shit” and vice versa, but I think I understand now.

“There is more to Manchester than shopping, bars, and clubs. Manchester is a city of radical thinkers, mavericks, and trendsetters. It’s the people that give this city its edge. They have always fought for their rights: challenging, resisting, contesting, insisting. Peterloo did not crush this spirit! And the Suffragette struggles were fueled by it. (suffragette city?)Manchester attitude, the swagger on the street, colours the cultural landscape. It inspires designers, artists, musicians, writers to harness and express the tangible pulse that surges through the city.”- a display plaque from Manchester’s Modern Art Gallery Museum.

London definitely has its areas of shopping, and so does Manchester. Manchester has thrift stores and market places like London’s Brick Lane to buy clothes as well as busier areas similar to London’s Oxford Street to go to places like TopShop. So Manchester is similar to London in these ways, but what makes Manchester different? It has one type of shopping destination that makes it unique: Afflecks. (no, not Ben Affleck, but I did keep my eyes out for him). Afflecks is one huge building that designers can open their boutiques in and sell their original designs. It’s like a gigantic hub of fashion innovation and creativity, which is so paralleled with the culture of Manchester. The second I walked in, I smelled the aroma of warm, scented candles. It wasn’t a perfumed smell like those in Harrods; this smell felt more organic, and so did the clothes.

We fight in honourable fashion for the good of mankind; fearless of the future, unheeding of our individual fates, with unflinching hearts and undimmed eyes.
Theodore Roosevelt




Individual Cultural Code–Mixture

May 28, 2010

United Kingdom is an island country, with the preserving elements of distinctive traditions, customs and symbolism. Also, with the impact of large amounts of immigrants and tourists from various cultures, British people started to embrace various cultures while respecting and keeping their heritages from the history.

British people are comfortable to embrace various trends in fashion. Even though some of them might not like everyone’s dressing styles, they choose to embrace them rather than judge them. There’s a 28 years old salesman I have talked with in a shoe shop told me that his first memory about fashion is a pair of sneaker, which originally is an important part of hip hop culture. He said, “When I was 10 years old, I want to buy a pair of sneakers, I like it so much. So I tried to do a lot of housework and persuade my mom to buy it for me. I was so excited to get it finally, but it was stolen in two days. I was more than sad. So it was my first impressive memory about fashion”. This is the first time he started to get the picture of pop culture in fashion world besides its British heritages.

Furthermore, the openness of the mixture in fashion styles makes consumers to dress and do shopping confidently. When British people went for shopping, they usually do shopping alone. The most important reason is that they don’t want to wait for others and they prefer to allot their own time and schedule. Also, British people are confident enough to create their own pieces. There’s one girl I have talked to in the TopShop. She told me her first memory for fashion is her best friend’s mom is a fashion designer. And she can get some self-customized pieces from her, which inspires her interest in fashion and she started to mix her out-of-dated pieces’ fabric into their new pieces.

Moreover, the mixed culture in UK also drives a lot of fashion brands to mix the British vintage styles with the modern trends. Such kinds of trends largely affect consumers’ shopping and consumption habits and preferences.

Finally, UK definitely provides consumers a large amount of options for shopping, including high-end department store, middle-level stores and flea market. For example, in the Top Shop and H&M in Oxford Street, space is as premium, which is definitely overwhelmed compared with those high-end markets. However, in luxury market, the concept is always: when a thing is scarce, it is precious. Consumers are likely to enjoy the spacious shopping environment, and then the shopping experience. Then, the most interesting market is the flea markets, which definitely provide consumers more opportunities to talk with the salesperson about the product. You can have the access to them quite easily because each stand is privately-owned and in small scale.

Therefore, my final individual cultural code for fashion in UK is MIXTURE, which reflects British fashion products, brands, shopping environments, consumers’ attitudes toward fashion, as well as their shopping and consumption habits. However, no matter what the trend is, UK people will never follow it blindly. They only choose the best fit piece for themselves.



London v Manchester

May 28, 2010

London v Manchester = Chicago v Des Moines.

Sadly my time in the UK is done …for now, but after leaving I found some connections to my midwestern roots.

These cities did not have a direct correlation, but many similar attributes that will let my home readers understand my observations.

London & Chicago

London was full of vibrance.  Personal Expression is a staple that Londoners live by.  They love inividuality and creating outfits that are extremely eclectic.   High end fashion was as easy to find as a tourist, but not all Londoners were high end shoppers. 

What I loved most about London was the sophistication that everyone applied to the clothes they wore outside the house.   They took time and thought into creating their personalized outfits that were unique to them.  They made Americans or possibly just Drake students look like slobs.  My favorite was the young guy with a zip up hoodie and a blazer…and rocked it.  During the day young ladies looked like they could go out. 

Similarily Chicago or the tourist trap of Michigan Avenue reminded me of London.  Streetlights, People, walking down the boulevard.  Sorry, big Journey fan. 🙂 Chicago reminded me of London.  Even though my last visit to Chicago was in winter I found that people cared about what they were wearing.  Girls loved dressing up a cute jacket with a scarf and nice boots.  The jackets may mainly have been black but this need for self expression and individuality rang true in Chicago as well as London.  Trendy, but a true representation of themselves through their clothing.

In both cities their is a sense of identity in the outfits they choose to wear. 

I had the luxury of getting out of London to visit another town north of London, Manchester.  I felt like Manchester was smaller than Des Moines, but that is still up for debate with my fellow Drake travelers.  Manchester was a working class town and I would say lower income.  Londoners were more likely to have a disposable income.  After talking with a 30 something woman at a pub in Manchester I understood that Manchester was full of regular people, which is what I would say about people from Des Moines.   They are very nice people that work for their money, but arn’t counting pennies. 

Day fashion in Manchester was mainly business people going out for lunch, but as night came around it turned into the day fashions we saw in London.  There was a mix between average size town and people that wanted to pretend they were from the city.  Overall I found that Manchester’s style was mellowed out in comparison to London.  Many more average Joe’s in this town. 

Des Moines I would say follows along the same path.  You won’t see many young people eating on Court Avenue mid day, but mainly people in business clothes grabbing a bite to eat on their lunch break.  Come night time you will find a completly different style and demographic as it turns into the trendy bar area that twenty somethings gather for a few too many drinks with their friends.

London & Chicago….Manchester & Des Moines.  Great parallels to explain the difference in people occupying their cities.  Comparable differences in the standard of living in each town which correlates to the amount they would spend out shopping.  In magazines you see articles with outfits that you can either spend or save.  Londoners and Chicagans would spend and the people from Manchester and Des Moines would save.  They are all wearing similar styles, but choosing different ways of getting those looks.

Good Bye UK! I will miss you and your delicious Tom Collins’

Off to Prague!

Cheers!  Susan


The Classic Battle of North vs. South

May 27, 2010

Call it hometown pride if you like, but I was surprised to find out that there is a battle of the North and South brewing in the UK. In London, we heard about how the Scots and English were feuding, but apparently the English have a bit of a battle going on within their own country. In northern England and Manchester the locals had an openly harsh opinion of their southern neighbors in London. People of Manchester referred to themselves as the “real British people” and the backbone of the country. The feuding of the two regions reminded me not only of the North vs. South in the States as a whole, but also of the rivalry in the city of Chicago and the state of Wisconsin when it comes to sports. For example, Northern Chicago residents are typically Cubs fans, and Southern residents are very passionate about the White Sox. The fans have a long history of bitter rivalry, however at the end of the day, both the North and the South can agree that the Milwaukee Brewers are their ultimate enemy. And in this case, the Milwaukee Brewers and Wisconsin are the Scottish. What does the rivalry between London and Manchester (North and South) have to do with fashion?  After spending about two days in Manchester, I was able to draw some similarities as well as vast differences between the two cities when it comes to their cultural understanding and view of fashion.

As stated in an earlier post, in London, everyone is always well put together. Londoners are confident in who they are and value individualism. They enjoy mixing vintage, timeless fashion with cutting edge trends and styles of the modern day. For Londoners fashion is a form of self expression that allows them to be who they want to be and tell others who they are. Londoners like to follow trends but like to let people know that they still have their own point of view and don’t need to look like everyone else to be accepted in the city. London is culturally diverse, pack with residents and tourist of all different ethnicity’s which perhaps also contribute to the variety in style. Think about it, with so many cultures packed into the city, it’s only natural for Londoners to pick up on styles and tastes of other countries and blend them into their lives to make a style that is so culturally blended it becomes a cornucopia of trends that are undefinable by any one culture. Londoners in the South liked to be unique and trendsetters in their own way. Londoner’s want to look like they are ready to go out on the town with a sophisticated, put together look. However, they stay true to who they are and don’t try to emulate who they wish they were.

I had never been to Manchester before, and I had expected it to be basically London only farther North. Upon our arrival however I couldn’t help but notice how much more industrial the city was. Manchester was smaller, less modern, and dirtier. My first impression of fashion however was at the train station where I saw a massive woman body builder looking woman who was built like a linebacker. She was wearing leather leggings, a spandex black t-shirt with army boots and had a scarlet red mohawk and looked about 45 years old. What kind of city was this?! Luckily I quickly realized there are exceptions in every city for the norm of fashion. We went on a walking tour of Manchester early Wednesday morning with our tour guide who while put together, was much more traditionally dressed than some of the men seen in London. While our guide was put together and dressed sharply, there were no surprises. Classic suit with button up shirt and matching tie, and a pair of classic wingtip shoes to finish the look. In London, he would have maybe had a bit more of a modern flair with some funky shoes, vintage shirt, or crazy hat or watch. However while his outfit may be lacking spunk, his attitude was not. Our tour guide was sassy, with witty jokes and comments.  On the tour we had a chance to explore the different corners of Manchester, while also observing the local residents. One of the first things I noticed was that the guide was not alone in his more traditional, laid back attire. Mancunians were much more subdued, wearing jeans, t-shirts, even sweatpants out and about day or night. Our guide informed us on the background of Manchester being the more industrial, working class society in comparison to London. This explains why perhaps most of the residents did not seem to be dressed up as much as Londoners. In order to compensate for not having as much disposable income to spend on expensive clothes, Mancunians wear vintage clothes which are less expensive yet still make a statement. On the tour we visited several different areas that meet the needs of different consumers.

Affleck’s Palace

Affleck’s is located near China Town in Manchester and is actually the name of a building that houses several smaller independent designers and stores such as No Angel and Space Hop which have a vintage and gothic style. Affleck’s was not overly packed with shoppers and when I spoke with one of the shop workers they said they have a rather loyal consumer base that comes in. Affleck’s did a great job of building making the store fit the consumer. The shoppers that were in there (apart from some tourists) all dressed very uniquely in a hodgepodge way that was very eclectic. The store was set up uniquely as well with multi-colored walls and really no clear cut organization of where one shop ends, and another begins. The smell of the building was also very vintage it smelled musty like my grandmother’s basement mixed with potpourri. The shoppers of the store seemed at home and comfortable in the store where they knew everyone. Affleck’s wasn’t just a place to shop for vintage looks, it was a place to meet up with friends and talk.


I had no idea what a Primarx was before Manchester. I had seen a few Primarx bags around London, but didn’t actually go in one until Manchester. All I have to say is SEARS. Primarx screams SEARS from the white floors and walls, to simple to the point signs in bold fonts giving the price and basic item description. The bright sterile fluorescent lighting and scent of synthetic fabrics and leathers wafted throughout the store. Also the store was packed with shoppers like back in the states on Black Friday. At first I thought they were all tourists buying the 1 pound sunglasses and 5 pound dresses but as I walked around and listened nearly every shopper sounded like they were from Britain. Once again this low budget shop was packed with locals who needed to shop on a budget. On huge difference I noticed in Primarx was that it had a lot of young teen shoppers in it and for the first time, in groups larger than 2 or 3. Primarx is an ideal shopping spot for teens to go to after school with their babysitting money or allowance to pick up a new top at a low price. However, like London, there was a large amount of young women shopping with their mothers and talking about clothes and seeking the other’s opinion. Primarx was one of the first places I saw more people shopping together than alone. I think this may have something to do with the affordability and universal appeal it has. Primarx offers consumers a little bit of everything and in a generic way where shoppers of all ages can find something they may like or need. Primarx was a popular place for families as well because of the cheap clothing and large selection. Just like SEARS, people in Manchester know that Primarx will offer them the selection they want for their wardrobe at the low cost they need.

New Cathedral Street

New Cathedral Street is located in the newer up-and-coming area of Manchester than was completely rebuilt after the IRA bombing. Along this street are all the high end and big name brands such as Louis Vuitton, Ugg, Lactose, and Harvey Nichols. This is not only the most modern part of Manchester, but the most expensive. Even though Manchester is a more of a working class city, there are still residents who can either a) actually can afford to buy more expensive brands or b) save up to splurge on high end brands once in a while to complement a look from a cheaper store. However When I walked around this area, I saw more tourists here than in any other part of the city. Much of the older parts of the city were much quieter with a few locals here and there but Cathedral seemed like the hub for tourists.

Manchester and London shared some similarities such as the quest for individuality and a sense of confidence in staying true to who you are. Where they differed was that Londoners tended to be able to splurge a bit more on clothes and looks with a bit more cutting edge flair while mixing in vintage looks. Manchester on the other hand, had to be more creative in being unique. Mancunians buy a lot of vintage, with more traditional basics that are of a lower cost. While high end retailers and brands are present in Manchester, they are not the first choice in shopping among locals. Mancunians don’t want to be like those “southern city-slicker Londoners,” they want to retain the identity of Manchester and still think of themselves as “the real British.”


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Mix ‘n Match Windows

May 27, 2010

Some window displays / ads I saw around London. The windows are so much cooler than stores in America. I loved the bright colors and combinations of clothing pieces. London definitely marketed fashion and clothes as exciting, fun, trendy, and able to be mixed and matching in a million different ways.

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@Afflecks Palace in Manchester

May 27, 2010

We left from the busy and crowds in London and head down to Manchester. Manchester is less busier and crowded than London and still owns its stories and identity. From the perspective of history, the south (mainly London) was much wealthier than the North (like Manchester), where was very much working class.  Regarding the fashion industry in these two cities, people in Manchester respect more of its fashion history. So they still largely use the application of vintage elements along with embracing the modern trends.

Manchester Attitude

Manchester is a city with cultural mix and diversity of young, old, many colours and races. It’s the people in Manchester that give this city its edge. According to the quotes from the Manchester Art Gallery, “Manchester is the city of radical thinkers, mavericks and trendsetters. Manchester attitude, the swagger on the street, colours the cultural landscape. It inspires designers, artists, musicians, writers to harness and express the tangible pulse that surges through the city.”

Afflecks Palace

One of the oldest fashion stores in Manchester, Afflecks Palace, which established in 1982, perfectly reflects Manchester attitudes. I believe that compared with the traditional market streets and department stores, the observation in Afflecks Palace will give me more insights into the fashion world in Manchester.

Afflecks positions itself as a “shopping mall” that integrates music and art, most importantly it keeps the origins from the history. Afflecks Palace stands out for its mixture with vintage and modern elements,
such as the boutique dresses with fancy colors, laces and different fabrics, Ho shoes (also called stripper shoes for dancing), as well as its accessories.

Entering the Afflecks Palace, I can hear that it is playing rock music. Unlike the stores in department stores, each stand in Afflecks Palace only has limited spaces for their products. The three stands I did my observation is No Angel, Thunder Egg and Pop Boutique. According to the salespersons from several stands, most people shopping here are students, ranging from 18 to 24. They are looking for uniqueness and different styles from those available in most traditional department stores. Most importantly, some of them are trying to find out the products with the hint of traditional British styles.

No Angel and Thunder Egg enjoy similar designs, focusing on vintage dresses. The several consumers shopping there were all shopping with friends. They wear blouse with bubble sleeves, jacket, Scotland skirts, skinny jeans, tights, flats and short boots. Also, they dyed their hair and have ear and nose piercing. Two girls shopping in Thunder Egg were already wearing Ho shoes and tights.

However, compared with No Angel and Thunder Egg, Pop Boutique has more causal dresses. The one couple shopping there are very young, around 20. The girl was wearing skinny jeans, All-star shoes, lose T-shirt and a bright blue bag. Another couple I ran into on the street also carried the shopping bag from Pop Boutique. The girl’s dress is far more impressive: red hair, blue headbands, fur coat, black tights and cowboy-style boots. Her boyfriend has dyed yellow hair, and wears red and white checked shirt, and black pants.

Therefore, the fashion world in London and Manchester both enjoy the openness and mixture. In some sense, the impact of multi-culture on fashion industry in London undoubtedly plays a vital role in the fashion trends and people’s attitudes in Manchester area. However, compared with the fashion trends in London, Manchester’s fashion trend is a little more reserved and limited to boutique and detail-focused dressing styles. They embrace the traditional British vintage elements in their dressing styles.


London vs. Manchester

May 27, 2010

Sandwiched between our two busy weeks in London and Prague was our two-day stay in Manchester. Perfect time to relax. Ironically, our desire to relax was mirrored in the city’s atmosphere. Manchester, in comparison to London, was much more mellow, calm, and laid-back – both in general and fashion-wise.

Our hotel was on the outskirts of the busier areas of Manchester. The buildings were mismatched and there was a big urban vibe. My initial impression of the city was that it was really empty. There were barely any people walking around. The few people that were walking down the sidewalks were adult men or women walking alone to work or elderly people. There were three free busses, taxis, and trams for people to commute in. There were not a lot of shops or restaurants near our hotel, either. We had to walk a few minutes further into the city to reach a more busy shopping area. The Northern Quarters had a lot more shopping areas, malls, restaurants, and boutiques for people to shop in. We walked through a small collection of stores called Affleck’s Palace that had a lot of independent stores, Olden St. with other independent shops, and the streets by the ferris wheel that had more high-end stores like Louis Vuitton and Lacoste. Even these shopping areas were only moderately crowded.

Our tour guide gave us a good insight into the minds of the people of Manchester. He compared the atmosphere of London to Manchester, saying that London came from lords, ladies, and hierarchies of social classes, while the working class of Manchester rose to power and became powerful. The people of Manchester, therefore, rose because of what they could do, not who they were. They have an “attitude” about them, which was described in the art museum –

Once I understood the distinction between the social history London and Manchester, it gave me an insight as to why the people in Manchester dressed much more casually. Manchester has a working-class, urban, industrial feel to it which is reflected in its fashion. During the day, I saw a lot of plain business suits, generic outfits on men and women, and laid-back pieces. The only places that I saw high-end fashion were the high-end shopping areas, and even those outfits were nothing compared to the immaculate ensembles of London.

The shopping habits in Manchester were very similar to those in London. Shoppers in Manchester walked around alone or groups of two or three. People were walking around at a moderate pace, taking their time and enjoying the experience. They usually had one shopping bag on their arm. A lot of people walked around the stores and boutiques but did not buy anything. They interacted with the salespeople and talked to their friends about the pieces in the store.

London was filled with cutting-edge trends, hundreds of unique stores, and the most prestigious brands, while Manchester was mostly convenience shops, office buildings, parks, and restaurants and only had a few big shopping areas. The people of London were extremely put-together, fashion conscious, and concerned with high-end brand names, while the people of Manchester were comfortable walking around in sweatpants, gym shoes, and laid-back apparel. The people in Manchester did dress similarly to Londoners at night, however. When we went to the Northern area bars, I saw many girls wearing dresses that I would expect to see a London girl wearing while shopping during the day. In general though, Manchester was a much more casual fashion environment than London.

From what I was able to observe and write down, the culture code of Manchester fashion is all about comfort and generic, traditional style. The people that I observed walking around during the day were wearing extremely casual clothing. Some were in sweatpants and gym shoes, others in jeans and a t-shirt, and others wearing pants and a simple coat to tie the outfit together. Nobody was wearing anything outrageous or slightly out of the ordinary, which is extremely common in London. The people walking around Manchester were not concerned with standing out, being “unique,” or announcing to the world that they are “their own person.” They simply dressed in a casual/cute outfit (some not so cute) and went about their shopping. Londoners seemed to care equally about their outfit and the clothes they were shopping for, while the people in Manchester were focused on talking with friends, walking around the streets, and casually shopping for only a few items.

I kind of enjoyed the less casual feel of London. Maybe it’s just because I’m a girl and love to dress up and shop, but the Manchester atmosphere was a little too laid-back for me.