Fashion has become too easily disposable. High street stores with continuous sales and bargain rails mean that quality is often compromised in favour of quantity. Tags are often never removed and wardrobe turnover is high. We talk to Alice Made This retailer Lissom & Muster about how longevity, quality craftsmanship and product history should be the priority.
Walk along Manchester’s Tib Lane and descend down the stairs of Lissom & Muster to discover a store filled with provenance and products that will last a lifetime. Like the beautiful architecture dispersed around the city, this store offers hard wearing, durable pieces of craftsmanship.
As I talk to John Rogers, director of Lissom & Muster, he tells me how he curates the store based on quality of process, interesting manufacturing stories and materials that are built to last; something that Alice Made This also prides itself on.
I talk to John specifically about the leather used to create his bags, belts and shoes. With Alice Made This soon to launch a range of leather bracelets and belts, I’m keen to learn more about the production processes used and the stories behind the items.
“Our leathers are sourced from a number of very long established and traditional producers,” John tells me. “The collaborations with CHERCHBI for example included leathers from Joseph Clayton of Chesterfield, Derbyshire, established 1840. Northern Irish cowhide is pit-tanned with tree bark tannins over a period of many weeks.”
“This ancient vegetable-tanning process has remained essentially unchanged for millennia. We used the original surface of the hide, the top-grain, and retain any individual marks and creases. Natural inconsistencies differentiate each hide and make each leather item unique. For the bags, for example, our hides are cut at 3mm, unusually thick for bags, and are left unbacked so every aspect of the leather is visible.”
This idea of letting the material speak for itself is something we also value at Alice Made This. Quality raw materials have a natural, honest aesthetic that lends itself to a refined, clean product. When you start with such a wonderful foundation, a beautiful product will follow.
“We work with different hides; different tanning processes and different tanneries for the various different products we commission – shoes; accessories; bags, belts and gloves, for example,” John continues. “Each material, process and maker is selected to be fit for purpose and to make use of the many generations of accumulated skill and experience that these producers are able to offer.”
“We take the same approach across all of our products – the woolen and cashmere mills for instance, from the yarn producers to the weavers and knitters. In our view, this is the really exciting thing about working with the traditional manufacturers in the UK. There is such a wealth of experience – in many cases spanning centuries.”
“Working with this great resource of ours, and continuing to develop contemporary products with people who really understand the materials and processes they are working with, is a real joy and adventure.”
We’re proud to be a part of Lissom & Muster’s adventure. It’s refreshing to find a store with the desire to bring interesting, intelligent products to its customers. A joint respect for British manufacturing and traditional craft is something that sits at the core of what we both do.
Perhaps then it’s time to move away from the culture of impulse buying and bargain chasing. Instead striving to be proud of our purchases, proud of their stories and their materials as well as their aesthetic. Perhaps it’s time to seek out garments that reflect the skill and the natural resources that formed them.
It’s time to invest in something honest and insightful, set to last for years to come.