As you guys know, I am Manchester born and bred. I am so proud of our city and our people; everything that we have overcome not only recently, but in the past too. We have had so many great leaders coming from Manchester and so many great innovations too; but did you know M&S have a rich history with the city too? Yep, that’s right, Marks and Spencer have been in Manchester for over 120 years and this weekend they celebrated their Mancunian heritage with a pop-up event at another Manchester landmark, The Trafford Centre.
On Saturday, I popped along to my local Marks and Spencer at the Intu Trafford Centre and outside was whole pop-up event full of fashion history. Containing the M&S Company Archive, myself and the other visitors were invited to step back in time and discover the history of the fashion brand and the influence it’s had in our lives, from starting at a market stall in Leeds 130 years ago, to opening their first Cheetham Hill store in Manchester 120 years ago.
As someone passionate about both fashion and the history of Manchester, it was so fascinating to see original vintage garments that really help to bring the story of M&S to life and actually show how today’s trends are still influenced by retro styles. My favourite clothes on display had to be an amazing 1950s New Look-style skirt and a 1970s flared suit, which you can definitely see inspirations from on runways today. Heck, who else is lusting after a patterned suit this season? Definitely me!
With over 70,000 historic items including clothing, photos and catalogues in the M&S Company Archive, it was so helpful to be able to speak to the expert M&S Archivists themselves on the day. I felt so lucky to be able to ask them about Manchester’s influence on this legendary brand, finding out that M&S opened first ever Penny Bazaar shop in Manchester at 20 Cheetham Hill Road in 1894, where their founder Michael Marks and his family lived too!
Over the years, M&S’s relationship with Manchester grew and grew, moving from Cheetham Hill in 1890 (which we all know now as the industrial centre of Manchester) to Oldham Street in 1896 (now part of our eclectic Northern Quarter) to even creating their own warehouse on Derby Street, which was their head office from 1903 to 1924. In 1931, they created another Manchester store at Market Street which has demonstrated the resilient nature of Manchester spirit by rebuilding itself after the 1996 Manchester bomb. Today, M&S have a permanent new store at the end of Market Street (opened in 1999) before then opening M&S’s just around the corner in the Trafford Centre, Piccadilly Gardens, Piccadilly train stations, Sale, Stretford, Stockport, Handforth… I could go on!
Visiting the M&S Heritage collection on Saturday made me really appreciate how lucky we are to have British – and even better, local – brands with so much heritage. I am so proud to be from a city with so much rich history and fashion-forward thinking, and the M&S pop up event truly reminded me of that at a time where so many of us are feeling so patriotic.