It feels like Manchester is really in a state of flux at the minute, lockdown has allowed people to really burrow away and work on their dreams that they couldn't have before, whether that be photography, fashion design, painting, playing an instrument or just learning to sit with yourself. That time has really forced the Manchester fashion scene to blossom, or even burst into life away from the fast fashion of the city slickers of Boohoo and Missguided. Some brands like Uskees and DONK have taken the reins with how to make 'cool' sustainable clothing and do it right here in the city and they now have their stuff stocked up and down the country. Is that the power of 'Manchester' or just a good brand? Our northern austere has now pushed us to go above and beyond and be the best in the country.
We have already referenced DONK because in my naive mind they were the newest in Manchester to really make a 'brand' out of art on clothes with Maddy and Sam combining their skill sets of sewing and graphics to create the ultimate trash brand fit for the luxury fashion fiend. Smoking spliffs and spread bum cheeks aren't for everyone, just those with an open mind. However you do have other brands such as M4rson that have taken that idea of luxury to the next level by literally only every making a single item a month. Then you have LID that never ever stop making stuff out of stuff whether that be bags or hats but they are always doing stuff!
Now we have a new sustainable fashion art beast coming out of Manchester, except this one is different.
This brand is calm, collected, maybe confidently nervous, maybe just fully aware that what they do is fantastic and exactly what our money rich capitalist driven city needs, something fresh and affordable!
Trouser Project Collective is a glimpse into the possibilities of contemporary fashion design, youth collaboration and realistic sustainability. The collective are based in a shop in the infamous Manchester icon, Afflecks Palace and are made up of a variety of different artists and designers including Trouser Project, Troll Wear, JemiJog, Loveday Art and MarthabyMartha. The different designers harness the power of art and fashion combined to create one off designs that represent not just their individualistic eye but also their knowledge of sustainability.
Their corner of heaven in Afflecks showcases the work by all the different artists and really highlights the possibilities of them as individuals and of them as a whole. Gone are the days of the super luxury department stores like Selfridges whose only care is to take your money, these are the days of artistic communities pulling together to help each other in whatever way they can.
That sentiment is how the collective began. Megan is the star behind Trouser Project, seperate from the collective but also the founder of the collective. She ran her art/fashion business since 2018 with massive success, however after the first lockdown she was really struggling to pay rent and needed some support. "I wanted to bring more people in and so I asked these guys and they said yes! Then we started in September and it has really developed since then! - When I started this I asked Afflecks if they had space and I took the cheapest one, I even made my signs out of cardboard. Since we have been there we have made money and been able to grow quite organically." said Megan. Niah, founder of JemiJog Clothing also worked in Afflecks at the time, "I used to work in there doing vinyl printing, while I was there I was making my own clothing too but then I split ways with who I was doing that with and Megan approached me and asked if I wanted to make clothes together and I said yeah, definitely.
The shared ethos is "sustainability" Megan told us, with Niah adding "like DIY vibes as well, a lot of our look is that sort of DIY punk fashion vibe" and you can see that shine through. Each different brand approaches the art of fashion in a variety of ways from bleach treatment, bleach painting, fabric painting, embroidery, cut and sew techniques and then using their own fabrics to make totally new garments. So let's get right in there and learn more about the individual brands that make up Trouser Project Collective.
Trouser Project is ran by Megan!
Describe Trouser Project in 60 seconds!
Megan: Trouser Project started with me using bleach on charity shop clothes that then transitioned into creating commissions for people. Customers would send me images of friends or family and I would recreate that on t-shirts or trousers. For a time I also did a thing where people could choose a design that I would then put onto their own clothes.
Generally I like to upcycle other peoples clothes. Then for the shop I get vintage clothes and do mainly freestyle designs. I have also recently learnt how to see so I’m copying some cool thing I’ve seen people wear in the streets.
When did your art get on clothes?
Megan: In my first year of uni (about 4 years ago) I bought a pair of white trousers and drew all over them and put them on Instagram and loads of people were interested. A few months later I bought a load of trousers at a charity shop and my friend told me about bleaching and so I did it. After that I dropped out of uni and wanted to pursue a career in art but selling art is really hard, selling clothes on the other hand is really easy.
What artistic inspiration is important to you?
I have a similar style to Niah where I like going crazy with the paintbrush. With the clothes, I like to look at what other people are doing on Instagram. It really can be very discouraging to look at Instagram because there are a thousand people doing the same as you but on the other hand it is great. One is called Fatherakki who is an American guy, he’s 19 and makes music and paints faces on jumpers and I was like ‘yeah I can do that!’. There is also Kid Super, he makes cool art that gets transferred onto jackets and stuff. I don’t know if he does it himself and if it's sustainable and stuff but it’s really cool.
Did the fashion come out of necessity? Or is there bigger goal out of Trouser Project?
Really, I’d just like to paint onto canvas and sell them for thousand of pounds, that’s the dream. I do love doing clothes, especially at Christmas, there are loads of great family portrait commissions. I also did a project with my friend in Belfast who runs a brand called Flay. We did this painting on a 4ft by 4ft windboard and it’s so good, it's the best painting I’ve ever done and I’ve just submitted it into the HOME exhibition.
When did The Naked Project become a main part of your work?
I’ve always loved painting naked people just because I think that is the most important thing to paint and also empowering. The name started in February and I felt super uninspired and wanted to go back to what inspired me the most and I though, ‘naked bodies’. So I took loads of nudes and posted on Instagram asking for nudes and woke up every morning to a load of nudes in my inbox.
Niah: I love looking in the product book to see what we sold and it just say’ Nudes’.
Megan: I saw a lot of bodies. I enjoyed it in a way that it felt empowering, for me and other people.
This is where you can buy Trouser Project Collective - https://www.trouserproject.com/
Jemijog is ran by NIah!
Describe Jemijog in 60 seconds
Niah: Jemijog is, well my tag line is ‘trippy tribal clobber’. Basically it's all about individuality and each piece of clothing being individual. The main thing I do is plain black tees that I freestyle a design on using bleach, so every single design is unique, they will have consistent motifs but they are all different. The idea with the name is that it is a play on words from my surname, our uncle always called us the Jemijogs, so it became our tribe name. That idea comes through the clothes, each piece is individual but they are all tied together like a family or tribe through these intrinsic styles.
Are there any artists or designers on your radar that influence you?
The big up there artists of course are like Salvador Dali who I’ve always been a fan of, Basquiat inspired me a lot, mainly because I thought I could do that. More modern artists would be David Choe, he is really prolific online, he even had a TV show on Vice. His whole approach to art is an amalgamation of that childish expressionism of making a mess and paint on stuff and then has a really precise hand with airbrushing. Every time I need some inspiration I look to him.
This is where you can buy JemiJog - https://jemijog-clothing.myshopify.com/
Troll Wear is ran by Katy!
Describe Troll Wear in 60 seconds
Katy: Very very girly, patchwork, girly, feminine fairy clothes made of deadstock and recycled fabrics, lots of colours but not always. I started years ago by making clothes out of this mesh fabric (that was quite popular at the time) from eBay. But when I really started I knew that wasn’t very sustainable so then I started buying deadstock and now I’ve bought a load of fabrics made from plastic bottles. It’s like what Megan said, we want to make our stuff from good fabrics. It’s hard making clothes out of other clothes because everything has to be unique.
What are big inspirations for you?
Katy: I think I take a lot of inspiration from a lot of artists on Instagram. I mean, the fashion scene in Manchester is so unique, what people are wearing gives me inspiration. I just started by copying clothes that I already had. Very inspired by these guys!
This is where you can buy Troll Wear - https://www.trollwear.co.uk/
Loveday Art is ran by Millie!
Describe Loveday Art in 60 seconds
I’m Millie and my brand is LOVEDAY.
LOVEDAY started out in the first lockdown back in June 2020. I had gone back to my family home to finish off my degree and I started making art as a means of relief from the boredom! I started by drawing nudes sent by friends and friends of friends. I was drawing one every day and it really reminded me how much I love it. I would probably call myself a painter above all else and my practice has been evolved to include much more painting. I’m interested in exploring themes of femininity, youth culture and response to adversity. My practice now includes work on paper, canvas and of course, clothes!
I’ve always loved studying the figure and the nude. My most influential early memories of making art was drawing from the ancient statues in the V&A in London. When I studied art at school I was interested in a range of artists Hockney, Freud, Gauguin, Matisse, to name but a few. Now one of my main sources of inspiration comes from artists on Instagram. I think it’s really exciting how the art world is becoming more and more democratised. In terms of fashion, I would say I am a painter first and foremost, so clothes give me variety in my canvas.
The development of TPC has been really exciting in the last few months. We’ve expanded to welcome more artists who are bringing such original ideas and material to the table! The shop is bustling atm. I’m looking forward to doing more collaborative work with everyone in the future.
This is where you can buy Loveday Art - https://www.lovedayart.com/
I think you can guess but MartabyMartha is ran by none other than Martha
Describe MarthabyMartha in 60 seconds
Martha: I feel like I’m the little baby of the group, I just started doing this all in lockdown after having a bad patch of mental health. Normally I do music and I always write but I had bad mental block and had to get my creativity out in some way and didn’t know how to do that until I saw Meg’s stuff. Then I painted an old jacket and put it on my Instagram and people were very nice and said it was cool and it was really weird because I knew nothing, coming in blind! A brand then asked me to do a commission and I had a freak out and got on with it. Then Meg asked me if I wanted to join the Trouser Project Collective and I was like, ‘What? Why not, I can’t say no!’.
I’ve been in a massive learning stage, my brand is really my music, so I’ve been working and learning from these guys. I’m really into fashion anyway so I’ve just been learning what to do and what I like. I’m currently doing a rebrand of all my fashion, the branding, the logo, the design all behind closed doors. I’ve got a name I’m working on because I love devil stuff, so I think it's going to be called Devil in the Denim or something along those lines. Hopefully over the next few months I want to really get that going. Like I said I’m in a learning curve and really want to get things started. This lot are so cool and I just want them to teach me everything! Even questions like what bleach to use.
Niah: The cheapest bleach is the best.
Martha: I don’t know why I didn’t know this but I didn’t know that bleach wasn’t very good to sniff.
Megan: Yeah I was using it for years without wearing a mask, wondering why I felt woozy?
Katy: What does it do to you?
Niah: It makes you really ill.
Megan: I was walking into Afflecks wondering why I was always feeling sick and I did not connect it. It makes you feel sick and it blocks up all your sinuses.
Niah: Even hours after doing it if you try and smoke a cigarette you can taste it, it’s not good. I was in my bathroom with my stuff on and a gas mask doing some bleaching and a housemate went to use the loo and was like ‘Is it Breaking Bad in here???”
Megan: Nahhhh, just Trouser Project Collective whooo!
Evan: So tell us about your other projects Martha.
Martha: So I make music and sing and that’s another thing I get to give more time. I've been working on a new EP that I will release at christmas because it's a bit sad. I’m also releasing some nice little summer singles that will be coming out over the next few months that I’m working on with Rhythm Lab, we are working towards International Women’s day so I get to work with female producers for the first time ever!
This is where you can listen! - https://l.instagram.com/?u=https%3A%2F%2Fopen.spotify.com%2Fartist%2F7jV4f0ZmQB3Ipc5eC9n7gW%3Fsi%3DUCEeARrJRxS-Ne6AoPHVQQ&e=ATNmSp87recqLNYYJLPbF-C6aJEwZNsjra8xA_MxKOOi5v6cBAfB_-fjcb-H0lpj3l150DMdUf1Ytb9zm6LXijc&s=1
Their shop doesn't just host fashion, it also stocks an amount of art, paintings, prints, postcards, jewellery and the rest!
Megan: In there is an artist called Peter who goes under Peter Does Prints, he does lots of lino designs. Other than that me and Niah do a lot of the stuff in there, Niah does stickers and head things?
Niah: They are called JemiHeads. They are little characters that have a laminated see through background and I put them all over town for people to find. People would get around and find them and send me pictures, one guy even said he had one in his wallet for 3 years. It’s almost like a Pokemon series but they are all individual so they are one of one. Now I’m making backgrounds for them so you can put them anywhere!
Megan: I went to my friends house last week and they had a picture that was quite big and there was a little JemiHead stuck in there somewhere.
Just listening to them you get a sense that they are true individuals with their own paths, simply sharing the road with each other, helping each other along under the umbrella of the collective. But what do the collective think of the fashion 'scene' in Manchester with it's clear gap between the corporate sellouts and the rest of us?
Martha: I think the fashion scene here is pretty mad, there are so many amazing photographers and there is such a scene here with a specific style. I think it’s interesting when you ask people about Boohoo and Missguided because there is a massive divide between the people that back it and people not agreeing, things that they have done, questionable moments where they haven’t cared. So it is really nice where there is another option where people are actually trying to do something against those big companies.
Megan: I think Manchester's scene is really great for starting a fashion brand because there are so many people that want to do things, model, photograph, style, whatever.
Niah: Afflecks especially as well has always been a sanctuary for those weirdos, and I say that in the nicest way because I am one of those weirdos. It's a real honour having that shop because people go there to validate their identity in a way. I grew up in a small town with scallies when I was a mosher, so when you went to Afflecks you could do anything. When people come in and resonate with your stuff it really means a lot because you are contributing to their experience.
Katy: There are also so many different ages, lots of tweenagers coming in and finding their fashion identity and it's amazing to see.
Niah: I think the charm of us is that we don’t have a lot of context, we aren’t involved in a scene or anything.
Martha: I see a lot of people who make graphic designs and print them onto clothes like Tora Lily, and they are really killing it in Manchester right now. It’s been amazing to watch because everything she does is amazing and has really blown up. There are just so many cool people in manny.
Niah: There are a few people I'd like to shout out in Manchester, especially in Afflecks. There is a brand called Hundred Tags ran by a guy called Alberto, he does a lot of stuff that I used to do like printing onto fabrics and painting straight onto denim jackets, he’s super cool. Then there is another lad called Bootleg Kid, he’s again in Afflecks and takes images from movies and uses them in a way to bootleg them, it's quite amusing.
What they say is true. Manchester is a special place for making things happen, there seems to be pockets of space for things to happen like The Wonderful Light opening up their new shop on Quay Street or DONK having a pop up garage on Newton Street with Interplanetary Criminal DJing all day. Stuff is happening.....
What is to come from Trouser Project Collective in the future?
Megan: The expansion is coming up! Not in space but in the amount of artists. As we mentioned we have Alyshia and Evelyn and we are also going to have a jewellery part of our shop, 3 different designers. There are so many people who run little businesses in their rooms and the fact we have a shop means that we can stock loads of different brands, I really like that.
Martha: We have also talked about doing a lot of collaboration pieces with other people but lockdown has stopped that so far.
Katy: I think because a lot of us starting out we just need to get down what we do before spreading our wings too far.
Since this interview TPC have had 9 more artists join the collective.
Alyshia runs a brand called Pinknitz who make knitted bags out of recycled t shirt yarn and soda can tabs. They were recently a part of the Future Fashion Fair that MUKA hosted alongside other members of TPC including Trouser Project and JemiJog. They also styled one of our all time favourite people Indianna River AKA Soft Pixie in one of their photoshoots alongside loads of great Pinknits stuff including the fan favourite fairy wings. Check them out here - https://www.instagram.com/pinknitz_/?hl=en
Evelyn Mayflower is a digital illustrator whose work looks at nature, specifically bodies and mushrooms and the possible cyclical side of nature and all things in it. Check out their work here - https://www.instagram.com/evelyn.mayflower/?hl=en
Cara Hudson AKA CAZART is also a digital illustrator based in London, she focuses mostly on the spiritual side of things, creating beautiful prints and even the occasional tarot card. All these designs then get beautifully embellished onto t-shirts for the perfect summer top!
Check out her work here - https://www.instagram.com/bycazart/?hl=en
There are also a variety of new earring brands that have joined the collective:
Freight Makers are a fantastic brand that use recycled silver to make beautifully delicate jewellery including earrings, necklaces and rings. They have also had some other projects including scrapyard jackets, dungarees and upcycled gloves.
Check out their work here - https://www.instagram.com/freight.makers/?hl=en
By Chlo is also a jewellery designer who uses silver and gold plated materials to create fun and interesting shaped earrings for everyone to fall in love with. 10% of all profits are donated to the Mental Project.
Check it out here - https://www.instagram.com/bychlojewellery/?hl=en
Martha Rose Page aka Bead Me Up use tiny beads to create a wonderful array of fashionably seasonal jewellery from earrings to chokers.
Check them out here - https://www.instagram.com/_bead_me_up_/?hl=en
Then there’s Bambi Maxwell who mainly spray paints, his style is block colours and psychedelic patterns, his work represents a modern Easter Island head in so many different colours, patterns and formats.
Check them out here - https://www.instagram.com/bambiprintdesigns/?hl=en
Simone Dix Huit is a multimedia feminist artist who embroiders second hand clothes and paints tiny canvases.
Check them out here - https://www.instagram.com/simonedixhuit/?hl=en
Litha Moon sews and screen prints witch-y style clothing. They hand make gothy garms and all components are recycled or from local, independent, sustainable brands.
Check them out here - https://www.instagram.com/lithamoonshop/?hl=en
Funnily enough just after the release of this story will be the 3 year anniversary party that Trouser Project are hosting at The Peer Hat with a stellar lineup of Maruja, Moby Dickless, GOMID, DJ Eat Your Greens, Son Of Cushi and So La Flair. If you're reading this at the appropriate time then get yourself to it on October 12th. Tickets available right here - https://www.skiddle.com/whats-on/Manchester/The-Peer-Hat-Manchester/Trouser-Project-Party-3-year-anniversary/35911994/
And as we always ask our guests, please recommend us some stuff that our readers should know about in Manchester!
Katy: Zebra Knits! She makes cushions and being really successful and some new homeware.
Megan: I have a friend making music who is releasing an album soon, goes under the name Arktype and is working with someone else called Lintd and they are really cool.
Martha: There are so many great musicians in Manchester like too many to even start. I think have a look through Rhythm Lab Records to see all the different artists going through there.
Niah: I can reel off a few, Rough Trade, I used to be a member of that band, they usually play on Market Street. There is also Good King Steady, loads of people at the Niamos centre with Ku’umba, Rosebud, Kiva, everything they rock on is great. Also my own project which is Sun Of Cushi which has always been one of my main passions, I recently released a mixtape and I’ve got loads of jungle st