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