In 1968 Dave Godin coined the phrase ‘Northern Soul’ to describe obscure Rhythm and Blues music being bought by visiting football fans from northern England at his London Record shop Soul City. Little did he know that he was as much describing the people buying the music as the music itself. The same tenacity for quality, passion for the subject, downright fanatical hunger for knowledge and pride shown by these collectors, is still prevalent in creative businesses throughout Northern England today AND they have global appeal.
Here are seven examples of creative people or companies, large and small, who Knightsbridge Furniture’s Jason Brown believes have real ‘soul’.
Kempadoo Miller Headwear
Rhian goes from strength to strength with her quirky twist on traditional Yorkshire caps for men and women of all ages. Studying Millinery at Leeds College of Art and Design, she began to explore the history of textile production in the area and developed a keen interest in ethical fashion, inspired by her Scottish/Jamaican father’s love of flat caps. Using the very highest quality local tweeds, silks and chiffons, her styling and attention to detail has reached the hearts of people such as Idris Elba, Yorkshire Cricket Club and HRH Prince Charles. Knightsbridge Furniture’s stand at CDW 2016 featured a six metre back wall full of Kempadoo caps – needless to say we didn’t bring any back to Yorkshire.
HebtroCo was born out of two guys’ passion for all things quality. Ed and Brant both have a background in design and build with well-documented careers in the cycling world. Set in their home town of Hebden Bridge, which is synonymously known for its high quality moleskin and cord cotton fabric, HebtroCo are the only factory left in what was once the epicenter of trouser making in England. Ed and Brant saved the factory from certain decline while seeking a new design and build challenge nearer to home, and thanks to the skill and enthusiasm of their staff and local community support, their business is a success. The product is superb and even though the company is relatively new, people are finding out about them and the factory is shipping hundreds of pairs of trousers globally every week.
Benjamin Edwards owns Blok Knives. His workshop is situated in a fantastic 18th century setting called Darley Abbey Mills in Derby. The work the company produces is of the highest standard and incredibly stylish while being functional and practical – in my eyes he creates ‘tools for life’. They are very well respected in the food world – so much so that Blok knives have been prize winners of the Observer Food Monthly Awards since 2014. They will be giving live demonstrations during London Design Week – so look out for them.
Down and Out Café Racers
Based on the outskirts of Sheffield, Down and Out Café Racers are considered one of the best custom builders of the ‘Café Racer’ and ‘scrambler’ style bike in Europe. They produce fantastic BMW and Triumph scramblers in their own unique style, using parts made and designed by the production team. Customers can buy individual unique components or have entire bespoke bikes made from the frame up. This approach allows any pocket size to be involved in the Down and Out experience, which I think is a smashing way to introduce fresh blood on to the scene and encouraging new business.
Brian Cannon and Microdot Creative recently celebrated their 25th Anniversary. Brian, from Wigan, is a graphic designer, art director, band manager and music video director. He is probably better known for his work in the 90’s, creating iconic record covers for Oasis, The Verve, Ash, Cast, Inspiral Carpets, Suede and many more. What I find interesting about Brian’s work is that all the photographic images used on these record sleeves were all shot live with no Photoshop rendering or development. Even the Verve images of flaming letters in a cave or neon lettering in a waterfall were entirely real!
Northern Monk Brew Co
Brian and Russell initially launched Northern Monk from a cellar in 2013 with a £5,000 fund, selling from an independent outlet in Bradford with beer brewed in Ripon. The pair soon realised that the product was so popular their dream of running a real brewery could be achieved. In the same year, with help from a friend, they invested in a new premises in Leeds which was once a flax works and created a fully functioning brewery. In 2014 their new barrel beers were launched in Leeds at North Bar and Craft Beer Co in Clerkenwell to great acclaim. I love their marketing and the speciality beers don’t take ‘twists’ too far, still producing smashing tastes for all pallets. This year sees the company growing rapidly and a new site has been converted into a much larger brewery and laboratory, with a 40,000 litre capacity setup. Take a look at their superb collaborations with Leeds based photographer Tom Joy and Manchester based street artist Nomad Clan – definitely a modern look for beer…and the brews are fab too!
Kirath is a surface pattern designer with a studio in Darlington, specialising in luxury mix and match geometric wallpapers. She works in residential and commercial arenas globally, providing bespoke designs to customers from Mexico, Italy, Netherlands, USA to France. Her client base includes the likes of Vivienne Westwood, Vitra and Susie Bubble – to name a few. I love the way Kirath’s designs encourage the specifier to become non-conformist in their use. Since the launch of this new approach in 2011 the business has been shortlisted for a number of awards and features in publications such as ELLE Decoration, Mix Interiors, The Independent and The Observer. Have a look for yourself.