Manchester’s Finest

Director of Lissom + Muster, John Rogers, shares a day in his life and a personal exploration of Manchester’s ‘Finest’.

9:30am. My task for this morning is a pleasurable one – choosing our new season’s collections from two of my favourite suppliers - John Smedley knitwear (based near Matlock in the Peak District) and Mackintosh raincoats (who have a factory up the road in Lancashire). These are venerable companies, who wear their patina of history and hereditary expertise with a sense of ease and assuredness – they are custodians of their unsurpassed craft, but continue to innovate in their use of materials and technologies. I’m increasingly interested in a modern, reductive approach to design – paring garments down to their purest form, but retaining and being enabled by impeccable materials and construction. Having these sorts of iconic factories on our doorstep provides great resources to work with.

For a break away from the desk I head to Lupo for an espresso. The owner, Nico is from Rome and there’s a lovely sincerity and authenticity about the way the simple food and his superb coffee is presented. There’s no pretention; no over-complication – just beautiful ingredients deftly and soulfully prepared. It’s one of those rare little places where the owner wants simply to share the good things he loves. I manage to resist the delicious cannoli on this occasion.

Back at my desk and my colleague Kay and I are finalising the layout of our new space. After three years trading at our shop on Tib Lane in the city centre we’ve moved to Ancoats, to a 19th Century former cotton mill. Lissom + Muster’s next chapter will reflect my desire to focus more on providing customers with the contemporary luxuries of space and time – away from the hustle and bustle of the high street to a calm, spacious environment where we can really serve people well. I think there’s a danger that good independent businesses can become caught up in the rush to an ever broader and more detached online marketplace, while also trying to keep up with their bigger, richer competitors. The advantage good independents still have is in offering real expertise, attentive service and meaningful relationships with a community of local customers. Moving to Hope Mill is enabling us to do more of that. We’ll be offering tailoring; more made to measure services and womenswear in the near future, and we’ll be holding a series of events in collaboration with our suppliers and other local businesses we admire. It’s an exciting time for us.

We’re looking forward to the arrival of our new granite table tops to complete the new fit out. They’re from a stone merchant up Cheetham Hill Road. The range of little industries that still exist near to the city centre amazes me. I think it’s important that great cities keep hold of their light industries – they’re often the first to go when the swanky flats are built, but they’re so important to the vitality of the city. Its great to see the new wave of micro breweries, coffee roasteries and upholsterers setting up shop nearby – the next chapter of Manchester’s original modern industrial story.

Later on we’re visited by Tareq Moustafa, the owner of Seen Opticians in St Anns Arcade, who has come to see how we’re progressing. Our shared experience as independent retailers in Manchester has led to a friendship I really value. He is always generous with his encouragement and knowledge and I turn to him for advice whenever we’re trying something new. Seen have a quality which I really admire in good independent shops – the capacity to make the customer feel as though they’ve embarked on a journey of discovery. Tareq is an itinerant, informed, passionate owner with a highly attuned, very individual aesthetic – whichever way you turn in his shop you get the impression of an enthusiastic, idiosyncratic eye. He and his team have genuine confidence in their products and for their role in guiding customers through uncommon brands and styles. And of course it’s all backed up by considerable professional expertise. That balance of singularity and integrity is, I think, what defines ‘the finest’.

In a phone call with my partner Charlotte, we plan to go to Home to see a film and decide on one of our favourite restaurants – Yuzu – for an early dinner. David, Yuzu’s owner, is another local inspiration – he is meticulous about every element of his simple, beautiful Japanese dishes. There is a sense of calm and purity about his tiny restaurant, which is wholly refreshing. We’re inevitably in a rush to make the start of a film or performance when we go there, but David’s air of controlled mastery is reassuring. The food is always perfect.

LISSOM + MUSTER are known for their selection of understated, beautifully crafted contemporary clothing and footwear. Now based at Hope Mill in Ancoats, they will soon open a new ‘by appointment’ space offering made to measure tailoring and shirting alongside such iconic British makers as Sunspel, John Smedley, Alfred Sargent and Mackintosh.

Lissom + Muster, Hope Mill, 113 Pollard Street, Manchester M4 7JB
(0161 832 7244);

Lupo, 42 Chapel St, Salford M3 6AF
(07847 028685)

Seen Opticians, 6, St Ann's Arcade, St Anns Square, Manchester M2 7HN
(0161 835 2324),

Yuzu, 39 Faulkner St, Manchester M1 4EE
0161 236