To celebrate the approach of New Year’s Eve, Stephanie Smith finds perfect night-time inspiration at Leeds Corn Exchange. Pictures by Bruce Rollinson.
Wake up. Look lively now. As tempting as it is to collapse in a heap of tinsel-strewn, over-stuffed exhaustion after all the excitement of Christmas, our work is not yet done. There’s another major celebration coming up in the form of New Year’s Eve on Wednesday – and that means more dressing up and the sprinkling of just a little bit more magic, before deepest January arrives to bring us down to earth with a chilly bump.
With the sales now in full swing, the opportunity to invest in fashion is at its best – the secret is to look for pieces that will take you through the year and beyond. Yes, it’s good to stock up on basics and essentials, the layering pieces and working separates, maybe a clever coat and ankle boots. But there is also a place for seeking out something different, those party pieces and accessories that you will cherish. Shopping for New Year’s Eve is an excellent place to start.
Leeds Corn Exchange is the place to head for quirky, individual pieces at affordable prices, and also to find plenty of ideas for any special events that might be coming up in the year ahead, weddings, big celebrations and so on.
The Grade I-listed Corn Exchange has a kind of magic all of its own. It’s a vast and impressive space, topped by a soaring oval domed roof. Its architecture has become the inspiration for the many independent designers and shop owners who call it their home, an eclectic group of creatives, including designers, hair stylists and nail technicians. Some make and create on site, sewing, customising, designing and upcycling, from tailoring to T-shirts, fashioning jewellery, accessories and homewares. There are also vintage shops providing authentic pieces which can be mixed in with the new labels in the Corn Exchange.
Lou Lou Puchalka is owned by Louise Puchalka and specialises in millinery and bridal accessories, all handmade in the design studio next to the shop. It’s the only shop in the North to stock Two Birds bridesmaids’ dresses, which come in lots of beautiful shades and two lengths and are designed to be worn a number of different ways to suit each wearer. Our model Maz shows just one way here in a heather coloured maxi version.
Alice Found Treasure is a vintage boutique selling affordable pre-loved items and handmade clothing, accessories and jewellery. Shop owner Alison was taught to sew her own clothes by her mother and now buys materials from Kirkgate Market to create her handmade dresses and skirts.
Mad Elizabeth specialises in vintage, reworked and handmade clothing and accessories, It was launched in 2010 by friends and fashion fanatics Heather Rogers and Claire Bissell, who turned their weekend hobby of buying and selling vintage clothing into a full-time business. The pair have also created a range using recycled fabrics, called Betty’s Recycled.
Then there’s Frank Tailor, the home of the £125 wool suit. Established by entrepreneurs Andrew Gallon and Jamie Cooper, it sells 100 per cent wool suits, plus shirts, ties and shoes.
Shoppers can also browse jewellery, watches, scarves and handbags, elegantly displayed in the style of a dressing room at the Little Pink Jewellery House, while Yellow Sunrise is an eclectic soft furnishings store with cushions, throws, bedcovers and gifts, from Kilim rugs and Japanese sake sets to wooden furniture and ornaments.
The Corn Exchange is also the place to go for services such as hair styling and manicures. The Hive was opened in April 2014 by Damian Sharp and Thomas Oliver, while Ragdoll Nails offers Vinylux, Shellac, acrylic and Brisa Gel enhancements and nail art, with male manicures and pedicures also available.
There’s a cafe too, ideal for taking a break amid the chaos that is the city centre in the throes of the sales. But there’s no slacking for all the Cinderellas and Prince Charmings out there. New Year awaits – and you shall go to the ball.