A different world

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Husband and wife team Collard Manson have carved their own niche in the fashion business. They tell Stephanie Smith how.

Cyndi Lauper, St Petersburg, Gaudi, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, old books, GrandadBob, Dorian Gray and The Princess and the Pea. These are just a few of Collard Manson’s favourite things.

Collard Manson is the creation of husband-and-wife team Tim Collard and Zara Manson, who together design and 
run their three boutiques of the same name, in Sheffield, Nottingham and Meadowhall.

Their clothes combine distinctiveness – quirkiness even – with wearability. They stock unusual European designers and have their own-design labels, Collard Manson and Window Dressing the Soul. Their designs, Tim says, are bought by people of various ages who “think for themselves, appreciate the thought process that has gone into products, who want something other than what’s run of the mill or just on the High Street”.

Tim and Zara married in 2002 and have two daughters, Noyla Mischa, seven, and Marlou Dasha, five. Zara studied textiles and art and Tim, who trained as a solicitor, is a keen musician, playing keyboards for Sheffield band GrandadBob.

“I still record at home,” Tim says. “You don’t just stop making music. It’s part of who you are. I particularly like making things. I used to make music. Now I make T-shirts, bags, cushions.

“We still make our bags, Made in Hackney, the first things we made 10 years ago. We are stocked in pretty much every European capital, Dubai, Australia, Moscow, St Petersburg.” Designed by Collard Manson in Yorkshire, they are made in a family owned and run factory in east London using only the finest leathers.

Their Sheffield store on the bustling, cosmopolitan Devonshire Street, was their first, followed in 2008 by the Nottingham store and in 2011 by Meadowhall.

For their latest venture they have obtained from the British Library the licence to use images from a book called Exotic Postcards: The Lure of Distant Lands, by Alan Beukers. Tim says: “The book is all about postcards that have been collated by the British Library, and these cards contain haunting images from a world a century ago, sent by western travellers. The pictures have a powerful presence because they express a deep-seated connection with the land and customs that give them their identity.

“There was an established superstition that, by taking a person’s photograph, you deprive them of their soul. However, on 
the contrary, these century-old images are now immortalised at the British Library and also on fabric, so that actually manages to preserve the spirits of their subjects. We have them on iPad cases, T-shirts made and printed in Sheffield, on long dresses.”

It’s an example of Collard Manson’s talent for spotting and unlocking the potential in the unusual, something that has helped them weather tough trading conditions. “We have found that you need to do your own thing,” says Tim. “You need to have original product that’s distinctive from everything else, and provides something with a value to it.

“When you are making it in Sheffield, sourcing fabric in, yes, you can do it at that price. Another image we do now is a moth by a local artist – Daniel Potter. We put them on T shirts and cushions. It’s all original; you can’t get them anywhere else.”

All items available at Collard Manson stores in Sheffield, Nottingham and Meadowhall and on www.collardmanson.co.uk.

Twitter: @yorkshirefashQ