Out of adversity comes opportunity, or it might, if you have a brilliant idea to work with. Chris Ellerby, from Halifax, had been working in recruitment for more than 10 years when the pandemic struck. He specialised in the hospitality sector, which meant that his work was hit more than most by the downturn. He became an idle soul – but not for long, because he had a plan up his sleeve.
Chris, 34, and his wife, Penny, had been searching for clothes for their children, Millie, 12, and George, eight, but it had been a struggle and they had not been able to find the alternative, edgy designs they were all after. “So we thought, ‘why not start our own brand?’” says Chris. “I have always loved clothes. Being involved in this has been a dream come true.”
It was a dream that became a reality and Idle Souls Apparel was born in December 2020. Chris and Penny started by looking for a designer and found the perfect choice in Marc Doran, brother of Chris’s best friend, Kevin. So now Chris is managing director, Marc is creative director, Penny is operations manager, and Chris’s former employer Luke Fowler has invested and is now a director, helping the company to expand.
“The brand has grown into a small team of creatives, working from the Yorkshire hills to hand-press exclusive designs and promote Idle Souls Apparel across the UK,” says Chris.
“We have our own workshop and warehouse in Halifax that houses a pool table, PlayStation, couches and a bar. It creates a really relaxed atmosphere where creativity thrives.”
Inclusivity was an important consideration right from the start and Idle Souls Apparel offers styles for all ages and sizes, from babies up to adult sizes XXXL. There is a dedicated Pride collection to celebrate the LBGTQ+ community, too. Chris says: “Idle Souls was designed for people who don’t always feel as though they fit into societal norms, so inclusivity has been considered from concept to creation.
“It’s streetwear inspired by our daily lives. I have just had my 33rd tattoo, my children skateboard and fashion plays a huge part in our lives.”
The way it works is that they buy ready-made T-shirts and sweatshirts and print them with the designs at the workshop at Brian Royd Mills. Chris says: “Some of our favourite designs are inspired by our children. Our ‘Just One More Game’ tee was inspired by my son, George. We have collaborated with local artists on some designs but all our designs are hand-drawn by Marc. We work alongside local artists, graphic designers and illustrators, dreadlock specialists, graffiti artists, musicians, tattooists and more. My personal favourite designs are the ones we worked on with local tattooist Luke Rogan.”
Penny and the children model the clothing. “And we constantly find new family, friends and creative talent across Yorkshire that love our designs and want to be part of the fun,” Chris adds.
There is a sister business, Idle Souls Print Ltd, which supplies local businesses with workwear products including pencil cases and embroidered hoodies. “We are fortunate to host printing machines that can cope with the demand from both businesses, and it allows us to get involved with new businesses every week,” says Chris.
Learning how to succeed in a whole new industry has been a challenge, he says, adding: “Lockdown created Idle Souls, as that is what we were – a bunch of Idle Souls – and without the pandemic we wouldn’t have had the time to create this brand.”
And there will be challenges to come, he says. “People will be looking for value for money in their purchases, especially in kids’ clothing.”
Chris has big plans for Idle Souls Apparel and its expansion. “I have some passion projects that are in the background, but eventually you’ll see Idle Souls as standalone retail shops and hopefully crossing over into hospitality, too.
“We are now working on our next collection, collaborating with tattoo artists and influencers from around the world to launch our second campaign.
“We can’t give too much away yet, but we will be giving sneak peaks on our Instagram in the lead-up to the launch so make sure you watch this space.”
■ On October 30, Idle Souls will be hosting a Halloween party for all ages at Brian Royd Mills, Saddleworth Road, Greetland, from 10am. There will be prizes for best fancy dress and a mini skatepark. See www.idlesoulsapparel.com and Instagram: @idlesoulsapparel
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