This week’s creative space is the gorgeous studio and shop of independent tailor James Darby; a self-taught contemporary artisan, who has been based in his current space for four and half years, and has traded in the Northern Quarter for a decade. He started designing clothes at age 14, and at 17 learnt how to cut patterns in order to produce his first collection. James now produces small runs of his most popular designs, as well as offering a bespoke shirt-making service – whereby customers have a say in every aspect, from the shape of the collar to the buttons, making for truly unique garments.
James relates how his bespoke clientele range from professionals such as barristers, who need to have a detachable collar as part of their job, to lads-about-town who want to stand out from the crowd, but stylishly. Then walking us through some of his favourite designs, James explained how his colourful collarless linen shirts were inspired by his travels in Ibiza, whereas his hard-wearing but smart utility jackets are a response to modern life; with multiple pockets of varying sizes for gadgets and essentials.
Environmental considerations and practicality are at the root of James’s designs, creating garments which are particularly appropriate to life in the rainy city, where it can sometimes be difficult to keep from looking bedraggled. One of his most impressive and innovative designs is a coat that combines storage and protection with modish style; described by James as a tent, office, bag in one. We were struck by the ingenious oversized collar, which protects the wearer like a hood, but without a blinkering effect – perfect for cycling in horizontal hail!
‘James Darby Bespoke Tailor’ is a one man show, and as such the majority of James’ time is taken up with making garments, rather than the logistics of distribution and self-promotion. He relates the difficulty of working to fashion timelines, which run far ahead of when we see trends on the streets, but is nonetheless currently developing designs towards a new A/W collection. James showed us a durable and waterproof fabric called ‘ventile’, which was invented in Manchester in the 1930s, and is usually used for uniforms in the fire service and armed forces. He plans to use ventile in a version the aforementioned hyper-practical coat, exemplifying how his designs seem to react with, and incorporate the surrounding environment, both in terms of the weather, and of Manchester’s sartorial history.
Written by Lauren Velvick / Photos by Elle Brotherhood