DISTRICT LIFESTYLE – AN INTERVIEW

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Last week, I met up with Alexander Dobb and Joe Winstanley, two young creatives that have just launched ‘District’, a clothing company with an unusual focus on the community that it’s born from. They have a passion for quality, a steely determination to spread the word that taking pride in the environment can be as stylish as it is sustainable, and want to help you discover a natural space that you can call your own. We talked about the ethos of the brand, the inspirations behind it, and what lies in store for the future…

Joe Winstanley, 2017

Joe Winstanley, taken above the village of Stoney Middleton, in the Peak District.

Alexander Dobb

Alexander Dobb, taken in Sheffield.

Right, so first off, I think you should introduce yourselves…

J – Well, I’ll start then: I’m Joe Winstanley, and I’m 20 years old, and live in the village of Hathersage.

A – I’m Alexander Dobb, I’m 21 years old, and I live in Matlock.

So how did District come into this world? Tell me a little bit about the process that led up to the unveiling.

 J – So, we both left to attend university, which meant moving to city life for the first time in 20 years, which we settled into but always had this feeling that it wasn’t what we expected. That quickly turned to the realisation that we were both yearning to be back in the Peak District, and at the same time I was messing around trying to make a t-shirt company but had no real niche or direction for it. I came home for a bit, and then it instantly hit me that I could draw inspiration from the landscape, and I put a tweet out, as a joke, asking if anyone wanted to invest in a business. Alex replied, and I sent him a few mock-ups of the topography, and we started to refine it into the business, as that’s something I’d say is Alex’s strength.

That leads nicely into my next question, actually. How is the workload split between you guys? Are designs done by one, and the business by the other, or is it more of a joint effort?

 J – Well, I guess the District designs were halfway to being there in my mind, they just hadn’t gone through that process of refinery.

A – Yeah, you started the whole idea and set the direction, and then I became really interested because I saw it as an opportunity to get involved in something that reflected how I felt about the Peak District. From there, that’s when we started developing things, so we have sort of collaborative conversations where we use inspiration boards, and just bounce ideas off each other and speak about what is actually good and bad about one process or another. So in a way it’s all a joint effort, where we play to each of our strengths.

J – Each component is a 70/30 split really; design leans more into my skillset, and I do a lot of the website, whilst the running of the business, marketing and managing the social aspect is all more Alex, but we always vocalise our opinions and remain extremely honest and open about everything.

Stanage T-Shirt

One of District’s ‘Stanage’ collection t-shirts

What would you say is the defining ethos of the District? What’s the message that you want to put out there.

 J – The defining ethos is simply: Find your own space, and do what you love.

A – It’s all about showing off that what people do and how they act in the Peak District, is relevant anywhere in the world. Appreciate your local area, and demonstrate that pride with your actions.

"Find your own space, and do what you love."

“Find your own space, and do what you love.”

On that note, what are we to expect from the future? Are you particularly excited about anything to come?

 A – Getting a funny looking van so we can reach remote photo opportunities without breaking my car is a dream, but to be honest I’m just excited about making clothes based on what we would like to wear, and seeing other people share that vision.

J – Yeah, I suppose I’d add to that with getting excited about putting the Peak District out there as somewhere that isn’t a stagnating place of natural beauty, but an area that’s brimming with creativity and energy that I think a lot of people don’t know about.

A – The creativity that’s here is actually crazy, and to be a part of that, and pull together some of that ability to actually create is something we’re both eager to strive towards.

District Logo

District want to show the creative side to the Peak District

Have there been any unexpected challenges so far?

 J & A – (laughing)

A – Loads; packaging, design, in fact pretty much everything. You send something away knowing it looks amazing on screen, then get it back and suddenly its awful. So many times we both look at each and just can’t believe we didn’t spot that mistake, or this mistake, but that’s just how it is.

J – To some extent though, it’s a positive process. We learn so much from the things that go wrong, or don’t live up to our expectations.

A – That’s what it’s about! Another huge one is that we both need to get to know exactly how physical designs and ideas will transfer to textiles, and if it will meet our expectations, but we’re getting so, so much better at that every time we look at creating new products. It’s just about removing the guesswork, and relying on intuition.

We learn so much from the things that go wrong, or don’t live up to our expectations.

“We learn so much from the things that go wrong, or don’t live up to our expectations.”

It’s all a learning curve! Have you found the response so far to be surpassing all expectations, or did you predict the people’s positivity toward the brand?

 J – It’s been absolutely amazing; honestly amazing. We’re basing it on local pride, so obviously, we knew that most people, even if they didn’t like everything about us, would respect that message as something they believe in, but it’s just been overwhelming as far as support goes.

A – I just want to take this opportunity to thank those people that have actually taken the time to visit our website, buy a piece from our collection, and help spread the word, because that’s what is driving District forward, and without that we wouldn’t be able to do what we love. The fact that people have invested their time, energy, and money in us is incredible.

J – I think people realise that we’re not just a t-shirt company. We love the community, and that’s our focus, and the clothes and products we sell are really a bi-product of what we stand for.

Who or what have you turned to for inspiration for District?

 A – It has to be, for me anyway, between a company like Patagonia, and a company like Olive. That hybrid of appreciating the landscape, whilst retaining the fashionable aspect; rugged, durable, but still something you’d love to wear. We want motives from the outdoors to create the fashion.

J – We mostly go on what we would wear ourselves. If we don’t wear it, we don’t make it, and that’s an achievement in itself. It’s a company for us that other people recognise that personal aspect in and want to be involved in.

A – As well as that, someone who resonates a lot with me is somebody called David Hiut, who runs Hiut Denim; his company is so tight, community based, and shares the reason behind why I want to get into business. He wants to help people, so do I; if we wanted just a way to get rich quick, we wouldn’t be making a clothing brand.

Stange T-Shirt

“We mostly go on what we would wear ourselves.”

So, do you see District’s future as community based?

 J – Absolutely, I can see us helping out community groups, running events, and trying to return some of that love and passion back to those that have helped us.

A – The processes right now are done in Sheffield and elsewhere in England, but we want to get to a point where we can pull everything back to the Peak District and Sheffield. There’s this tiny chance we have of becoming a big business, and if that happens we want to begin by ensuring that all the jobs we can give people are in this area, and that we can sponsor events; because it’s a lifestyle brand, it doesn’t limit us to who we can and can’t help.

J – It’s the people that are driving production at the moment anyway. We’ll drum up a conversation with someone, and they’ll turn around and go: “When are you doing Curbar?” or “When are you doing Ladybower?” and you quickly realise that everything we do is community based anyway. Without their love of the places we focus on, we wouldn’t be able to exist.

District photograph the famous Winnat's Pass

District photograph the famous Winnat’s Pass

It’s good to see something so based on people and not money, it’s unusual in this day and age. Finally, I just wanted to see how you’re both finding the actual work itself, if it’s harder than you thought it would be, or easier?

 A – It’s definitely not easy. But that challenge is what’s getting us up in the morning, and also because it’s our own ideas and we’re in control, it’s hard work that we actually enjoy doing.

J – It’s pleasantly uncomfortable. Almost some liminal state that inspires our creativity – in between complete comfort and the unknown, so it’s a strange and wonderful position.

Fantastic; it’s been a pleasure to speak to you both, and I’m sure we’ll all be keeping an eye on what District are doing in the coming months. Merry Christmas.

 A – Thanks for having us!

J – Yeah, it’s been awesome. I hope you get one of our t-shirts under the tree.

CNV00016

 Be sure to check out District’s website and their Instagram.

 

 

 

CATCH ME – A POEM

Uncategorized, Writing

Catch me on a good day 

And I’ll smile ivory

With polished bone,

Shake your hand or

Embrace until I find

Safety in a collarbone,

Reality in tired eyes;

I’d be happy, that’s for sure.

 

Otherwise, I won’t catch you,

I’ll be busy shouting static

Or imagining this tragic

Day would morph into some good;

I’ll worry over flea sized, pea shaped

Small fries, anxious that my disguise

Of normality will slip, that I’ll have 

To look a little mad, mental, or sick;

In that moment where I’m most alone,

I’ll drown myself in treacle tone,

Crave the crater of your collarbone and

The challis of your hips.

 

 

 

NEARING THE END, A REFLECTION ON 2017

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2017 has been the most tumultuous year of my existence, and has marched forward with such a pace that I’ve had to force myself to reflect upon these rushing days, and how they have fluctuated so wildly between the macabre and the wonderful.

The year began with a slither of hope; having left university due to various circumstances, I was ready to embrace January for its metaphorical clean slate, and set about trying to organise my life. After a rather chance conversation with my best friend, I suddenly found myself booking all of September off to travel around Europe, which, if I’m being honest, flooded my veins with an unshakeable feeling of dread and fear. I was concerned that I would be unable to get through it without the shadow of my anxiety swallowing me whole, and the image of me experiencing that panicky, illogical mindset somewhere in the middle of Prague wasn’t going a long way in regards to calming me down.

With that in the pipeline, I thought it best to revert from my usual reaction to such worries, and fought against the urge to shut myself up in my room, eat unhealthily, and refrain from human interaction as much as possible. I went out for daily walks with my camera, met up with friends as often as I could, and went on a beautiful trip to Pisa with my girlfriend. The latter was actually an event more significant than I originally thought; I had planned and actually enjoyed a trip abroad without any major incident, and besides from one little episode prior to the flight over there, it showed me that my month long trip would be nothing to worry about, and I let positivity control my brain for once. Upon our return, I worked part-time, and found that to be great too – I was interacting with strangers all day, and enjoying it, and I suddenly found myself free from my burdens.

However, I was pulled back down to reality rather quickly when we realised my grandmother was dying. I know a lot of my friends aren’t that close with their grandparents, yet Grandma was, ultimately, my best friend. Throughout my childhood, I had spent 5-6 days a week at her house, talking extensively about pretty much anything we could, and forming my life-long love affairs with cooking, literature, music, and cinema. She was an outrageously funny, incredibly fashionable, independent lady with a seemingly bottomless wealth of knowledge, and I am blessed to have even known her let alone be related, but that made it all much harder at the end. Watching such an energetic individual slip into their illness, unaware of anything around them, and ultimately become dreadfully frustrated with a life they can no longer enjoy, was possibly the most traumatising thing I have ever witnessed. I think a small portion of myself died with her that day.

The aftermath of the funeral was not great. By my own admission, I am pretty terrible at facing such things, yet I think I was more concerned with my mother to think too much about anything else; in a way, I count myself lucky that I was with Grandma in her final weeks, right up to the very end, as it enabled me to mourn in a gradual wave, rather than experience what others in the family had to. I just felt that everything was becoming a little bit too much, and that I had to get away.

Luckily, Europe was closing in. Before I knew it, Jacob and I were boarding our train for Paris and the journey had begun. I don’t know why, and perhaps I never will, but I did not experience one iota of anxiety throughout the entire trip (which you can see the photos from on my travel page – here). I think it was the relief of being somewhere so excitingly new that left me no time to dwell on anything from home, other than my girlfriend, but she was beginning her own adventure at university. It was, without a doubt, the most enjoyable month of my life, and I think I’ll be able to dwell on the inspiration for my writing for many years to come. More importantly, by the end of it, I was so glad to see Derbyshire, and be back in familiar territory that no longer felt like it was suffocating me. 

On the day I arrived home, however, my dog passed away. It was weird to leave a trip and return from it surrounded by elements of death, but Truffle was extremely old and frail and had given us so much love throughout the years that it felt strangely right she had gone; dare I say it, I was weirdly relieved. The next few weeks were spent writing and roaming around, visiting my girlfriend in York and reading good books on slow trains, and then I had one fateful weekend that has twisted the road of my future once more.

After attending an interview for what I thought was a two-week volunteering position, I accidentally left the room with an internship and, looking forward, the prospect of a full time job in something that enables me to work with the terminally ill, conduct creative writing groups, and work within PR and marketing. This should all start in January, and because of all that has happened this year, I don’t think my anxiety is going to fuck this one up. I am much stronger, happier, and healthier than I was this time last year, and I can’t thank the people around me enough. 

Let me know in the comments how your year has been – what were the ups and downs, what affect do you think it has had on you?

Anyway, here’s to another metaphorical clean slate, may it forever be chalked with positivity. 

Fred x

 

AN APOLOGY

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I’m writing this to apologise for being so absent in recent days; my life has been rather busy and I haven’t had time to stop, take a breath, and write for too long.

I have been for an interview for a new job, preparing for my driving test (which I failed yesterday) and attempting to wrap my head around various marketing and PR books in preparation; I’ve also been trying to see my girlfriend as much as possible whilst she’s back for reading week before going back to university. I hope you guys have been keeping well; I’ll be writing on here soon!

Happy writing!

Fred x

FINDING MY DNA – 26/10/17

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I am, by most definitions, the epitome of a mongrel. On my paternal side, I stem from Russian and Australian blood, and can trace some of my ancestry back for vast generations, yet my maternal side remains a mystery. My mother was adopted as a baby, and to make matters more confusing, her birth mother was also adopted, and thus to trace such things has proved to be rather difficult. I do, however, know that the people I knew and loved as my grandparents share some of the same blood as my mother’s birth family; both stem from European Jewish communities.

Now, I have no interest in meeting my “real” relatives, as they are not the people that have made vast sacrifices and loved me unconditionally throughout my life, and thus will never rival the connection I have with my family. I do, however, possess an insatiable intrigue to discover more about my identity; I want to know more about the history swirling in my veins, and I have no idea what to discover. All that we are aware of, on my mother’s side, is that her birth father was an upmarket individual who was married, and had an affair with her birth mother. She has met the latter, who I understand has passed away now, yet I never had the opportunity, and remain unsure of what my answer would have been should I have had the choice.

What I do know is that I want some more information regarding my ancestry, and have therefore ordered a DNA kit; the results should be with me in about 8-10 weeks, and I will, of course, divulge my results. I am excited, and weirdly a little nervous (for someone who is extremely proud of various parts of my heritage, it would be a little strange if it was revealed to be false), but for now, all I can do is wait.

Fred x

POETRY COLLECTION – 20/10/17

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I like writing blogs because it means I feel like I’ve written something useful, even though I’m 90% sure that isn’t true. Anyway, today I have started work on a rather exciting project that I’ve wanted to get done for a while; I’m writing my first collection of poetry.

The collection is intended to be a journey through loss, and I have called it, for now at least, “Laying down the bones”. Poetry can be an extremely therapeutic and cathartic release, and a lot of these poems will deal with various elements in my life that I find particularly hard to reflect upon/discuss, yet I am determined to stray away from the purely personal. I am aware that sounds slightly contradictory, so let me clarify; I want them to have a universal relevance, not just for me, so they’re taking a whole lot longer to write than usual. 

As I am intending on hopefully getting these published, in some respect at least, I won’t be putting them on here, but I am determined to keep you guys updated and I will be writing some poems specifically for the blog.

If you guys are working on anything interesting at the moment, tell me about it in the comments section below!

Happy Writing!

Fred x

LINK TO MY WRITING

THE DAY MY DOG DIED – A POEM

Writing

We map the ground,

Frozen hard as twisted bone,

Woven antler on father’s knife

That crests our fireplace

At home, waiting, violent-still;

We cast ash to dirt,

Watch it settle in paw prints,

Turned to stone, brushed by breeze

That used to roam

These hills, the grainy moors.

 

We sit around the fire,

Licking heat with orange tongue,

Crackled coals barking from

The depths of shattered lungs,

We coil into the armchair,

Vacant leather, fur still clung,

And wonder where the grass

Now is, that you bound among.

 

MY OTHER WRITING – HERE

 

 

WAITING OUT THE FROST – A POEM

Writing

Ground level, voided earth

Bound to streaks of coppered clay,

Open hands of branches

Robbed by seasons,

Morphed emerald lime to bronze,

Still to be stripped by frost

on the heave of menthol lungs.

 

A cotton tundra rapes

The blue, holds sunlight

Stuck in smoke, its hue

Hazed static, wedged,

Boundaries of sky and stone;

The valley clasps, constricts,

Pulls tight, a duvet for

A child at night

Without blankets of stars,

Naked as the morning dew

That seeks to wet the scars,

Retreating past the

White damask

That coats tomorrows heart.

 

MY OTHER WRITING – HERE 

YOLK – A SHORT STORY

Writing

*

I promised myself that the days weren’t cold. Beyond the fabric cascades that covered the windows, I knew the sun was shining; I saw it once. Puddled deep into the cushions of my armchair, I meditated, tried to breathe as lightly as possible so I could catch each echo of birdsong that managed to slip into the room. They were symphonies; the music of a world unknown. Mother had gone. She always tried to go unnoticed, but I had learnt to listen for the slide of locks, and the faint patter as her boots struck against the stone steps that ran a spine down the garden. Then nothing.

I rose from my seat, my heart a war-drum, beating ever faster as I begged myself for courage, tiptoeing across the carpet, a ballet dancer, free. Pausing every few seconds, I listened for her return. The curtain was in reaching distance, I stretched to stroke each thread, woven thick like matted hair. I trembled; on the other side, the window lay, each pane of glass painted in coats of black so dark it seemed to bleed. I gasped. Through a pin sized hole, where the paint had somehow flaked away, a beam of gold shone, blazing. It did not seem real. Perhaps I was imagining.

My hand, pale as milk, hovered closer and closer; I stopped so near, a single slip would have thrown my skin into the light. The smallest hint of warmth began a fire in my chest. The bolt slid back on the door.

Flying across the room, fuelled by fear, I leapt onto my chair, immediately resuming a position of innocence. The curtain rolled with movement, a breaking wave that seemed to stop as soon as mother entered the room.

“Good morning.” I smiled. She placed her bags down, each one brimming with enough food to last for weeks, and kissed me delicately on my forehead.

“It’s ever so dark out there, Florence, you wouldn’t like it at all.”

*

I was not a hostage. She was not my captor.

“It’s not safe out there; remember how it killed your father.” She used to say, her eyes bursting with tenderness, glossed with tears of nostalgia. I embraced her, she draped her arms around me and sobbed quietly. Her skin was warm.

“I know, mother, I know.” I reassured, looking around the room. I knew every inch; the dust that settled upon the coffee table, the imprints, pits and falls, on cushions that still clung to the aroma of tobacco, the perfume of a man I could not remember, but loved all the same.

“It’s not safe out there.” She repeated, this time in whispered tones. Her head found safety in my collarbone.

*

They were happy, again. I did not know who ‘they’ were; they did not exist beyond the sounds of joy; faint shadows of laughter and muffled traces of names all burst through the bubble as if they had somehow morphed into a knife edge.

I felt tormented; other than mother’s, I could not recall a face that did not lay trapped within the paper prisons of pages. Sometimes, if I was particularly lucky, I could imagine the faint outline of their lips, or conjure a glimpse of their hair, flowing as they ran. They were not porcelain; they had seen the sun, bathed in it, I had even seen a photograph of a boy with skin as dark as the old mahogany desk that cowered in the corner of father’s office.

They had gotten louder, then stopped altogether. I wondered what had happened to them, whether they had become bored of their game and sulked their way home, or if they had run to the fields instead.

“Are you okay?” Mother asked; I had forgotten she was in the room.

“Yes.” I lied. The fire in my chest returned. I wanted to run, but not from her. I wanted to taste the air.

*

Her silhouette lay, morgue-still, with nothing but the hum of breath to prove she was alive. My hands were shaking as I reached over her sleeping form and fingered the keys from the bedside; she twitched, moaned some indecipherable lyric, and rolled onto her side. I froze, a statue of pallid complexion, a sinner in the darkness. I crept backward, soaking up the image of her face.

I felt strong as iron as I stepped into the night.

*

The woodland heaved with every lick of wind that ran a hand through the trees. There was rhythm to the madness that I could feel resonate deep through every bone; trunks swayed in synchronised ranks, leaves bristled in percussive harmony. I stopped running and dug my hand into the earth, letting the ochre clay run deep beneath my fingernails. Under the freckled cheek of stars, I marched on, upwards, rising, toward the mountain made of stone.

*

I had waited for hours at the top of the world. Below me, the valley stretched lazily into the horizon, and the damask of night began to slip away. I rose to my feet, anxious that the day would never come, furious at myself for ignoring the wisdom of my mother, who would soon realise I had abandoned the safety of her nest. I turned, ready to run, weeping, already practicing my apology, already envisioning the shock in her loving, dimpled face as I announced my return. Suddenly, I felt it filter through my tissue paper blouse and settle warmth across my back.

Turning, I watched in awe as the sun, big and bold and bright, rose a slow yolk over the boundary of the horizon. Glorious, unimaginable light oozed, heavy honey, across every atom of my being.

In an instant, I was gone. A feather, I floated skyward, swam in waves of azure blue; below me, the stone edge of the land stood perplexed, embarrassed by the way it could not rise. I made out the ant sized shape of my mother scrambling wildly to the crest, flailing her arms, screaming until her lungs began to ache.

I watched as the light touched her skin. She turned silent; we drifted together, weightless, under the medallion of the sun.

 

 

MY OTHER WRITING – HERE

NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS (IN OCTOBER)

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After my return from travelling, I had a long mental list of things I needed to change or do in order to get my life on track and achieve my aim of living beyond the age of 25; like most things, these are simply small adjustments to routines rather than monumental changes, as I find it much easier to adapt to a new way of life if it’s not too obvious how much I’m changing.

Firstly, I need to be healthier. I enjoyed the European lifestyle of wine, abundant food, and cigarettes, but my body didn’t, and thus I have pledged to eat healthier meals, run/exercise daily, and stop smoking. It’s actually quite encouraging writing this all down as it means I have the added pressure of keeping promises to you guys as well as myself, so thank you for being there to judge me. I threw my cigarettes out two days ago and currently don’t feel like throwing myself through a wall, so that’s a positive.

Secondly, I need to write more. After trawling through a few sites, I found out that I could write news articles and get some form of monetary compensation for them, so I now have a profile at Blasting News, which you can go to here. It would mean the world to me if you went and read a few of my pieces; I’ve written one about Saudi Arabia and women’s rights that I’m quite happy with, so check that out.

In addition to that, I have this blog for poetry, short prose, and travel posts, which I hope to continue to update on a daily basis, and my novel, which I’ve started to fully work on in recent days. Planning it has been quite fun and I’ve stumbled upon a way to make the plot so much more amusing than before; I don’t want it to stray too far into humour but I want to keep a balance of comedic action/depressing event; I’ve never particularly tried to be “funny” in serious work before, so I’ll have to see how that goes… I need to conduct a fair bit of research too, so I’ve had to send off a few emails and talk to a few people in order to set up a line of communication; I really hope this goes as well as I want it to, but I can only try my best, wait, and see.

I’d also love to get involved in some small scale poetry/fiction publications, so I have a few magazines I’m planning to try and get into, as well as a couple of online ones that have caught my eye. If you know of any good sites/great places to submit to (physical and digital) I would love for you to leave such information in the comment box below.

Anyway, I’m going to go and write an article about supermarkets wasting food instead of seizing the opportunity to help the homeless. I’m enjoying these little journalistic pieces; it’s a free pass to be as cynical and grumpy as I want (which might help with the lack of smoking). 

I’m working on something cool for here too, but that’s gunna take me a little while. I’ll upload some poetry soon.

Happy Writing;

Fred x

MY OTHER WRITING – HERE