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.

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

 

 

 

THE BEST DAY OF THE TRIP – TRAVELLING DAY #22

Blog, Travel, Uncategorized

After waking up and participating in our new favourite past time of looking out the window to see if anyone gets run over (driving in Florence looks a bit scary), we set off for a spot of brunch and to visit the “Galleria dell’Accamedia”. We didn’t research anywhere to eat, but wanted to spend our last day in the city as near to the Duomo as possible; after a brief recon mission of the local cafés, we chose “Caffe Giotto” and sat right outside the church!

Although extremely busy, the food was fantastic; we both ordered wraps (at a very reasonable EUR. 5 each), but didn’t realise just how good they were going to be. Whoever decided to make a wrap out of pizza dough should win a Nobel prize or something. I had the ‘pollo e salsa’ and would recommend you do the same. 

Just next door is the “Galleria dell’Accamedia”, which boasts the honour of exhibiting the works of Michelangelo, Giambologna, Pampaloni, and Bartolini, amongst other artists of legendary status. The queue was tiny compared to what it could have been, and after a fifteen minute wait we managed to get our tickets and get in (it’s only EUR. 4 for students). The first room holds the incredible “Rape of the Sabines” by Giambologna, a giant statue dating from 1582, depicting three figures in a serpentine fashion. One man towers as victor over a defeated and cowering adversary, whilst holding a nude woman up in celebration. The entire piece was crafted from a single piece of marble, and I was totally blown away.

I won’t spew about the other work there (as it would make this post horrendously long and boring for those not interested in sculpture), but I wouldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t tell you guys that MICHELANGELO’S DAVID IS THERE. For those of you that don’t know, David is considered to be one of, if not the, greatest example of Renaissance sculpture. In the words of Giorgio Vasari: “When all was finished, it cannot be denied that this work has carried off the palm from all other statues, modern or ancient, Greek or Latin; no other artwork is equal to it in any respect, with such just proportion, beauty and excellence did Michelagnolo finish it”.

It’s 14ft tall, was completed in 1504, and represents the Biblical figure of David. Towering above the tourists, it took a 26 year old Michelangelo (who was already the highest paid artist of his time) two years of constant work to craft this masterpiece; instead of following suit and sculpting David in battle, he chose to show him in a contrapposto pose, relaxed yet alert, calm yet tense. The detail is incredible; every vein on his hand and arm gleams through, and every muscle is defined as if you’re looking at a real life adonis. Breathtaking. 

After taking about 800 photos of the piece and wishing that my Grandmother was still alive so I could ring her and tell her all about it (Italy was her favourite place on Earth, and her lively passion for art and literature was a tremendous part of my childhood), we decided that it would be a good time to visit “San Lorenzo Market”, the iconic market of Florence. There’s a plethora of wares sold here, but the leather is what we had gone for. After a lot of research and about 20 shops, Jacob and I walked away with new jackets; mine is the nicest piece of clothing I’ve ever owned: it’s a fitted leather bomber made from 100% lamb skin, hand tanned and hand coloured in Florence. I am a very, very happy boy. 

Feeling chuffed, we went to get another fix of genius at the “Da Vinci Museum” . It was EUR 12 for both of us to enter, and although very small, it’s a really interesting visit. You don’t quite realise the breadth of his work and the sheer brilliance of his mind until faced with full scale replicas inside that room; there’s machines for everything. I don’t know if he even had time to sleep or visit the toilet; from ball bearings, cog wheels, flywheels and the world’s first robot, to flying bikes, tanks, mortars, the Mona Lisa, there’s literally nothing this man couldn’t do. He even made a Hygrometer, which measured atmospheric conditions using only wool and wax. 

After a brief rest at the hotel, we recharged and set off for the only ‘fancy’ (expensive) meal of the trip, and were excited at the promise of Florence’s best steak. “Braciere Malatesta” is no ordinary restaurant; it’s sleek, modern, retains an air of Tuscan tradition, has a meat counter and a chef with the butchering skills of Edward Scissorhands on crystal meth, and has a fucking tree growing in the middle of the room (no, that’s not an exaggeration). Taking your girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife/family/self for the meal of a lifetime? Go here.

The menu is quite frankly ridiculous. If you left me your credit card and a full week, I’d come out obese and happier than anyone you’ve ever met; they have wood-fired pizzas, pasta made fresh every service, and fish/meat dishes to make even the fussiest eaters without anything to complain of. Jacob and I opt for “Le Polpettine Street” to start, which is essentially the single best meatball dish that exits upon the soil of this Earth. For EUR. 10 each, we got a huge bag of crispy fried meatballs packed with soft and flavourful pork, and three homemade dips of Florentine pesto (my favourite thing), a spicy tomato salsa, and vampire killing garlic mayonnaise. It was absolute perfection. 

The waiter recommended a bottle of ‘Diaccio’ wine for EUR. 17, and we listened. It was the perfect accompaniment to our meal (although he jokingly hated us for not wanting red), and has been added to my collection of things to try and buy in England. Okay, now it’s time to talk about steak.

I thought, prior to this culinary adventure, that I had eaten a good steak. I’d even gone to the butchers myself before and picked out a good’un, but, my friends, I had not eaten steak. I had eaten lies. Braciere Malatesta serves steak. There are four different types on offer, all T-Bone, and all worth their weight in gold. We, out of budget reasons, had to opt for the EUR. 47 a kilo “Fiorentina Lombata Scottona”, the original Florentine cut. I was genuinely almost nervous when the waiter arrived with a knife the size of a machete and handed it to me as if he was crowning me a knight, and when that 1.3KG slab of heaven was plopped down upon the table cloth, I could have cried with happiness. I even rang my friend Joe, the biggest meat lover I know, as I had to tell someone about it.

It was, fellow bloggers and esteemed guests, hands down, without a shadow of a doubt, the best fucking thing that I’ve ever, ever, eaten. We ate in silence. In awe. In confusion as to what God had sprung up from the depths of Tuscany to grace us with this dish. The meat, bloody and rare, was so tender I literally pulled it apart with my hands. The depth of flavour was unfathomable; marbled fat fed each inch of glistening pink meat a well of never-ending smoky goodness, and with the addition of fresh herbs and careful seasoning, I don’t think I’ll ever eat something so glorious again.

The bill was EUR. 120 for both of us. Judge us if you will, but it’s the best 60 quid I’ve spent in my life.

I’m going to sleep now and dream of beef. Rome waits for us tomorrow, so if you know of any secret sights or treasured restaurants, please comment them below.

Ciao!

Fred x

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