DISTRICT LIFESTYLE – AN INTERVIEW

Blog

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.

 

 

 

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 

THE GREAT RETURN – 5/10/17

Blog, Uncategorized

One month ago, I was sick of this place. Nineteen years in the quiet isolation of the Peaks had led to a stagnancy of my appreciation and gratitude; if you were to be fed a Michelin star meal thrice daily, you would most likely lose all knowledge of its greatness with haste. I thought it was time for a change of menu, and ordered from the buffet section; 13 of Europe’s greatest cities, an ‘all-you-can-eat’ of splendour and awe served promptly on the drop down tables of 21 trains in 10 different countries. I was busy. I was privileged enough to see what many consider to be some of the most beautiful things on Earth, and appreciate them accordingly, yet I found something unusual stirring from my being. I was yearning to return.

Far from the cacophony of blaring horns and perpetual sirens, an age away from the hordes of tourists, weaving traffic and dirt riddled streets, lies the Peak District. My travels taught me a lot of things, most notably, that nothing is quite like the acres of ochre clay, deep soil, twisting rivers and emerald greens I am lucky enough to call home. It is a place that cannot be attributed as the creation of a genius artist, nor the design of a Renaissance master; it simply exists, eternal, in effortless glory.

Whether it’s the sharp frost of a winter morning or the rolling blues of summer skies, although I admit the latter is a bit of a rarity, it’s easy to lose a sense of reality when separated from the rest of the world by the great spine of the Edges that run goliath through the land. I used to detest this detachment with a passion, worried that I would be stuck here, trapped like a lamb behind a fence, yet now I see it for the blessing it really is; an offering of peace and tranquility, a bubble of serene independence.

I don’t think there is a single person raised in this landscape that could honestly claim to have not been moulded by it. As children, we enjoyed the freedom of space, adventuring into the woodlands, biking to the moors, building dens, lighting fires, seizing the opportunity to relive great battles with sticks and valour and learning to live with a grazed knee or bruised arm. The local farms taught us to respect wildlife and educated us about the intricacies of our food chain; their ethos on hard work and commitment to the land making them role models for those of all walks of life, regardless of future aspirations. As a writer, inspiration couldn’t get much easier to absorb; the magnificence of the land and the eclectic variety of the people ensure that there is always something to talk about, a story to tell; all I have to do is listen.

I have, after much deliberation, finally realised that no matter where I end up in this life, I will always have a home in the Peaks. I have no choice but to carry this place with me; it’s shaped who I am, how I think, and how I act, and has built loving communities with those around me. I suppose it’s true, after all, that the Derwent runs deep in our veins.

 

 

PALM – A POEM

Writing

Tucked well beneath a blanket,

Morgue white, the colours run,

Rusting iron begs to feel

the wilting winter sun,

As the outstretched hand

of a heartless moor

drips all its palette into one;

Purple, lavenders wheezing face,

Lies deep beneath the silver lace

of an icy frozen pond,

Its violet blood clings hard to mud

to preserve sweet summers bond.

The golden glow of grass, in shoots,

Hides in respite from the soles of boots

that love to roam the land,

Tufts of ferny feathers wait to

scatter grains of sand, under this white

that lives forever

in the palm of winters hand.


READ MY SHORT STORY – HERE 

WAITING – A POEM

Uncategorized, Writing

Upon the misted veil of solemn moors

the howling wind did come to pass,

Blew grey snow beneath the trees

and made the heath show white to black;

Shades of evening rolled on in,

Empty branches shivered bare,

Yet a body of tree stood limped; frail,

A wizened oak for centuries there.

The rock face sheer, silent, stood behind

its protector glad in wooden mail,

Gritstone shield for winter’s sword

and the axe of night to no avail,

All left the oak to stand alone,

No more shoots from earth arise,

The furies of storms swooped to provoke

The crack of thunder, lightning cries-

The oak did not stir from its place,

Roots well burrowed in frozen ground,

Within itself it remembered life,

The smell of summer and the blackbird’s sound;

How the creatures of nature refuge amongst

the scars of hearts that men have carved,

With their lovers and a rusted blade

before sitting where the ground now starves.

The oak can only look to days of spring

to warm its gelid, bitter core,

And there it shall enjoy its days

before winter creeps and kills once more.

CAVE – A POEM

Writing

We walked to the tomb of 

the hillside,

A wound carved caverns in smooth rock,

Eternities of echoes lay

with crumbling chalk and curdled clay,

The air was hot with fear;

Ancient thunder lay in wait,

Drip,

Drip,

Drip,

Darkness pooled from drooling lips

of the crooked smile above,

We cowered in the womb;

Every chamber bore new paths

to the belly of the Earth,

No sun could have fed us there,

No stars to occupy our stares 

and distract us from our fate;

Bones shivered, broken by the sin

that dwelt deep within the cave,

Our brittle bodies grew so thin,

We became the echoes trapped within

that long forgotten grave,

Drip,

Drip,

Drip,

How we wish we’d wash away.

RAINBOW – A POEM

Writing

I am surrounded,

stuck, shrouded on

an island, black and white,

Marooned by melancholy

draining colours from my sight,

They slip along these sands of grey

and mingle with the ocean spray,

Hiding like the night.

 

I want to step upon

the shore, fall into

water, start to swim,

Leave the dark behind me

as I claw with aching limbs,

Remember all my eyes have missed,

A palette that still glows with bliss

upon your rainbow skin,

Pink pastels trapped within

your lips,

I hear echoes as you sing. 

MORE POETRY

 

 

 

HIGHLANDERS

Photo

There’s a farm near where I live. Well actually, there’s only farms near where I live, but this one is my favourite. It’s a twenty minute walk, always quiet, and home to these gloriously wooly Highland cows. They were a bit apprehensive the first few times I tried to get close, but after a few trips they were used to me; they’re incredibly friendly creatures, and have a prehistoric presence that looks fantastic through the lens. I hope you enjoy these as much as I enjoyed taking them…

IMG_3655IMG_3656IMG_3663IMG_3666IMG_3667

ALL PHOTO SETS

SCREENS – A POEM

Writing

Pixels portray an age of screens,

Vision envisioned through light

in flight from stars

long forgotten,

An emerald bosom bleeds

and weeps as hilltops burn

to scar the feet

of those that learn to yearn

for peace,

They are whispers on the breeze.

Tarmac traps, grabs heavy hearts,

Soles of souls walk roads that glow

with golden hopes promised,

Aspirations of a nation,

Instead young faces drown in fear,

Ears echo with the sound of jeers

that creep up closer ’till they’re near

to shape new paths 

and make it clear,

They are cracks of thunder.

Daylight draws a happy few,

Once idle eyes see skies of blue

they idolise the world they knew

through their age of screens,

Blossom from the billboards

that try to mould their dreams,

And fly with might 

out of their plight with truth

so loud it screams.

 

A RECORDING OF ME RECITING THIS POEM CAN BE FOUND HERE

CLICK THIS LINK TO BE TAKEN TO MY OTHER POETRY

ESCAPE – A POEM

Uncategorized, Writing

He longs for fresh pastures

as he waits within his cell,

Tasting licks of stale air,

A sandpaper tongue that dances

like a candle flame,

He doesn’t feel the warmth;

Hunger keeps him eager

whilst his brothers fall to sleep,

They’re all dreaming,

Freedom lies beyond the walls

of solid stone,

He is stood, already, there;

The wooden cage begins to fade

into horizons, green,

A vision driving onward,

He stands alone

somewhere between,

Inescapable reality

and

the safety of his dream.