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.

 

 

 

EXPLORING VENICE – TRAVELLING DAY #19/20

Blog, Travel, Uncategorized

Yesterday was terrible. We woke up at 5am, eager to catch the first of our three trains as early as possible so that we could have a good evening in Venice when we arrived. Unfortunately, in our tired haze, we went to the track number and not the platform, so even though we were there for an hour before it left, we missed it and had to wait 5 more hours for the next. Then, we had to change at Nova Gorica, which is a town split by two countries with two stations, and get across town in 40 minutes. The bus never showed up, so we had to hastily translate what we could on a phone call to a taxi, and nearly missed that one too. However, once we stepped onto the water bus at Venice, none of that seemed to matter. It was midnight by the time we reached Murano, where we are staying, but seeing this wonderful city at night was an experience I’ll never forget, and solidified our prediction that this was going to be our favourite location so far.

Today, we have tried to do as much as possible to compensate. This morning, we took in what we could of Murano, which is a series of islands in the Venetian lagoon. It’s a wonderful little place with a population of just over 5,000, which means it’s ridiculously quiet at night. It almost feels like one big village, where all of the locals know one another, and the focus on tradition and culture is high. Waking up to boats and sunshine ensured that the last remnants of annoyance from yesterday had left the system, and after a relaxing potter, we popped into “Osteria al Duomo” for some food. This place prides itself on quality, with fresh seafood, carefully curated meats, wood-fired pizzas, and homemade pastas on the menu. We were seated in the relaxing sun terrace at the back of the building, and after looking through the dishes, decided to get a “Cooperativa” house special pizza (EUR.11) with hand stretched dough, tomato, mozzarella, spicy salami, and asparagus. It arrived swiftly, tasted amazing, and set us up for the day.

After paying the surprisingly cheap bill, we boarded the water bus and headed for Piazza San Marco, where three of Venice’s top attractions lay in wait. The water bus is the best public transport I’ve ever experienced, and I couldn’t get the thought of living here and getting one to work in the morning out of my head; they’re amazing. It took about forty minutes to arrive, yet we were too busy oogling at all the sights flying by to notice. Our first experience of Venice in the day had begun, and after watching the gondolas for a little while, we decided to pop into “Doge’s Palace”, which ended up taking a good few hours to explore.

This place makes most buildings look like the work of mere peasants; dating back to the 11th century, the palace is a true masterpiece of gothic architecture, and literally no words can describe how impressive it is. It’s EUR. 13 for students to enter, and in my opinion worth every penny; we started our tour in the “Sala Room”, which exhibits the original stone work of the old palace and some of the original structures. Next, we went to upstairs to the major attractions of the institutional chambers, armoury, and prison. The chambers are breathtaking, with frescoes of mythological subjects, biblical scenes, and the cities under Venetian dominion layered in gold on every wall; this was my first time seeing these as a conscious adult (apparently I went as a baby), and I understand what my Grandmother was talking about when she said there’s nothing quite like it in the world.

The armoury was actually the best and most interesting collection of armour and weapons that we’ve seen, which is saying a lot considering we visited actual military museums in our previous cities. The craftsmanship involved is staggering, and they even made intricate decorations for the horses armour, as you can’t ride into battle looking shabby, can you? The prison was a little bit tricky to get to, as I’m 6ft 4′ and the ceiling is about 5ft 2′, but it’s worth the effort. They’re a little eery, as you can imagine, and I discovered that Giacomo Casanova, the famous adventurer and author, was one of many well-known faces to have been imprisoned there (he also managed to escape).

Finishing up, we wanted to taste some of the best food Venice had to offer, and had heard that “La Boutique De La Gelato” is revered by the locals as having the greatest ice-cream and sorbets. Naturally, we rushed to get there and joined the bustling queue; there are all sorts of flavours, including vegetables, but we settled on one scoop of vanilla and one scoop of lemon. I wasn’t even aware there was such a hierarchy when it came to gelato, but this tiny little shop would be ruling over them all. It’s dead cheap (at EUR. 2.50) and fucking amazing. Get some.

Next, we sampled some Venetian finger food at “Ca’ D’oro alla Vedova”, which was another culinary gem. In proper traditional manner, a counter on the bar has fresh meatballs, octopus, calamari, fish, and salads for you to choose from, and you simply stand with a glass of house wine, eat from your napkin, and marvel at the beauty of it all. The meatballs were the best we’ve eaten, and are full of beef and creamy polenta. I’m getting hungry again just thinking of it.

After pottering around the shops and streets, which is entertainment enough, we were advised to go to “Rossopomodoro” for dinner. When we arrived, it was so packed that the queue was trailing out the door, yet after a brief wait we were seated and reading through the menu. There’s a small selection of salads, pasta, and pizza, all of which seemed to be based on the quality of ingredients and seasonal tastes; I ordered the “Diavola” pizza and was thankful we decided to stick out the delay; spicy salami, 24 hour risen dough, and fresh basil. Heaven.

We’ve just taken the water bus back to Murano and packed our bags, ready for Florence tomorrow. Hopefully, we won’t miss any of our trains, and will get two full days to explore as much of the capital of Tuscany as humanly possible. As per usual, if you know of any secret wonders, or the best places to grab some food, please comment them below. I can’t wait to get back to Venice in the very near future, and suggest you do too.

Ciao!

Fred x

PHOTOS FROM TODAY – HERE