Open Lifestyle is the trendy new men’s indie in the Thornton’s Arcade. Offering a selection of clothing, accessories and homewares, the guys behind the boutique have sourced the globe in search of the best brands out there. Curating a broad selection, complete with books, art and grooming goods, Leeds Student chatted with the owners to learn a little bit more about the store.
What was the incentive behind setting up the store?
“We met through a love of the same music. Mainly Hip-Hop, old 60’s and 70’s Soul and Jazz. This was and still is at the heart of why we do what we do here. We always longed for stores with more substance in the city. You’ll have no problem finding a Topshop or H&M, but we wanted to focus on a customer that wanted something different. We wanted to attract customers who know what they like when they see it regardless of what they’re being told is “cool”.
So you aimed more for a lifestyle boutique rather than a straight-up fashion one?
Leeds was missing an independent that didn’t just sell one thing too so we wanted to sell a range of products that weren’t as readily available elsewhere even if it meant sourcing goods from overseas. The idea to become a lifestyle store happened kind of organically. We wanted to sell a range of products with substance that all tie in together in some way so if you bought a record for example you’d probably be interested in some of the magazines we sell too. We just liked the idea of somebody being able to buy such an interesting array of products under one roof so given the opportunity we ran with it.”
Establishing a new indie must have been tough given the economic climate?
“It certainly can be tough but I think being situated where we are has helped. The Thornton’s Arcade is the oldest in Leeds and has masses of character and a great reputation for quality independents. I think it’s important for customers to trust you and your ethos but obviously this can take time. The online store is equally as important as we are definitely targeting a much broader audience with orders coming in from all over the world.”
How would you best describe the store?
“A place to browse a curated selection of interesting products in welcoming and non-pretentious surroundings.”
What does ‘fashion’ mean to you?
I don’t really like the word “fashion”. It’s so broad. I think the most important thing is knowing who you are and working to your strengths. I like thinking someone looks good whilst knowing that I couldn’t pull it off myself. Prince says it best.”
Where do you look to for new, buzzy brands?
“We don’t necessarily look. Our interests and the way we live kind of means we come across the things we’re going to be interested in naturally. It’s the only way we could do it. I’d hate for it to ever become too forced. We do definitely pride ourselves on keeping it moving though. We have introduced a few brands to the UK that have since been taken on by big companies. Normally that means for us that it’s time to move on.”
Which guys do you consider to have great style?
“That’s a tricky one. Off the top of my head I can’t really think of anyone in the public eye. It’s normally just people I see in passing just doing their own thing. I’ve seen a lot of sharp old guys recently.”
How do you feel the fashion and retail offering in Leeds compares to that elsewhere in the UK?
“It’s getting there. Retail anyway. It’s kind of starting to balance itself out. There are a lot of new interesting independent clothing stores, book stores, bars, eateries and coffee spots but, this is obviously also met with the arrival of a huge soulless shopping centre full of high street stores. It’s no London yet, but it could be on its way as long as people keep their minds open.”
Independents seem to be cropping up all over Leeds with indie coffee stores, indie bars… Did you establish the store knowing that was brewing?
“We didn’t know it was brewing. I just think that maybe they’re starting to become more accepted and appreciated now in Leeds. Hopefully people are starting to get tired of the same old stuff.”
Which cities or countries do you think are offering the best in menswear?
“It’s tricky really. Great stores are just dotted about. Obviously London is good but things are very much spread out there. There are great stores in Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, obviously New York and LA, but the little sneaky ones can be found anywhere.“