Birmingham has many large shopping centres which attract the usual high street clothing brands. Such stores can be found across the UK in most towns and cities, but what about the smaller independent clothing retailers, are there any left in Brum?
Fashion writer Jessica Newman has done a bit of digging and here’s her guide to the best independent clothes stores in Birmingham.
Disorder is not what you expect to find down Needless Alley. The little gem of a store could quite easily be mistaken for something you would expect from Dover Street Market. The calming and mellow ambiance upon arrival contrasts with the rails of one of a kind, eclectic garments. Creating unique and distinctive well-made menswear fashion, Disorder is definitely worth a visit.
The artwork of Mark Howard, the designer and director of Disorder Boutique is pressed onto silk scarves and shawls, while tiny patchwork etchings are embedded in the pockets and linings of trousers and waistcoats. The rails beam with bright colour and ooze modern bohemianism.
The stylish boutique is a window into the diverse world of one of Birmingham’s defining independent clothes brand. The award winning menswear brand has stated that its fashion philosophy encourages shoppers to enquire about locally sourced clothing which shows an “investment in the local cultural environment” that can have an all round positive effect on small independent businesses. Another benefit of turning away from the high street is the reasonable prices of one off pieces that Disorder offers; it’s a surprising discovery and something not to be missed.
Disorder, 14 Needless Alley, Birmingham, B2 5AE
For a city of its size, Birmingham does lack quality independent fashion stores but Autograph survives almost as an oasis amid a city full of large chain stores. Autograph is an innovative and established concept menswear store, proud of their unique personal service and forward thinking knowledge.
Autograph have been open for over 20 years and ranked as one the the five finest menswear boutiques in the UK by ‘Esquire’ magazine with ‘FHM‘ once hailing Autograph as ‘Retailer of The Year’. Clubbers and fashion conscious men have been mooching around Autograph (and the now defunct Attoo which used to be next door) for years.
Autograph provide unprecedented access to world-wide brands and are constantly updating the collection. The clothes store is known around the Midlands as somewhere you can get fitted out with a super-stylish outfit, with big name designer brands such as Paul Smith, Scotch & Soda, Stone Island and Vivienne Westwood to lesser known brands APC and Neil Barrett.
Autograph, 15-17 Ethel Road, Birmingham
A Birmingham Independent store offering key pieces for life & style from a carefully edited selection of Heritage & Lifestyle brands. Delivering intuitive service, with a team passionate about the products they serve.
Est 2011 Birmingham, Britain’s youngest and second largest city known for its cosmopolitan culture and for having been the world’s first manufacturing town. The energy and passion there to create, remains. Nowadays they mostly make ideas there: that of founders and brothers Jamie and Jordan Quinn drawing on their rich experience in both design and retail, their vision was to create a bespoke shopping destination for gents, ladies and children offering well-made, functional clothing, geared for outdoor life and more importantly has personality.
Located in the heart of the city centre, tucked in between the heritage, scenic Victoria Square and the futuristic style of Grand Central.
No50, Pinfold Street, Birmingham, B2 4AY
Bullring Rag Market
Chic and fashionable are probably not the first ideas that come to mind when thinking of a rag market. However these pre-conceived notions are put to a halt once you’ve visited the Bullring Rag Market.
Opening in 2000 in its present building, over the past five decades, the market has experienced a tremendous growth and has built on a growing celebrated following.
Rails and rails of one-off vintage gems are comprised over several units, many jam packed with fluffy fleeces, rigid pairs of Levi’s 501s and retro athleisure.
The Rag market is not just another market – while the clothes are carefully selected to expand decades ranging from decadent 1930s dress or 1970s flares, the market is praised for ranging in size as well as style. This is just another reason why vintage lovers will not regret a rummage through the rails.
Whether it’s for an occasion or just to shape a mainly high street bought wardrobe, the Bull Ring Rag Market is certainly not worth a miss. Check official website for opening days/times.
Bull Ring Rag Market, Edgbaston Street, Birmingham B5 4RB
Well organized and tidy comes to mind when shopping around Liquor Store. Currently situated within the Great Western Arcade but soon to move to a new location on Colmore Row (mid March), this small independent menswear boutique offers a select, eclectic range of garments chosen with the customer in mind.
After Liquor Store opened its doors in February 2012, Birmingham was offered something new for men’s clothing. The stores environment upon arrival is warm and welcoming, with open brickwork and steel rails being the focal point of the store. The atmosphere is calm and has the appeal of an underground speakeasy of the 1930s. It really is quite unique.
The Liquor Store’s website indicates their brand is a reaction to the high streets fast fashion. With that in mind, they aim to establish authentic and attractive brands in the store. Some of the brands that inhabit Liquor Store include Levi’s, Shades of Grey, Filson and Patagonia.
Liquor Store, No. 3 The Grand, Colmore Row, B32 BS
The Oasis Indoor Markets
Hidden away from the crowds of New Street, The Oasis in itself represents a part of Birmingham’s individual character.
For many years the market has been a haven for customers seeking to excel their personal style. Now in 2017, the place offers much more than just providing the new club gear. From leather to lamé, sampling old vinyl records or getting a spontaneous tattoo – there’s not much The Oasis doesn’t offer. Whichever character one wishes to emulate on a night out in one of Birmingham’s coolest digs, the garments customers will find here will refresh your wardrobe and help you stand out from the crowd.
If you’re looking for something specific, the several floors of crowded rails will certainly have what you’re looking for. What’s even better is that The Oasis is relatively under the radar with most people who visit the city, leave without ever knowing this place exists.
It’s rather difficult to leave The Oasis without overflowing bags of bargains. Second hand denim and groovy velvet numbers are always a more plausible buy than just high street knock offs that have been Instagrammed a one too many times.
The Oasis, 110-114 Corporation Street, Birmingham B4 6SX
Located in the stylish and quaint Great Western Arcade, Projekt 21 is a window into a skater boy’s fantasy. The relaxing and family friendly vibe offers a mix of high demand street wear labels and specializes in skater products – something that is very unique to the city.
Fitting in well with the urban setting of Birmingham, the brand has stock from a number of well known American and UK based brands. Notably Butter Goods, Converse, Dickies, Grizzly, Hotshot Handles, Skateboard Café and many more are sold here. The store also expands to selling impressive skate hardware including cruisers, wheels and skate decks. It seems like Projekt 21 is making a name for itself as an urban independent brand that site Birmingham as a great place to set up shop.
Projekt 21, Great Western Arcade, Birmingham B2 5HU
If you had ever dreamed of emulating a young 1970s Mick Jagger in a sleek ruby red leather suit, then look no further. A long established recent re-addition to Digbeth that re-opens in February 2017, Urban Village is a top place to grab any cool gear that could time travel you back to the swinging sixties.
Hopefully to become a new favourite for the fashionable folks of Birmingham, Urban Village sells the finest of shift dresses to the most delicate cravats. The eclectic clothes are part of a time capsule that epitomizes the diverse style of the Birmingham individual.
Whilst the store is only open Saturdays to the general public, the website additionally offers the service to sell your own vintage. Urban Village states that they will consider almost anything to sell, from clothing, records, furniture, scooters and cars; all ranging from the 1940s and 1980s. A thriving new business in the heart of hip Birmingham is a great addition to the already lucrative strands of independent businesses.
Urban Village, 2 Bowyer Street, Digbeth, B10 OSA
Opened in 1987, Sims Footwear of Birmingham, is an Aladdin’s Cave of shoes.
Situated in the Great Western Arcade, Sims Footwear offers a wide choice of shoes for every occasion from a long list of leading brands for men and women.
Top brands for the ladies include Shellys, Rocket Dog, Irregular Choice, Red or Dead, Fiorelli, Hush Puppies, Poetic License and Dr Martens.
And for the men there’s also much to choose from including Ikon, Penguin, Base, Dr Martens, Wrangler and Ben Sherman.
Sims Footwear, Great Western Arcade, Birmingham B2 5HU
Off the Scale Clothing
Off the Scale is a profit free enterprise on York road Kings Heath selling recycled clothing by the kilo and helping raise awareness of the stigmas that surround depression.
The owners have always loved recycling and up-cycling clothes and have opened kilo shops in the in San Francisco and Liverpool. They are translating their lifelong passion into real social benefit. The pilot shop is in the vibrant Kings Heath area of Birmingham with a mobile popup version heading to festivals and campus events all over the UK.
Off The Scale is a hub for the community to get involved with, whether it’s to buy a pair of vintage style jeans, some hipster boots or other beautiful up-cycled clothing and fashion accessories or to offer a beacon of hope for those who find tacking depression alone a daunting task.
Off the Scale Clothing, York Road, King’s Heath, Birmingham
Article by Jessica Newman for Grapevine Birmingham