The Manchester Weekender gets off to a very fashionable start on Thursday 10 October – here’s our pick of its things to do: from Fashion’s Night Out, boutique shops and contemporary craft to vintage fashion and fine food.
We start the Weekender early this year for one very good reason. Vogue. Everyone’s favourite fashion bible brings its annual Fashion’s Night Out from London to Manchester for the first time on Thursday 10 October (6pm-late). And while the city centre, and around St. Ann’s Square and The Avenue in particular, are full of fashion and beauty pop-ups and events (we’ve heard rumour of Jessie J teetering on a bar stool in Armani), there are some sweet cultural events slotted in, too.
Let’s start in the Northern Quarter. The narrow streets here may only be a stone’s throw from the high street heaven/hell of Market Street, but its mix of vintage and vinyl, boutiques such as Fig & Sparrow, and curry shacks serving up steaming plates of rice n’ three, sets it apart. Over the last few years, the Northern Quarter has seen an explosion of new bars, too, yet it remains defiantly chain free. It’s an apt place to start our fashion-related afternoon, and not solely because of hipster watering holes such as Common: many of the historic buildings here at one time housed elements of the city’s textiles trade. Now, we won’t bang on about Manchester’s former role as the world’s largest centre of manufacturing. We won’t mention that it was once christened “Cottonopolis”. You already know that, right? But here on these fashionable streets are the remnants of its mercantile past: tiny houses with huge windows (to let in maximum light for toiling weavers), or the Neo-Romanesque arches of the former Smithfield Market, one of several wholesale markets that once stood nearby.
The glorious Manchester Craft & Design Centre was just one such market, though this Victorian, glass roofed building is now home to an array of artist-run studios. Alongside the contemporary craft, jewellery, accessories and artwork on sale runs – for the Weekender only – a special exhibition: the Forming Words Alphabet, which displays new work by twenty-six designer-makers. Not only that, but a host of musicians play live and unplugged throughout the day (10am-5.30pm, free). The café has recently undergone a mini-transformation; stop off for excellent homemade fare. Intrigued by the story of Manchester’s textiles past? Try Manchester Style: the Art, Fashion & Craft Tour (4.30pm-6.30pm, £7), a walking tour that starts at the Craft Centre and describes both Manchester’s fashion past and its textiles future. It’s also a chance to take in shows at the neighbouring Chinese Arts Centre (head here at 6pm for talks by fashion and jewellery designers, Sophie Ho and Dian Luo, free) before winding up at the launch night of the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair (6pm-10pm, free). This showcase of the country’s finest craft and design takes place in Spinningfields; if you’re in need of a drink or bite to eat, stop off at the Oast House or Artisan (The Avenue North), the former for BBQ’d fare in the slightly surreal surrounds of a 16th-century Kentish oast house, the latter for fashionable small and wood-smoked plates (and cocktails of the divine variety).
Feeling refreshed? You’re not done yet: head to Manchester Art Gallery for Thursday Lates – The Fashion Special (6pm-9pm, free). In homage to Vogue, the gallery hosts a pop-up vintage fair, pick-a-decade vintage makeovers, talks from curators at the Gallery of Costume (it’s current Dior show providing inspiration), and – best of all – the chance to put yourself on the front cover with a Vintage Vogue photoshoot. Those of a creative bent should head from here to Cornerhouse (casting a longing glance at Simon Rogan’s The French along the way) for That Dame Upstairs (6pm-9pm, free), an intriguing evening of life drawing. Hosted by cult performance collective, The Sisters Gorgeous, themselves clad in monochrome couture and taking their fashion lead from Billy Wilder’s film noir, Double Indemnity, this is a life drawing “class” where the models unexpectedly lip-synch to a 1950s soundtrack. This is likely to be busy – be prepared to queue. We’re almost done, but can’t finish without mention of a few other special events: Bob Stanley (Saint Etienne) talks about his new book with Turner Prize-winning artist, Jeremy Deller and musical friends at Gorilla (7pm-9pm, £7), Castlefield Gallery hosts a late night opening (1pm-9pm, free), while MOSI plays host to Wired: Brains at Night (7pm-10pm, £5). This off-piste event comprises a late night exhibition opening with cocktails, the city’s brainiest pub quiz and an inspired musical, audio-visual mash-up courtesy of musicians Denis Jones and Wasp Video. Which must mean that this is Manchester’s only night out where you come home smarter than when you set out.