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Local industry

New Universal Works clothing store in Nottingham, U.K.

This week, we were at the new Universal Works clothing store in Nottingham, that opened in January 2023. To open a new physical store after the Covid-19 lockdowns is a great risk, but shows great courage. When you order online, you cannot try on clothes, feel what it is like, feel how thin or thick it is, you do not meet anyone or experience as much. Founded by a Midlands man in Nottingham in 2009, they are doing interesting things and have grown in success, and now have 3 stores in the U.K. They have a made in England knitwear range, see also their Made In England ‘Knitwear’ article.

We have written about the joys (or not…), of ordering clothes online in our article Useful Accessibility and Usability Examples To Help Improve Your Designs in December 2022.

No hazardous gangs or organised crime in Nottingham either, unlike in London, trying to ruin our life! August 2023.

Photograph of the shop front, shows the grey painted front, 1 room on the left with a large window, same on the right. Then people walking by blurry. With a road going bye below Logo, shows the word ‘Universal’ in large black typewriter typeface on the 1st line, then below the word ‘Works.’
Local industry

Out Of Joint vinyl record store

We are not always at our desks 24 hours a day and 365 days a year for our clients… and this week we visited the vinyl record store called Out Of Joint just a few miles away in Leicester, that we noticed about a month ago. We said to man behind the counter ‘how long have you been here for?, we noticed you about a month ago and have been meaning to stop by’ he replied ‘4 years…’. There is a 2 minute interview with them on YouTube. Not totally intentionally we bought:

Photo of the front of the shop, showing glass window and records inside, with the counter at the back
  • Atmospherica Vol. 2 LP by Deepchord. (New release. Genre: dub techno.)
  • Untitled LP by Konrad Wehrmeister. (New release. Genre: leftfield techno.)
  • Picnic Attack LP by I:Cube. (2nd-hand. Genre: house, future jazz.)

They use a custom labelling system on all vinyls, put on the top left of a vinyl that we have not seen used anywhere else, it is a nice feature and gives users a 2nd option for being able to scan through the information on vinlys, as apposed to having to locate information on the front or back of a vinyl’s artwork. It is a really nice touch.

We find it amazing how vinyls are still being cherished and are actually flourishing. It is still the most ideal music format in certain genres of music, and is not a fashion statement but used for maximum functionality. The sound from vinyl is super rich and warm, giving unbeaten sound quality not found digitally. There are some amazing things being done with vinyls, for instance, coloured marbled vinyl or even transparent vinyl, not to mention the highly niche and expert area around mastering digital music (usually a WAV) onto vinyl. There used to be a few other vinyl shops in Leicester around the year 2000, but with the increase of MP3 releases and the mainstream start of the internet, it affected vinyl production a lot.

Another great aspect of vinyl that needs to be continually supported, is the amount of effort that goes into making and producing them, and also who, where and what countries they are being made. Vinyl pressing plants are increasingly not surviving, and when they go, a lot is lost, much more than the value of their machinery and loss in profit. The positives and negatives of different mediums! Is the new really better than the past?

Read more about the store in a review from Inverted Audio. Photographs © Inverted Audio. October 2022.

Photo from the back of the store showing the crates with the vinyls in, then the front window in the background A vinyl DJ deck, shows the metal arms, then a red vinyl on the deck spinning round The words ‘Out Of Joint’ in a half circle above, then thin black outline circle repeated and getting smaller like grooves on a vinyl, with a triangle going into the centre from the bottom
Local industry

Fred Perry polo t-shirts made in Leicester, U.K.

In these summery Covid-19 aftermath times, it is time for some new polo t-shirts and investing just a bit of time and research, we found a solution just outside Leicester city centre, just a few miles away. We have bought an M3 Black/Champagne polo t-shirt. Here are the very impressive unique features:

  • Proudly made and hand-finished by people in Leicester.
  • Uses recycled tipping and sewing threads.
  • Uses buttons made from recycled materials.
  • Responsibly-sourced laurel wreath embroidery.
  • Responsibly-grown cotton through the Better Cotton Initiative.
  • Much smaller carbon footprint than imported polo t‑shirts.

M3 Black/Champagne polo t-shirt and then inside the Piqué factory Leicester.

Front photo of the black polo t-shirt, shows the Fred Perry logo on the right chest area

Read more about the Fred Perry Made in England range and their community initiatives. It is going to be interesting to see how it wears and possibly fades (durability) over the years. Our aim is to support the local community in these chaotic and faulty times. Photographs © Fred Perry. August 2022.

The Piqué factory Leicester (the dark graphite rectangle building with the 3 yellow square outline windows, in the middle), the pieces then go next door to garment makers ESP (the triangular‑roofed building to the right), where traditional British machinery combines with state‑of‑the‑art cutting technology.

Aerial photograph out the factory and surrounding area, shows the top of many terraced house and other buildings, then the skyline at the far top Photograph of the inside of the factory, shows large green textile machines, with white and blue thread rolls in poles, and also other textile machinery. Shows a skylight in the roof Fred Perry logo showing a black leaf crest in the shape of a capital ‘U’ letter
Local industry

Shoes designed in Leicester U.K. and made in Northamptonshire U.K. and Italy

Due to the recent worldwide events between 2020–2021 (Covid-19), it has given us time in the office to consider what we have been doing, well doing with ease and not really thinking about… We have bought 2 pairs of shoes, but these are not any-old-shoes like you find in local highstreet mass-market shops though.

The 1st pair are Leicester Tigers Icon (Espresso) smart leather shoes, designed in Leicester U.K., then crafted and manufactured by hand and people in Northamptonshire U.K. The yellow leather lining inside the shoe is really soft and feels like a luxurious leather glove. The rubber soles are made from recycled material, the carbon footprint is much smaller than shoes imported from outside the U.K., and we are supporting a local business in a very competitive industry.

The Espresso shoes, photographed side-on diagonally. Shows brown leather shoes with yellow in-lining and grey/dark green soles

The 2nd pair are Pace Bi-Colour (Off White/Black) and are not even on sale to the public yet, that are more of a trainer, and less of a formal shoe. Once again designed in Leicester U.K. and then handcrafted by people and manufactured in Italy, using Italian materials with rubber soles that use recycled material, use suede, are fully calf lined, soft, durable and breathable.

The Pace shoes, photographed side-on diagonally. Shows trainer-like shoes, black leather and then white soles

Leicester used to be well-known for its shoe manufacturing and shoe factories, a notable example was British United Shoe Machinery (BUSM) Ltd in the 1960s, it was Leicester’s biggest employer, employing more than 4500 people locally and 9500 people worldwide. All that changed because U.K. companies outsourced work and manufacturing to Asia, to take advantage of cost cutting and cheaper labour to maximise profits. ‘The raw shoe materials and machines (engineering) that made the shoes, were also cheaper in low‑wage economies’ as BU History Group was telling us. Why can we not make a much higher percentage of goods here in the U.K. supporting local people, why is that so impossible? This strategy affected, and pretty much destroyed not just the shoe industry but many other U.K. industries like book and journal typesetting, printing, textiles, electronics and footwear (and many more), over the years and decades, and is still very much utilised today… What do we have left and where are we now in 2022?

The Covid-19 lockdowns have made us think that maybe we need to try to look closer to home for the things we need, even if it requires a bit more effort and money, in order to support the local community and local businesses, because if things are not working well around you, they could get a lot worse or finish altogether… then what? Are you aware of what goes on behind the seams of the products you buy? This is the extra we are doing, to support our local community and industries in these challenging times.

For more information visit the Marcus De website, shoes are available until stocks run-out. June 2022.

British United Shoe Machinery Company (BUSM) Ltd on Belgrave Road, Leicester, U.K. Photograph dated 1984 from Nigel Tout (CC BY-SA 4.0, changes made).

Old greyscale photograph showing the British United Shoe Machinery Company 5 storey building side-on diagonally, on Belgrave Road, Leicester. Shows the large factory building in the background, then the road in front with vans and a car driving bye The text ‘MARCUS’ on the top line, then ‘DE’ on the bottom line in large yellow capital letters, with ‘England’ below in a script font