Field Guide to Manchester | Form Lifestyle Store

I'll admit it, I had become a little bored of Manchester recently. Whenever I ventured into the city centre it seemed like there were somehow less independent shops than ever before and that nothing new was happening. Summer excursions to other cities such as Brighton or London filled me with inspiration and frustration that there didn't seem to be much going on in my own city. (Aside from the suburbs - there's plenty going on in the likes of Altrincham, Chorlton and West Didsbury - but I'm talking about the city centre here.).

Then, all of a sudden, the Northern Quarter seemed to be a flutter of activity. Within a few weeks, two intriguing new stores have opened, both offering unique products alongside a series of creative workshops. I'll write more about Beaumont Organic at a later date, as this post concentrates on Form Lifestyle Store.

I knew straight away that I'd love Form. I'd already heard of several of the independent makers that they stock and a quick scroll through their Instagram feed convinced me to hop on the tram into Manchester to investigate in person. The store itself is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the main streets, nestled behind the Koffee Pot in a building previously used as an office. The bare brick walls and incredible skylight instantly catch your eye when you enter, before you're distracted with all of the beautifully crafted product on display. Although there are just two small rooms and the products (think ceramics, stationery, plant holders and textiles) are laid out in a minimalist manner, it's almost impossible to walk out without making a purchase. 

I caught up with owners, Elly and Harry to ask them a few questions about why they opened Form and how they discover their makers ...

What made you decide to leave London and move to Manchester?

We'd been living in London for about 10 years (we both moved there for University originally) and wanted a change of pace. We visited Manchester and it just immediately felt like the right place for us and for our plans for the shop. We've been here for two years now and love it!

How does the creative scene differ here to in the capital?

Manchester feels like more of a community of creatives, London is such a big place that everyone is so spread out.

How did you decide where to open your store?

From our very first visit to Manchester, we knew we wanted to be a part of the Northern Quarter. We love the variety of independent businesses and found this a big inspiration. We live nearby in Ancoats and it's so nice to be able to walk into work every morning! We did struggle to find a premises, as there are so many independents wanting to be based here in the Northern Quarter, but we knew that this was the right place for us and so just kept going. Although we are a little tucked away on Bradley Street, we fell in love with the building and knew that we had give it a go.

I can't believe the premises of your shop used to be an office - what did you have to do to transform the space?

We did all of the interior ourselves, with a little help from family. To get the space how we wanted it we had to remove two layers of very heavily glued down carpet and the office-style fluorescent lighting. We replaced the dark carpet with a pale concrete floor which has really brightened up the front area and we have plans to do the same on the other two floors – once Harry has recovered from pulling up the last lot!

What other independent shops in Manchester or the UK do you like/personally shop in?

Harry is a big fan of Oi Polloi here, and we recently came across Beaumont Organic who have also just opened in the Northern Quarter. Their organic clothing line is beautiful, as well as responsibly sourced. In London we especially love Labour & Wait on Redchurch Street and Future & Found, near Tufnell Park.

How do you discover the brands that you sell?

Most of the brands we were already familiar with and owned pieces by before stocking them. We really look for makers who are experts in their craft, producing quality products that are made to last, on a small scale and usually by hand. Being creatives ourselves, we really appreciate the work that goes into each piece. We are keen to support and promote independent design, and aren't interested in selling the same wholesale brands that are seen in so many other shops.

Are all of your brands British or do you have any overseas suppliers?

Most of our makers are British, and their products are entirely British-made. We have a couple of makers who are from further afield – in Copenhagen, Sweden and San Francisco and their products are all made by themselves in these countries.  

I can't wait to attend one of your workshops - can you share some of your upcoming events?

We started with a kokedama (Japanese moss ball) and a terrarium workshop with one of our makers Geo-Fleur last week and due to the popularity there will be the same ones running again on October 21st and November 19th and a special Christmas Wreath workshop on December 16th.
In November, we'll also be having a modern Caligraphy workshop with local calligrapher Artsynibs and a linen printing workshop with our London-based maker Ren London.
We have some others in the pipeline too, including a soy candle making workshop with Earl of East London just before Valentine's Day next year. As well as our own makers, we'll also be encouraging other local creatives to use the workshop space too! 

If someone was visiting Manchester for your shop, where else would you recommend popping into?

When our friends visit from London, we always recommend Foundation (before the shop opened, it was like my second office), Federal and North Tea Power. Fred Aldous is always worth a visit too! For food, our top recommendation is always Rudy's Pizza (just outside the NQ in Ancoats) we like it there so much we even named our dog Rudy! Our other favourite is Pollen Bakery, hidden away in a railway arch just behind Piccadilly station.