Take a walk down Kirkgate and one store certainly stands out from the crowd. Bird’s Yard is a veritable treasure trove of vibrant vintage, delicious designers and clever craftiness for your home and wardrobe and is ideal for those searching out the perfect gift.
Bird’s Yard is the brainchild of Michelle Walton who wanted to create a stylish, city centre space for independent sellers that wouldn’t cost them an arm and a leg. The shop just celebrated its second birthday and is proving a big hit on the Leeds indie scene – being voted the UK’s Alternative Fashion Shop of the Year as well as winning a selection of awards at last month’s Radio Aire Style Awards.
We caught up with Chloe who runs accessories store and Bird’s Yard stalwart Life’s Big Canvas to talk about business, birdies and bling at one of Leeds’ most successful department stores…
Who are you and how did you get here?
I’m Chloe and I run Life’s Big Canvas which is an accessories store in Bird’s Yard. Bird’s Yard is a destination shopping place – it’s three storeys of vintage, handcrafted and new designer fashion, gifts and accessories. We’ve also got the Marvellous Tearoom and a hairdressers too!
The idea was to have a creative space where people could test run their products in the marketplace by renting them an affordable area. We’re in the city centre but because the rent and rates are shared it makes it possible to have this prime retail space, even if you’re just starting out.
What do you think makes Bird’s Yard unique?
Our business is unique because of the people involved. The designers change all the time because they move onto a bigger space or get a new opportunity. Because of this the shop should be different to each customer every time they come. This can be unusual for some people used to familiarity, but at the heart of the shop is each and every one of us is passionate about what we do and we hope to provide a high standard of customer service.
Hopefully the products are also like nothing you can find in the rest of Leeds we work really hard to find new designers as well as providing things people usually have to trawl vintage markets, specialist websites and antique and craft fairs to find.
Isn’t it weird having lots of shops in one space? Isn’t it really competitive?
There are lots of us but there’s a lot of variety too. The great thing about Bird’s Yard is that we can support one another and offer business advice. There’s a great community here so it’s a really fun, positive atmosphere.
Why is it called Bird’s Yard?
That’s after Michelle! She also has her own boutique store in here too called Bird Shell Vintage. You’ll see lots of feathery friend themes running throughout the store actually!
What’s your bestselling item?
That’s really hard because there are so many businesses under our roof! In my shop it’s the Gemma Correll ‘Pugs Not Drugs’ tote bags for a tenner. All the tshirts have sold out but I still have the bags.
Definitely our most popular event was our second birthday party – it was random, exciting and everyone had a good time.
What’s your favourite item?
My favourite treat to order from the tearoom is a brownie I think they’re about 2 and they’re worth every penny. My absolute favourite product are Crayfish t-shirts I bought one for my husband, and now he buys them for presents for all his friends.
Where do you like to hang out in Leeds?
We love Outlaw’s Yacht Club which opened just around the corner we’ve been needing a late night cafe bar for years, and finally one has opened near the shop! When I go out at night, I go to Dock Street Market, the Adelphi, Call Lane Social, The Maven… basically all the little places around near work. Little Tokyo and Create are definitely the best places to eat.
What do you think makes Leeds so awesome?
Leeds is vibrant, and fiercely proud of its independent spirit. Small places pop-up all the time with new ideas they might not all work out, but it doesn’t matter. Everyone seems to know each other, and I haven’t come across any bitterness, just support and encouragement between businesses.
Finally, describe Bird’s Yard in 3 words…
Like nothing else
Bird’s Yard has closed. You can now find it in Sheffield.