As a city we are fashion mad and Leeds fashion blogs are amongst the most popular reading material on the web. With the new Trinity shopping centre springing up at alarming rate and another new shopping centre planned at the bottom of Eastgate, Leeds is fast becoming a shoppers seventh heaven. But as well as lovely looking clothes, we also like a good bargain – after all we are Northern!
Leeds gal Laura Smith has just the solution; her brand new clothing company, Manor Drive, is a dress agency with a difference. She sells top quality pre-loved pieces at around 70% of the original price online from both high street and designer ranges. The site allows you to shop by trend and is a mode masterpiece. With a background working for River Island, Topshop and Selfridges Laura really knows what shes doing.
We caught up with Laura (and her teeny Yorkshire terrier, Chester) just prior to the websites launch to talk about fashion, the dress agency model and the beautiful men of Leeds…
Who are you and how did you get here?
I am Laura Smith, owner of Manor Drive; a website that sells pre-loved designer and high street clothes. I did Textile Design at Uni and from there went into visual merchandising, fashion buying, personal shopping, I freelanced for a while and then was Creative Director at a big dress agency in the north west before deciding to start up Manor Drive.
The premise of Manor Drive is that we sell pre-loved womenswear and accessories. If you have something you want to sell then we can collect it from you. Well style it, put it on the website and when someone buys it you get 60% of the price (we retain 40%). Dress agencies usually take 50% so we think its a really great way to sell your unwanted clothes. We range from middle range high street to high end designer.
What do you think makes Manor Drive unique?
I think when people think of dress agencies they think of mother of the bride and that its for the older woman. Thats just not true. Were trying to bring designer pieces at great prices to a younger generation. We typically sell our items at 70% off the original retail price and there are some fantastic bargains to be had.
Manor Drive has something for everyone, no matter what size you are or budget you have. Our pieces range from 5 to 2000 and you can shop for individual pieces or whole outfits. Weve tried really hard to put together a whole shopping experience online and we have features on trends as well as a Leeds style blog on the site.
As well as the website were doing home parties and personal shopping. If theres something in particular youre looking for, we can help you out.
Why have you decided to base Manor Drive in Leeds?
Im from Leeds originally and Ive lived in Manchester for the last decade or so. I love Manchester but I felt it was time to move closer to my family and I think Leeds is such a stylish city. The men here dress really well! Theres a great independent business scene so I thought that was perfect for me to come and set up business here.
Where do you take your inspiration from?
I really wanted the site to reflect the feel of the Net-a-Porter website. Its very clean and simple and easy to navigate. You can shop by trend or colour or size or designer so you can browse really easily and see what there is. Thats the kind of feel weve gone for.
The setup sounds similar to Lucy in Disguise which was owned by Lily Allen. They closed after 10 months – why do you think that was?
Its hard to say, I think Lily Allens idea of bringing very high end designer vintage to everyone is commendable but Im not sure the prices were right especially for rental pieces. Everyones watching the pennies now so it doesnt matter how beautiful a piece of clothing is, if the price isnt realistic then the piece wont sell.
What do you think makes Leeds so awesome?
The people – they are so down to earth. Leeds has a northern charm that I found missing in Manchester. People are so friendly. The fashion is fab but without being pretentious.
Where do you like to hang out in Leeds?
At the moment setting up Manor Drive has left me being a bit of a saddo – I rarely get out of my office. But when I do I visit Dock Street Market which is great to get work done on your laptop during the day!
What can we expect from Manor Drive in the future?
Just great bargains and beautiful pieces. Were starting with womenswear but were going to branch into menswear, kids, maybe even homeware.
Finally, describe Manor Drive in 3 words…
Affordable, quality and savvy.
Manor Drives website launched on the 4 October and is open now! You can also view latest offers and trends on their Facebook and Twitter pages.