Victoria Watkins charts the success of three unique Manchester boutiques

Self-confessed “industrial hippies in a concrete jungle”, designer Charlotte Keyworth and manager Daniel Clark opened Junk in Manchester’s alternative Northern Quarter in September 2007. Suitably situated in this independent area of the city centre, the Guardian recently rated the quirky but cool store as the seventh most unusual shop in Britain.

Sustainability and green ethics are central to the business, which is entirely furnished with recycled materials, creating a unique shopping experience for its customers. Keyworth describes Junk as “a curiosity shop with something for everyone.”

The store stocks lovingly re-worked and vintage clothing and accessories for men and women on top of a scattering of unusual antique pieces such as gramophones and typewriters. Keyworth explains: “We invest in talented new and local designers by selling their pieces at Junk.”
And the items on offer range from hand printed tees to tops and dresses made from old net curtains.

The business also boasts three own- brand labels – Junk Boutique, Jumble and Label of Love – created by its in-house design team. In-keeping with the sustainable vibe, the collections are manufactured locally at Islington Mill – an old cotton-spinning mill in Manchester. But Junk is more than just a boutique selling its wares. The team is on a mission to get the public actively involved in its green philosophy by offering them informative, fun and creative workshops via The School of Junk. Keyworth herself teaches a one- day Sustainable Fashion and Recycling 58 | boutique. | February 2013 course, which costs £60 per person and shows attendees how to ethically revamp their existing wardrobes.

There is also a four-week evening course in Beginners Dress Making, costing £120, which equips Junk students with the basic skills needed to design and make their own garments. These classes take place in the store’s own basement studio and details are regularly posted on the Junk Shop blog as well as being promoted in store.

Keyworth says the workshops add an extra dimension to the business, brining financial benefits and spreading the eco-fashion word around the city. “We want people to appreciate what goes into making garments and show them that making clothes is not boring,” she says.

Looking to the future the store owner reveals: “I want to get more people involved in the making process and encourage our customers to dress in a more sustainable way.” And she is well on her way to achieving this goal as in addition to the city centre store Junk also runs another smaller shop in West Didsbury as well as a successful e-commerce division. While a lot of Junk’s stock may be vintage, thanks to its owner it is a forward thinking business that stays true to its core beliefs.