Leeds in the 90s… it was cool. Some of the events, brands, stores, music being produced in the city were some of the most exciting in the world. One brand that really encapsulated a lot of that buzz is Nicholas Deakins, a footwear and clothing brand born in Leeds, with a White Rose in its logo that everyone had to have. I checked in with Nicholas Deakins founder and Managing Director Craig Tate to talk about some of the history behind the brand and how that 90s buzz might be coming back to Leeds.
Lee Hicken: You studied fashion and textiles in London before starting ND, how did you find that experience? An important part of your development?
Craig Tate: My time at college was invaluable to the development of Nicholas Deakins, it gave me the basics of design and opened my eyes further into the magical world of fashion.
LH: So ND started when two friends decided to work together, what was the reason behind that? Gap in market? Creative itch?
CT: Basically a gap in the market, there was nothing out there except Patrick Cox at £180 or Red or Dead so, we used our combined knowledge to design a boot that could be worn in the clubs we were going to like the Hacienda and Back to Basics. The first boot made out of WJ Brooke’s has become iconic.
LH: You used to work in Strand before starting ND, what was the scene like back then in Leeds? Was fashion important?
CT: My time at Strand was fantastic, Dave Dalby was a UK fashion big hitter who ran a tight ship but knew how to enjoy himself as well! His drinking escapades are the stuff of legends and he gave me an excellent grounding in all that is fashion. Strand were also the very first account to buy Nicholas Deakins and it took off from there.
LH: The brand grew very quickly and your first collection sold out right away. What do you think the reason was? Did you just hit the right note at the right time?
CT: Yes. The timing was perfect, our first collection was exactly what everyone had been waiting for.
LH: Another friend of ours, Dave Beer jokingly claims lots of the credit for ND because of Back2Basics, was this true in a way though? Were the music and fashion scenes in Leeds heavily linked?
CT: Ha ha, yes music and fashion in Leeds went hand in hand. Everyone at Nicholas Deakins spent time with Dave and Back to Basics, and he’s a great friend of mine, we definitely helped each other along the way.
LH: After Justin (co-founder Justin Deakin) left the business, what was your vision for the future?
CT: My vision has always been the same, to continuously design footwear that I myself would like to wear, admittedly we’ve now grown and are able to react to younger trends as well but the core principle is the same.
LH: How big is the company now? How many countries do you sell in etc?
CT: In the nineties we exported to 14 different countries and had great success in Japan, however the loss of our main supplier affected this and recently we’ve concentrated on the UK market. This year we’ve opened new accounts in Russia, Australia and the US and will be in Indonesisia for SS13.
LH: Tell us about the way your brand is working now with ND, Heritage and Deakins. For our readers, what are the differences between each strand?
CT: Nicholas Deakins is aimed at the more discerning consumer, it’s all about classic design and quality manufacturing. The heritage range sits within this and consists of our core apron boot group that we are best known for. Deakins is a later arrival, launched in 2000 this is a more commercial collection with more competitive price points and attracts a younger audience. There’s something for everyone.
LH: What are your plans for the future of the company?
CT: We’ve been around for 21 years now. I intend to develop and diversify the brands further, the apparel is going from strength to strength for example and I expect great growth here.
LH: What advice would you have for young menswear / footwear designers in Leeds?
CT: Advice, that’s easy; you’ve got to have a design or product that’s special, next you must retain its quality but above all you need to work your socks off! Be prepared for some long hours.
LH: What do you think we need to do to build a fashion industry here in Leeds? How do we stop our best talent leaving and recreate some of the buzz from the 90s?
CT: The nineties was a very special time for Leeds in terms of fashion and music etc, but I can see a similar situation again especially with the work the digital and social media guys are putting out at the moment.
Check out Leeds Online and the article here: http://ow.ly/eUhWy