Growing up near Maine Road football ground in the 70s Colin and his mates always tried to look different. Even then his sewing skills were in high demand. Len Grant spoke to the local fashion designer about his life long passion.
“My dad had a butcher’s shop near the ground and, as teenagers, me and my brother would work there, cleaning up after a day’s work,” says Colin Simmonds.
“We lived ‘above the shop’ and, when we could, we’d listen to my dad’s vinyl collection in the box room. We were into trojan reggae, Al Green, Arethra Franklin, that sort of thing.
“I remember we’d put The Three Degrees on the turntable and were listening to When Will I See You Again when a brick came crashing through the shop window downstairs. It was a Saturday and the away fans were smashing all the windows after the match. I’m guessing they lost.
“Yes, I suppose as teenagers we all wanted to look different. Not outlandish like David Bowie but just different.
“After school I signed up for a YTS [Youth Training Scheme] course. You could do metalwork, or woodwork. I chose to do sewing. And I was good at it. I started making things for friends, hoping to get paid, but that never happened!
“We’d spend our YTS money in Stolen from Ivor in town on a Friday afternoon. We’d buy Dickies cords, all different colours, and I’d chop them at the knee and swap them. So the top might be grey and the bottom green, or whatever. We got noticed.
“I went on to do more courses – dressmaking, tailoring – at different colleges and built up my skills. But no one ever told me how to turn those skills into a business. I was stuck.
“As a young man with responsibilities I needed to earn money and so I ended up in what I call the mainstream. I did office work, worked as a postman, even applied to be an air steward. With the demands of family life the sewing took a back seat for years and years.
“In my 40s I had the opportunity to move to London to work for an old friend who ran her own clothing and accessories business. I was working as a healthcare assistant in Oldham at the time so jumped at the chance. It was my belated entrance into the fashion industry.
“I’d make things from recycled denim or from linen, all sorts, and she’d sell them at exhibitions and festivals. It was exciting. I started to build a client base and people would ask for bespoke items.
“But then my friend decided she wanted to move on and try new things outside of fashion. I then came back to Manchester to set up my own business – Savant Blu – and that’s been rewarding. I’m in control. I’m doing it for myself now.
“I’ve become part of the Ardwick Creative Network and we were due to have an exhibition of our work at the Whitworth Art Gallery during the summer. Of course that didn’t happen so we did it online instead. Maybe that’s been better… more people have seen it.
“I’m now getting my website and all my social media channels up and running and am looking forward to doing some local markets when they get back to normal.
“Yes, I’d be pleased to hear from new customers in Manchester who want a unique look and individual attention. But my cobbling together of Dickies cords are way behind me!”