Friday, 28 August 2009

Afflecks No Palace

I mentioned earlier wandering the wilds of Manchester in search of Affleck's Palace. Turns out it changed hands after almost closing sometime in the last year or so and is now just Afflecks.

I was too young to be a hippie, really, but I was rather that way inclined for a while in high school. I mean, I wore my stringy blond hair as long as it would grow. I wore homemade moccasins and too-long bell bottomed jeans. I loved the ragged fringe that dragged in the street and looked forward to holes developing so I could add embroidery and patches. All things considered, poor Mom tolerated that phase relatively well I think, though she still made and I wore 'nice' dresses and suits on occasion. This was partly to please her and also because I hadn't the courage to be a true rebel.

Anyhow, Simon had taken us to Affleck's Palace a couple of years ago when we first visited Manchester after he moved there permanently (he went to university there). I was fascinated by what I saw, but it was jammed packed with people, it being the weekend. I was hoping to go back and browse a little more comfortably this time, mid-week and it paid off.

How to describe Affleck's? Definitely not aimed at my age group, but I did see one or two other people about my age, usually accompanying younger teens. Rather than frown about the sex shop, the tattoo parlour or the body jewelery, I'd rather focus on what I love about the place. For one it looks like a foot onto the entrepreneurial ladder for young people so inclined; also, it is definitely a creative outlet. At least two of the stalls had staff (one a girl, the other a guy) sitting in a corner behind a sewing machine; I can't tell you how much that impressed me. I asked the Vampire Bunny girl if she was from Newcastle (we have a vampire rabbit there that I'll show you soon); she wasn't and hadn't heard of it.

Another place that really impressed me was No Skin, a place that supplies vegetarian clothing (as in no leather shoes). I'm happy eating and wearing animal products but I know a few people who are not and shoes is one of their biggest challenges. Also, an amazing stall, Green Fly Exotics, specialised in weird and wonderful plants (think Venus flycatcher). That's a niche I wouldn't have thought of and a whole lot saner in my book than exotic pets.

The cafe was a great place, reminding me somehow of the movie Flashdance. Remember her warehouse apartment with the furniture arranged in rooms created by curtains? Well the cafeteria seating was a collection of wonderful overstuffed chairs and couches, some rather kitschy or antique-y, gathered around tables. Whilst eating, one had lots of visual treats, from the gathered and tacked-in-place organdy curtains to the art-on-mirrors hanging on the walls, not to mention the interestingly dressed cashier girl.

I loved the vintage clothing in several of the shops on the top floor even though most of it was from my lifetime (ackk!). There was a celery green velvet 20's styled dress that I kept going back to touch but managed not to buy. There were fabulous housewares as well, including a set of 5 pink fruit bowls and a matching serving bowl from the 20's or 30's that I brought Bill back to see.

As well as goth and grunge, old and cute there were also a number of stalls that sold new styles like the baby doll dresses with bubble hems (something I'm grateful to be too old to wear -- only those with seriously good legs can really get away with those). Another shop that specialised in bespoke corsets also had a number of items with wonderful draping like the Japanese designers use. I think the name of that shop was Strawberry Peach. I couldn't see me wearing any of those clothes, but they were marvelous to see and touch all the same. Another boutique, No Angel, was there, but I gather they are a chain rather than a unique stall.

I browsed for absolutely hours and thoroughly enjoyed myself, though I was a bit outside of my comfort zone in there, being such a timid thing. I wish I'd taken more pictures, but there were shops that specified 'No photography' and just like 40 years ago, I lacked the courage to ask the others for permission. Some of the staff were dressed in ways that they might think I was going to make fun of them (and perhaps they would have been part of the fun).

Afflecks aside, another place I checked out was a dumbfoundingly big warehouse of amazing clothing, etc., called Ryan Vintage -- where I bought some green art deco looking bowls. Retro Rehab was a lovely little shop where a million 1980's dresses had been chopped to make mini-dresses and the line-backer shoulder pads removed. If this hadn't been 'my' era, I would gladly have worn some of these over a pair of jeans, but... no.

I also visited Abakhan Fabrics, another place on my list. Like the shops in Liverpool, they sold fabric by weight. It was still confusing but I suppose I was coming around to the idea. I rumaged for a while but didn't find anything that grabbed me (though I was amazed to find the cotton fabric printed with the University of Oklahoma logo). I went upstairs and found what I was looking for in the 'designer' fabric section sold by the meter. My remnant was on sale and I got out of there spending only £1.50!

I was looking forward to seeing Rags to Bitches, around the corner on Tib Street, but they were shut due to a flood if I remember right. Just as well. I see from their website they do courses and I don't think Helen or Simon is prepared to let me live with them for 12 weeks!
If you ever visit Manchester and you have any appreciation of youth and creativity, get yourself to Afflecks! If you just like cool old stuff, visit Oldham and Tib Streets.

Oh no...just discovered there is a store called Oklahoma on High Street in Manchester. Given that it advertises a veggie cafe, I don't think it's got much to do with the real thing...

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