forget the fake tan and falsies stereotypes - scouse style is varied and vibrant
One of the UK’s most loved designer stores is in Liverpool. Cricket's long been known as the north’s holy grail for fashion, a haven built on a love of people, laughs and glamour. We meet the brains behind those zebra print carrier bags. Howzat!
What you see is what you get -- but what you hear, you don’t always forget. That’s the problem with stereotypes. They’re old, boring, narrow minded and reductive. This is exactly the case with the connotations attached to ‘scouse’. According to stereotypes, Liverpool women are all overdosing on fake tan, with rollers in their hair and fluttering falsies, mostly clad in Juicy Couture clad tracksuits. This is old news. In fact, this is fake news.
Cue Cricket, one of Britain’s most famous designer stores, based in Liverpool. Charming, fun and really fucking chic, the store not only houses your Celines, your Balenciagas, your Louboutins and your Stella’s, but it’s full of excited screeches and that inimitable Liverpool effervescence. Opening its doors as a menswear store in 1991, Cricket is the baby of Gerry Mannix and Justine Mills -- its queen and buyer.
“They wanna write that we all wear huge rollers and lashes and are orange. But there's a lot more to the city. Anyway, I’d rather do that than be dull and wear a black crew sweater.”
What’s amazing about Justine is her ability to break down all stereotypes that you might have held about scouse style. She's clued up, as well as warm and witty, with a fashion knowledge that surpasses most buyers. She’s a boss!
I don't meet her on a rainy day in a hotel, and I can't describe what she's wearing because we're talking over the phone. She has, however, been busy on the shop floor, and that is something I can describe. As a scouser myself, I have trawled Cricket's shop floor for years. The staff there, as well as Justine herself, are always on hand to advise, help out and just generally gab away among the Givenchy.
“People here are not frightened to make bold fashion choices. If a fashion trend comes in, people here really take it and run with it. And you know, if they get it wrong, there's always next weekend!”
Lit by a soft golden hue, the store is open to all. Situated in Cavern Walks, shopping at Cricket is an intimate experience, filled with a humour and democracy you don’t find in high end fashion stores elsewhere. This isn’t just the north, this is Liverpool. This is exactly what makes Cricket, and Justine, a holy grail not just in northern fashion circles, but British fashion. Say bye to those biases, and hello to those Balenciagas!
You’re very involved with your customers, have you always worked like that?
Yeah, I’m always on the shop floor chatting to the clients. Basically, I'm nosy, I love people! I think it makes me a better buyer because I can feed the information from our chats into my buying from brands. It helps to react quickly when you see what clients want as well as what sells well.
Your love of people echoes the general mentality of Liverpool, its openness to others. Where do you think this comes from?
I think it goes back to Liverpool being a port, way back when. Right from the beginning, I remember my mum telling me stories about the ships and how we were the first people to get music from New York, the first city to get tights and stuff like that. This city loves to be first with things, to be different and to challenge ourselves. It's a melting pot of people and cultures and that's ingrained in our heritage. Of course, there’s also the usual bias. I've done interviews for magazines and before I've even answered the questions they've already written the article and they're ready to ridicule no matter what you say. They see it from their own angle -- they want to write that we all wear huge rollers and lashes and are orange. But there's a lot more to the city. Anyway, I’d rather do that than be dull and wear a black crew sweater.
What do you think is particular to the scouse mentality that makes us love glamorous things?
People here are not frightened to make bold fashion choices. If a fashion trend comes in, people here really take it and run with it. And you know, if they get it wrong, there's always next weekend! It's the mentality here, isn't it? You take something and if it doesn’t work, you're like, ah well there's always next week! Let's do it again!
How would you describe the Cricket customer?
People in the media think they have an idea of who it is, but in reality it's much different and varied than people think. Our customers start from young kids. Liverpool is one of the biggest consumers of kids’ fashion. So there's these little trendy teenagers and then all the rest which is major. I think of my customers as tribes and I have to put different hats on for each one of them.
What would you say to people who say your shop is intimidating?
That actually is something that would upset me, because I've worked really hard to make it an environment that's really welcoming and warm. I'm from a working class background and I remember wanting to buy luxury and being intimidated by such experiences; people look you up and down and assess whether you can afford to even be in such a store. You can't judge people like that. There's a lot of props and things out in our store and that's intentional so that people don't feel like they're in a museum and that they can't touch anything. I try to treat everyone the same and that message is passed down to the staff.
What's the best advice you've ever been given and what advice would you give to someone with a dream like yours?
The best advice I would give is first and foremost listen to your instincts. The best decisions I've made have been when I've really listened to my instinct and my gut. But you also have to back that up with research and hard work behind the scenes -- so research your market, and find your niche. And never take no for an answer. It's hard to get labels at the beginning because they always ask what other brands you have. To get A, you need B. I prefer a face-to-face meeting. If I meet someone, I can sell myself and sell the passion for what I do. I can look someone in the eye and say, believe in me and we can make a good partnership. You have to keep knocking on doors.
Cricket is in Cavern Walks, 8 Mathew St, Liverpool.