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Oi Polloi - Manchester

Born out of a love of vintage sportswear, the initial plan for Oi Polloi co-founders, Steve Sanderson & Nigel Lawson, was to simply sell clothes they would want to wear. Over the past 15 years, with two stores to their name, Oi Polloi has become a haven for brands with authentic heritage and for products that stand the test of time. We spoke to Steve about the first opening of their Manchester store and what makes it unique to the others in their street.  

Store: Oi Polloi | Location: 63 Thomas Street, Manchester

Words: Steve Sanderson

When did you first open your store? Can you remember how it felt?

The shop opened in 2002... I can still just about remember. It felt great when we opened the shop. There was a real sense of achievement, from having the initial idea up to us opening the door, it didn't seem to take that long.

Me and Nigel came up with idea for the shop whilst we were out at a mutual friend’s birthday curry gathering. The idea for Oi Polloi was pretty much fully formed before we even opened.

The difference was that we didn't just talk about doing it...on this occasion we did it.

Why did you choose to open the store? 

At the time I was in my mid-thirties, and I had my own reasonably successful hairdressing business. The problem was that it wasn't doing it for me; I had an itch, something that had been there for a long time...but I’d never done anything about it.

I was kind of bored of cutting hair - not to be dismissive of the art, it was a thing I was pretty good at (even if I do say so myself) but it didn't give me the buzz like it used to. I'd also met and worked with a lot of interesting and creative people along the way whilst cutting their hair.

Clothes and culture were the things I was interested in - how they work together and the relationship between the two - that's my thing, that’s what gives me a buzz (each to his own).

When we first opened the shop, part of the plan was to set up a hairdressing business in the basement this would bring my clients through the store and downstairs.  

My rambling point here is that if you've got an itch, and what you're doing isn't the thing you're into; make a change, what's the worst that can happen? 

What makes your store different to the others on this street? 

We sell clothes. Most businesses around us are coffee shops, bars and restaurants. We do have a skate shop next door, which is probably the only other clothes based business around here. We coexist well together - different customers, ours are a little older, but probably no wiser.

What is the view from your store? 

A skate shop and an NCP car park. No lakes or mountains, but the view from the office window upstairs is pretty good when the sun sets over the city.

If the walls of your store could talk, what would they say? 

What goes in the walls stays in the walls. 

What is your favourite feature of your store?

The people that work there and the things we sell. 

Which is your favourite Millican product and why? 

Trick question? A bag? Sorry just messing, I like the 18L Smith Roll Pack in Moss. It’s clean and simple - a new take on a classic format.

What's around the corner for your store over the next few months?

We’ve just made some cord overshirts with Universal Works. Cord is a staple Northern fabric – it originates around our way, so it made sense to use it.