If you find yourself just out of reach from our Cambridge and Edinburgh shops, but find yourself wishing you could browse our products in person, this is for you. This month, we are starting our ‘Meet Our Wholesalers’ series, in which we showcase our different wholesalers across the UK and across the world.
We’re starting with the amazing Manchester-based Lanigan & Hulme, an independent business with a focus on high quality, Made in Britain clothing and accessories. We got chatting to co-founder Phil Lanigan, who tells us all about his own brand, how he chooses who to stock and his adorable canine colleagues.
The Cambridge Satchel Co.
Could you tell me about yourself and your co-founder, Neil Hulme?
Neil and I have been together for 17 years. Neil was on the West End for 10 years, but he then went on to manage an art gallery. After that, he opened Arlo and Jacob’s first showroom in Chelsea, and that just worked perfectly, because that's when I moved to London to work for Hackett. I ran the Regent Street shop, the big flagship in central London. As for my background, I've been in retail since I was 16 years old. I started off part time with Topman back in my hometown of Coventry. Through the years, I progressed and then before I knew it, I became a manager and I worked for several big companies, for example Superdry in the early 90s, before it became massive, Reiss for many years, and then as I said, I ended up working for Hackett in London. After that, I worked for RM Williams, where I opened a new store for them in Westfield.
So, what inspired you to start Lanigan and Hulme?
Honestly, I just got completely and utterly disillusioned with the high street. That's the only way I can explain it. I got fed up of poor quality (though not with RM Williams - they’re one of the only non-British brands that we actually stock here in our shop). I just felt that so many brands were cutting so many corners.
So, when I left RM Williams, we decided to move back to Manchester - I’d done the London thing and it just wasn’t for me. We always knew we’d come back and in my heart Manchester is my home because I initially moved here in 1994. I just fell in love with the city for the clubbing, the music and so on. It’s a fantastic city.
We sat down to decide what we were going to do, and both of us realised that we wanted our own vision, and that retail was the right way to do it. We decided to open the store together; Neil looks after the website and the backend, and I run the store since my background is in tailoring and retail.
We wanted British brands, and we ended up putting brands together that had never been together before. That’s why so many companies loved the concept. I already had the rights to sell Hackett and RM Williams when we first started, so it was great because I managed to get these premium brands straight away for a brand-new store, which is quite unheard of.
What is the significance of being based in Manchester?
For me, it's all about provenance. Manchester was Cottonopolis as far as I'm concerned, the epicentre of textile and cotton. In the initial business plan, Lanigan & Hulme was going to be its own brand and it was going to be made in Manchester. We’ve had our own brand mixed in with the others that we stock for two years, and it’s now actually outselling every other brand.
You've got a lovely shop in central Manchester. What did you want to achieve with the space?
My background is very visual. When you've worked for brands like Hackett and Reiss, the way the store looks is something that’s drummed into you. It's something you learn as a manager; it's something that they spend a lot of time training you on. It's got to look pristine.
I always liked the word ‘refined’, and that was what my vision for the store was always going to be. It was going to be an independent shop, but much more polished. The merchandising is a strong thing for me, and I wanted to handpick the collections to have the right colourways and the right textures, etc.
Could you describe the Lanigan & Hulme brand in three words?
Refined, robust and longevity.
What's your approach to sustainability?
Well, there’s the Made in Britain and the Made in Manchester aspect, but there’s also simple things like packaging. With our own brand, we don't have any packaging at all as we just go and pick everything up from the mill.
Not everything can be 100% sustainable, but everyone can make an effort. I don't understand why so many deliveries come in with so much packaging and plastic. It’s just unnecessary. There are some brands that I no longer stock because they were sending massive boxes full of plastic and paper when there were only three items in the box.
There are many elements to sustainability, but it starts with the fabric. When you’re pattern cutting, you’ve got to make sure that you use every element of the fabric so that there's no waste. That goes back to refinement. If you understand tailoring, like I do, you want to make sure that the pattern cut is perfect when you’re designing the garment. I sit down with our Production Manager, Rebecca, and we make one sample based off the design. We only ever tend to do one sample because we’re both on the same wavelength. That’s how you minimise waste. For me, it all goes back to that clear vision.
Do you have a favourite Cambridge Satchel Co. bag?
The Music Case. That’s the one I’ve got, and I use it all the time.
And finally, please tell us all about Babs and Bertie.
Well, I’d always, always, always wanted British Bulldogs in my life. It's just something that I've always been obsessed with, since I was a kid, but because they're so needy, and they need lots of care, I couldn't do it until we opened the shop.
As you can see, they now are the brand. They're so lovely because they just sit in doorway of the shop every day, watching the world go by. It’s so funny because people always think I’ve trained them to do that, but British Bulldogs are impossible to train. They have their own Instagram and Tiktok accounts, our customers love them, and people bring them treats every single week. They love Mini Babybels, and so many customers bring those in every week for them. It’s mad!
We get a lot of ‘annual regulars’; people who come to Manchester once a year. The first place those people come to is L&H, which I absolutely adore, because we’re obviously doing something right if people come back. What's been lovely, since the pandemic, is that so many people come in and say, ‘Thank God you made it through’, and it's lovely to hear. It inspires us to carry on, because no matter how tough it gets, you realise that there are a lot of customers out there who love what you're trying to do. They love the service, they love the products, they love the quality, and then obviously there's Babs and Bertie. I love the fact that people associate L&H and Bulldogs; it’s stuck in their heads, and it’s marketing without trying.
So, if you ever find yourself in Manchester, make sure to pay Phil, Babs and Bertie a visit in their beautiful shop, or take a look at their website and Instagram. Find brands such as Peregrine, Hiut Denim, Wax London and of course the Cambridge Satchel Co. And remember - a Mini Babybel or two wouldn’t go amiss!