Then There Was Us

One thing at a time, as beautiful as possible

2023-02-07 – Interview

Sheffield, Peak District, Cycling

The bluish sky turns black as the sunny winter's sky succumbs to another long evening of darkness. It’s cold and the haze sits unwillingly on top of the peaks as Thom Barnett uses the sheer force of his legs to power himself up a famous South Yorkshire climb.

This isn’t the first time the Yorkshire born designer has cruelly rotated his pedals up this section of the Peak District. The weaving roads have enticed him up to the Mother Hill on many occasions. Leaving behind the wonders of Hope Valley and into the ascent of one of Sheffield’s most notorious and beautiful climbs. Known to the locals as Shivering Mountain for all of the times it’s shed its past, Mam Nick is just one piece to the complex geology that makes up Mam Tor in the Peak district. 

From either side of Snakes Pass you’ll find a trail left behind from the Industrial Revolution. From the cotton mills that sit so powerfully on the borders of Manchester, to the west and the steel forgeries that have diminished over time in the Sheffield. Both have had a significant influence on the environment and local culture, and their legacy is still evident.

Thom Barnett or also known as ‘Mamnick’ grew up in the city in which he presents to us through his ideas; he has a visceral understanding of what life is like for the people who inhabit it and those before them. A whole 800 years since Mother Hill was first occupied and history is only true to what he knows. 

Barnett’s relationship with his city is ever present in his work; a careful selection of handcrafted products that lend themselves to the cyclists and hikers who surface the winding roads or grassy verges. He recalls his first experience with the Peaks. “I realised I was extremely free here, away from the city and I was struck by how quiet it was,” he explains, “ I couldn't believe that the place wasn’t full of people, so I started to tell the story of my surrounding areas and my bike rides. This mixed with the endorphins of riding the bike out here made the whole experience euphoric, it's the reason I still ride very regularly today.” 

His interest in clothing and fashion started from a young age, working within the local vintage scene up in Sheffield and getting interested in the likes of Philip Stark and Alessi and works coming out of Paris and California. It’s often the most obvious move for any creative to pack their back bags and leave for the bright city lights. But I ask Barnett why he chose to stay in Sheffield and he tells me “It’s down to earth here, there is little ego. No big blokes with big-chests thinking they are the dogs knackers. I like that, it’s understated. Some great things happen here and it’s very humble.” 

For anybody who grew up near the Steel City, they will more than likely have ancestral links to the steel industry.This was true for Barnett, whose grandfather spent his entire career in the renowned Sheffield steel industry. This industry boasts a rich history, characterised by its commitment to quality and modesty. The products crafted here were built to endure, much like the philosophy that Barnett brings to his own creations.

“I want the space to be an experience. It’s in an old silversmiths built in 1881, and I like to think it’s the best backdrop of my items which are made with the ethos of doing “One thing at a time, as beautiful as possible.”

Thank you for reading

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