From tailor’s son to Massive Attack designer: Peek inside the Tib St ‘upcycling’ palace

Tib Street designer Richard Gill’s career involves travelling the world hand-picking retro gems and hand-crafting bags for the likes of The Specials. 

Manchester has always had its fair share of vintage shops, but few have the character and clothing selection that can be found in Bags of Flavor (purposely spelled the American way).

Owner Richard Gill has been selling vintage clothing and his unique handmade bags at the Tib Street store since the turn of 2007, but stepping inside you’d be mistaken for thinking it was trapped in a 90s’ time warp.

The styles on sale echo an era gone by, but certainly not forgotten. Hanging from the walls are the bags which Richard has himself crafted from damaged vintage clothing. Lining the rails are old school garments from the likes of Fila, Fred Perry and Adidas.

Richard is quick to remind us that none of his stuff is simply ‘second hand’.

“All stock is quality labels that were expensive in the day,” he told MM.

“I buy all over the world. I buy in Europe; the UK. I get to handpick everything I want, which is quite hard work, but for me it’s the best because I know what I’m looking at.”

RETRO HERO: NQ designer Richard looks out from his bag empire

The idea for the store – and the name itself – was coined during his time in the States, hence the Americanised spelling.

“I was living out in New York in the early 90s and I was buying lots of vintage stuff over there,” he said.

“I used to go to the big thrift stores, the big vintage stores, and it was amazing. I just thought, I could get into this. This is what I’m doing.”

With that inspiration, Bags of Flavor was born, and in 2000, Richard set up shop in Afflecks Palace, before upping sticks to premises on nearby Oldham Street seven years later.

It was in 2009 that his venture moved onto Tib Street.

As for the handmade bags that lend their name to the shop, the 45-year-old has been designing those for more than two decades, with his quirky creations snapped up by the likes of The Specials founder Jerry Dammers and Bristol-based trip hop band Massive Attack.

“I started making record bags in ’93 because all my mates were DJs and there weren’t any nice record bags about,” he said.

“My dad’s a tailor and I didn’t want to get into making suits, so I started making bags.

“When I first started it was mainly tweed, because no one was doing tweed bags. Then I got into making the cartoon ones,” Richard said, referring to his bags emblazoned with comic characters.

“I got to the point of like, ‘I’ve sold way too many’. I was selling 450 a year for seven years.”

It was then that he moved on to making bags from damaged designerwear, mainly jackets – a method he’s been told by a musician friend is much like a designer’s answer to what sampling is to DJs.

Every bag sold in the shop is one of a kind, and Richard uses the remnants of quality labels like Berghaus, Nike and The North Face to forge his creations.

Speculating on the future of the store, Richard isn’t sure he wants to move on to bigger things, mentioning some sage advice from his mum as the reason behind his decision.

“My mum’s always like, ‘small is beautiful’. It’s great as it is. Why jeopardise it when you’re really busy? It’s a great little shop and it’s got a good reputation.”

“It’s kind of perfect as it is.”

Bags of Flavor can be found at 33 Tib Street and is open Mon-Fri from 11-6pm and Sunday 12-4pm. Visit their website here.

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