Manchester is buzzing right now – if you’ll excuse the pun. Once known as the hive of industry, the bee was long ago adopted as a symbol of the city, which rose to prominence in the Victorian era as the centre of cotton production. Its history as ‘Cottonopolis’ is what has drawn Chanel here: the luxury French brand is staging an extraordinary takeover of Northern Quarter streets and bringing its Métiers d’Art show to life here on 7 December. The last time Chanel staged a show in the UK was in 2012, when Cara Delevingne flew the flag for Scottish makers in Edinburgh; this is the first time Manchester has ever been patronised by a luxury fashion brand.
It’s a massive coup for the city, which is enjoying something of a renaissance in 2023, despite Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s announcement that HS2 would no longer be connecting it to London. Indeed, there’s a feeling in the air that Mancs don’t actually want to leave, with so much going on in their beloved city. “HSWho?” is a common refrain.
Take Sexy Fish. Opened to much fanfare in Manchester’s nightlife neighbourhood of Spinningfields in September, it’s the latest launch from billionaire businessman Richard Caring, whose roster of luxury eateries and members’ clubs includes Annabel’s, The Ivy, Bacchanalia and J. Sheekey. Described as “so bling it’s brilliant” by The Times, there’s a live DJ, Damian Hirst artworks, over-the-top loos (a must for Instagram these days) and a Japanese menu of dishes that spans black cod to Wagyu beef and everything in between.
Then there’s ex-footballer Gary Neville – born and bred in Manchester – whose burgeoning hospitality empire includes the city’s most luxurious 5-star hotel, the Stock Exchange, the Penthouse of which might be familiar to some as the filming site of Netflix’s recent Beckham documentary. Indeed, that same documentary has also reignited interest in the city, which was probably the best known outside of London globally in the 1990s thanks to its record-breaking football team.
We have it on good authority that much of the Chanel cohort will be staying at the Stock Exchange. A grade II-listed building, it’s a favourite amongst visiting footballers, who take the whole fourth floor of suites (which feature free-standing roll-top bathtubs, double waterfall showers and plush, king-sized beds with gigantic televisions), as well as media types who hold breakfast meetings in its stunning domed dining room – the original stock exchange for which the hotel is named.
Neville is giving his pet project a little healthy competition in the form of a new W Hotel, which he is set to open in 2027 at his £400 million St Michael’s development. Featuring 162 rooms, as well as private apartments to rent, there will also be a swish fitness centre and top-of-the-line spa. Opening slightly sooner will be a new Soho House, the first in the North, which is slated to throw open its doors in early 2024. Taking over five floors of the storied former Granada Studios building in the trendy St John’s area, it will have 23 bedrooms for members, as well as a gym, Mollie’s Motel Bar & Diner and an outdoor swimming pool.
“Bringing Soho House to other cities in the UK has always been something we’ve wanted to do and, as a Mancunian, I’m particularly proud to be coming to Manchester,” says Soho House & Co CEO Andrew Carnie. “Nick and the design team have worked hard to create a space for our members that preserves the heritage of the Granada Studios building, while introducing a rooftop pool terrace and floor-to-ceiling windows on the top floor. The view of the city is going to be amazing from there and I can’t wait for members to experience it.”
As if that wasn’t enough for Manchester to shout about, there’s also the Co-op indoor arena, arriving in Spring 2024, which will be the UK’s biggest, with 23,000 capacity: no wonder stars including Take That, Olivia Rodrigo, Liam Gallagher and Niall Horan have already lined up gigs.
Manchester has gone through various identities in the past few decades. It was ‘Madchester’ in the 1990s, home of rave culture, the Happy Mondays and Oasis. In the 2000s, its poster girl and boy were model Agyness Deyn and designer Henry Holland. The 2010s saw the takeover of fast-fashion brands like Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing, the HQs of which are here (mega-influencer, Love Islander and former PLT creative director, Molly Mae Hague, has lived here for over five years). Will the 2020s see its reincarnation as a luxury mecca? Watch this space.