THOM BARNETT - DESIGNER, ENTREPRENEUR AND CYCLIST
"I think it’s fair to say that the bike has made a big impression on my life...the bike helps keep me grounded and focused, some of my best ideas are spawned when I am out riding."
Thom Barnett is the founder of bespoke men's clothing and accessories brand Mamnick and a keen amateur cyclist. Tom named his brand after his favourite place to ride the bike, the road that goes up Mam Tor, a steep hill in Derbyshire and draws huge inspiration for his designs from cycling adventures through the picturesque Peak District landscape. While Mamnick is not a pure cycling brand, the sport is certainly at its core. Tom has collaborated with the cycling apparel brand Rapha, designs his own bike frames and cycling commuter clips, and sells a T-shirt inspired by the Tour de France King of the Mountains jersey alongside everyday clothing and accessories. Equally as passionate about British manufacturing as he is about cycling, Tom brings all his designs to life in factories near Sheffield where he is currently based. He also has a flagship shop in Tokyo, Japan. I spoke to Tom about his passion for cycling, how it inspired him to found Mamnick, his favourite places to ride the bike, and his passion for British manufacturing.
Although Mamnick is not a pure cycling brand, is it fair to say cycling is a key inspiration for you?
I think it’s fair to say that the bike has made a big impression on my life; the places it has taken me play a key part in the brand. I find inspiration in all sorts of things but the bike helps keep me grounded and focused, some of my best ideas are spawned when I am out riding. I continue to design more cycling clothing as the brand goes into it’s fifth year in October.
What inspired your local riders’ series on the Mamnick Journal?
Just a general interest in bike and racing culture and the stories that come along with it. Cyclists have different ways of doing things so asking these questions to current and ex-professionals seemed like an interesting thing to do on the journal. I was thinking about what the Mamnick audience might like to read, as I’m always interested in the different niches, tribes and habits of cyclists.
I noticed the name Mamnick comes from one of your favourite places to ride the bike, Mam Tor in Derbyshire. What is it about the landscape in the Peak District you find so inspiring?
I think the Peak District and it’s network of roads makes it one of the best places in the world to ride the bike. The topography of the land lends itself to cycling and the quiet lanes mean you don’t see too much traffic. After an hour riding from Sheffield, you can get a good sense of freedom quickly. Over every hill is a new view and it’s steeped in mining and local history that I find interesting.
Do you enjoy cycling in the high mountains in Europe? If so, which climbs have been the most enjoyable for you and why?
I’ve always enjoyed riding in Tuscany. I remember very clearly riding Monte Serra in 45 degree heat. It wasn’t exactly pleasurable but is a memory that will always stick with me.
Do you enjoy challenging yourself physically and mentally through cycling or is it more of a leisure exercise?
I like to do both really. It’s nice to be fit enough to have the option. When I’m in shape I like to lean-on-it, but if you’re unfit, you have to pace-yourself round a 40 mile ride in the Peak District as there is approximately 1000ft of climbing every 10 miles. It can become a slog if you don’t. I avoid riding with a computer of Strava though, I just go on how I’m feeling.
There has been a significant increase in the number of premium cycling apparel brands in the past decade. With your interest in style, are you concerned about looking good on the bike?
I suppose so, but I do think if you put the miles in and have a lean physique, you will always look good, no matter what kit you are sporting. I’ve become more interested in wearing kit that is functional and reliable rather than just trying to look good. Form must always follow function!
I noticed you have started designing your own bike frames? What is it about the design of the bicycle you like?
I think the bike is the greatest invention, for some reason you just want to stare when you see someone on a nice bike. Our frames are more traditional and work for the type of riding I like to do - bit’s of rough stuff and off-roading, so longer wheelbase and plenty of tyre clearance etc.
Is designing items for cyclists an area you are keen to expand in?
I like the idea of doing a kit and I’m away playing around with sketches and colours that one-day will make it onto a jersey, I’m sure.
Is a sense of exploration key to your enjoyment of cycling?
It definitely was when I first started but now I know the roads in the Peaks so well I tend to ride on the ones I like best (usually the quietest with the best views).
Where does your interest in Britain's manufacturing heritage stem from?
My Grandad worked in the famous Sheffield steel industry, I wanted to try and put that industry at the forefront of my business and dedicate it to him. There didn’t seem to be anyone using steel in this context. I use many local factories in the North of the UK. These factories were selected because they are the best at what they do and because I believe it is important for Britain to continue to have a manufacturing industry so I try and support that whenever I can.
Do you think people have generally lost touch with where their clothing comes from and how things are made?
Lots of people are interested and I would hope that these people would support Mamnick. I’m not sure if people have ‘lost touch’. People who care about the origins of their clothing are probably few and far between. Most people are only interested in price and why not? I like to think Mamnick is competitive with prices that are true to my working class routes.
What was the rationale behind opening a store in Japan? Have you managed to get out on the bike there yet?
I’ve not ridden in Japan, yet. There is usually too much to do regarding Mamnick when I go to find any time for cycling. The flagship store was opened with my friend Osamu, as there seemed to be a growing interest in Mamnick. I am now completing the first Mamnick storeroom here in Sheffield which will open via appointment only from mid-June 2017.
Are you trying to promote a particular kind of lifestyle through your designs?
I’ve always tried to find a good work-life balance, I think that can be seen in the brand too.
If you had to summarise your philosophy in a few lines, what would you say?
Do one thing at a time, as beautifully as possible.