For a symbol of this sentiment, there’s no more emphatic an example than the steel tree that adorns the outer wall of Afflecks.

What’s admirable about Manchester (amongst an almost endless list of other things), is that despite its unprecedented growth in recent generations, it refuses to abandon its famous industrial legacy. Manchester knows where it came from, and that forms the basis for the stylish, swaggering, European metropolis we live in today.

In this city, things evolve. They don’t get left behind. For a symbol of this sentiment, there’s no more emphatic an example than the steel tree that adorns the outer wall of Afflecks. The sprawling sculpture is a metaphor for how the legendary emporium of eclecticism first planted its roots in 1982 (as Afflecks Palace), and in the 33 years since, has grown and adapted its identity to ensure it remains the spiritual anchor of the now-called Northern Quarter.

Manchester’s independent spirit is more recognisable that ever before, but if you want something unique, handmade or quirky – from top hats to tattoos – Afflecks is still very much king.

Afflecks: an independent shoppers nirvana and 30-something years old I Love Manchester

With over 70 stalls of vintage clothing, boutique designers, accessories, lovingly handmade (or drawn) artwork, cosmetics, collectibles and a lot more – some of which are brand new, some still going from day one – alongside a number of quirky cafes and diners, it’s safe to say it can be difficult to know where to start in Afflecks. But the trick to really enjoying this magically diverse, retail emporium, is to just explore it.

In an age where the high street has become so predictable and ‘me-too’, wandering around each floor without any specific aim really reminds you how much fun shopping can be. If the Northern Quarter is now seen as one of the most exciting and individualistic shopping destinations in the country, Afflecks is its spiritual home.

If you are someone with a penchant for the nitty gritty details though, then let us be of service. Every stall in the building has a story to tell, but here are some of our favourites:

The Fox Fairy collaborates with a wealth of local artistic talent, who design anything from limited edition prints, laser-cut jewellery, home ware and greetings cards, in a shop that has an unrivalled sense of grassroots community within its modest interior. The Star Wars-themed Toy photography is a particular favourite.

There’s Dirty Works, a customisation studio that will paint basically anything you want with whatever you want. When we visited, they were preparing to start work on a, let’s just say, rather expensive looking handbag. In a similar vein, Doodle Bug will reinvent your favourite instruments.

The name Kuhl Vintage gained some serious traction last year when Lady Gaga turned up for an afternoon shopping spree. The superstar was so enthralled with the shop’s huge array of retro clothing that she has maintained contact with them since.

There’s real history here too. Panic Posters has been smothering wall space since 1986, while American Graffiti and Zeffa have been there since the very beginning.

The newest stall is the The Pixel Bar, a shop of near-infinite creative potential, where blank bags and mobile phone cases can be decorated with a pixellated design of your choosing. Inspired by her son’s mastery of the video game ‘Minecraft’ and the growing popularity of pixel art, The Pixel Bar’s owner lets you choose to either create your own mural with an expansive online customisation tool, or choose from their huge database of pop culture legends and iconic characters. They give you the exact supply of pixels needed to match your chosen design, a system that is totally unique to this shop. It’s a brilliant outlet to get children engaging with art in modern ways, and the finished accessories look awesome.

Afflecks: an independent shoppers nirvana and 30-something years old I Love Manchester

Regardless of your shopaholic credentials, everyone gets hungry. But never fear. Afflecks has your back. There are three cafe’s. One of which, Gingers, is amongst the finest ice cream parlour’s in town. Their ‘Chorlton crack’ – salted caramel and peanut butter ice cream – is the often the crowd favourite. There’s also the brand new Black Milk Cereal Cafe, which is wholly dedicated to naughty and nostalgic breakfast treats.

And yet, we’ve hardly scraped the barrel. There is so much more in Afflecks to see and do that we can’t fit in here. And that would spoil the discovery anyway. The accolades speak for themselves. It was named Retailer of 2014 in the prestigious Manchester Tourism Awards and has bestowed upon it a certificate of excellence by Trip Advisor.

This is a vibrant shopping wonderland that typifies that famous Manchester mantra: “We do things a little differently round here.” And that’s why we love Afflecks.

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