There have been some big changes at COW Sheffield recently. You might have noticed their once acid-yellow façade has been freshly painted (black, of course – the most fashionable colour of all) and the shop interior has undergone a dramatic makeover. Interior designer Peter Masters has creatively reworked an array of what some might term ‘junk items’ and given them a new lease of life: dollhouses double as lampshades, bits of discarded tables function as shelves and strips of masking tape become decorative wall features in this upcycled wonderland on one of Sheffield’s most vibrant streets.
On the 12th August, COW opened their newly-painted doors for a re-launch party that included drinks, Depot donuts and a live DJ. In between snaffling a lemon meringue donut and rifling through rails of 90s floral sundresses, we managed to catch up with some of the team to chat about the imaginative ideas behind COW’s new image.
“We use stuff that people don’t use, or use it in a different context. Shopping should be like theatre.”
COW is certainly has a theatrical vibe going on. It’s almost like a bigger, chicer dressing-up box, but for adults. Peter was also keen to emphasise that the COW shopping experience isn’t about instant gratification: you have to hunt through the stock to find what you never knew you were looking for. And that, we agreed, is a rare thing in retail. We’re so used to going into a store and finding something in our size – it’s almost become an expectation – and although the vintage world is as fluid as any other marketplace, that particular aspect always stays the same. Isn’t that the beauty of it?
The rework team certainly have their work cut out (pun intended) with transforming retro finds into fashionable, one-off pieces for their trend-conscious, thrifty clientele. Reworkers Jack and Sally describe the brand as ‘quality, limited, affordable clothing’ that appeals to high-street shoppers of all ages, but especially the student community.
In addition to the Sheffield branch, COW have stores in Nottingham, Manchester and Birmingham, plus concessions in various Topshop/Topman stores – and yet, they are far from being just another second-hand shop. It’s certainly reassuring to know that despite the refurbishment, and their significant growth as a company in recent years, COW is still a small, independent trader at heart.
Words: Carly Stevenson.