Zebra Menswear

A brief history in black & white.

Words: Paul Chapman

Image: Zebra Menswear

Zebra Menswear is one of Chesterfield's independent businesses. As they approach 34 years in business, having opened their doors in March 1986, owner Stuart Smith, has seen many changes but what hasn’t changed is the level of service and the range of quality gentlemen’s products you’ll find at 17 Holywell Street, to make sure you stand out from the crowd.

When we started out you had 100% exclusivity on suppliers, people would travel to Chesterfield to visit us as we were the only store that stocked what they wanted.

Stuart Smith had a varied background working in record shops until 1983 when he moved to a fashion shop on Knifesmith Gate. He quickly picked up all the knowledge he needed to set up his own store and took a single unit, a few doors down from the Winding Wheel.

“This was at a time when you couldn’t find a retail unit” Stuart explains, “high streets were busy and demand out-stripped supply.

“Next clothing had just rebranded from Hepworth’s and there was an explosion in men’s fashion. People wanted something different, men started to pay more attention to their looks, and there was a real aspirational and cultural change.”

The fashion chain that Stuart worked for is long gone, but Zebra are still offering the same personal service they set out to provide in 1986.

The store is situated next to the Winding Wheel. Dave Towndrow, manager and buyer adds, “people might recall when Zebra was at one end, ‘Jimmy Jones’ our casual store at the other, and sandwiched between the two, Newport Women’s Wear. Newport moved onto Cavendish Street and we converted to the single space we have today.”

Dave has worked for Stuart almost since the beginning, he’s not from a traditional clothing industry background but was ‘into his fashion’. Following a serious accident in the building trade, Stuart asked if he wanted to work with him and he’s been part of the furniture ever since.

“We have to say a massive thank you to these customers and the loyalty they have given Zebra over the decades.”

Dave is responsible for buying and uses a rule of thirds to ensure Zebra carry a range that pleases everyone. One third is last season providing staple products, a third take a twist on these for something a bit more unique, and then there is a third of new adventurous lines, with more of a risk.

Chloe Sanderson works part time, with experience in both men's and womenswear in retail, and wholesale, previously working in Newport.

Stuart has been the full owner since 2005 when his original business partner moved on and since then has had total control of the reins.

“Today’s clothing market is fully developed,” he says. “When we started out you had 100% exclusivity on suppliers, people would travel to Chesterfield to visit us as we were the only store that stocked what they wanted.

“The internet has wiped out many businesses, as manufacturers short-cut the supply chain and started selling direct to customers; but without the personal service, without a smile and a friendly greeting. It’s things like this that make shopping with an independent business different.

“We have customers who have been shopping with us since we opened. They bought their wedding suits from us, have been back to dress their sons for their weddings and then return for the grand children’s christenings… plus all their casual needs in between!

“We have to say a massive thank you to these customers and the loyalty they have given Zebra over the decades.”

Stuart loves quality products; he dismisses cheap products with low quality and simply won’t allow anything that’s below par through the door.

The stock is mainly European and UK based brands, Barbour, Burlington, Pal Zileri, Nudie Jeans, Remus Uomo, C.P. Company, Edwin Denim, Barker shoes, Saucony originals, to name a few. There are many more in store and it’s very tempting to let myself get distracted and start shopping whilst I’m supposed to be talking business!

If you’re looking for Christmas gifts, Zebra have a complete range of clothing, from pants and socks to made to measure suits and everything in between. Barbour beanies at £29.95, Burlington striped socks from £12 and Hom underwear from £25 (for two pairs) look like they’ll be selling well, so you’ll need to be quick off the mark.

Zebra also take a pride in being part of the independent business community in the town centre, working with the neighbours, such as Pump and Grind in the summer where they helped with a joint fashion event to raise money for local charities.

Zebra is a vibrant store offering an alternative to the ‘sameiness’ of the high street, a laid-back environment where you are served by and greeted by the owners and managers, where customers become regulars, friends.

If you are looking for quality men’s clothes and perhaps even some style advice save yourself a trip to Nottingham, Derby, Meadowhall or Sheffield and support your local store.

Some Burlington Fair Ilse socks and a pair of Saucony trainers for me please, Santa.

Zebra Menswear

17 Holywell Street S41 7SA.


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