Battle of the Bookshops: Colours May Vary in Leeds

15th Mar 2013

Battle of the Bookshops: Colours May Vary in Leeds

We recently became home to the biggest Topshop outside of London which is, apparently, very exciting. And let’s not forget we’ve got Harvey Nichols. Needless to say, we’re a city of many big brands (but mainly Costa Coffee and Greggs).

Thankfully our independent scene has recently started to grow. In and amongst the indie coffee shops, vintage shops and occasional (dare I say it?) craft shops comes a new independent book shop Colours May Vary located in the creative hub of Munro House, Duke Street.

Firstly, Colours May Vary is a shop that you want to wander around. You want to take your time examining the shelves of books, the rows of magazines and journals and then, just to be sure, do another lap of the shop so you can carefully examine everything all over again.

One of my pet hates is walking into a shop that’s piled high with stuff and not knowing where to start. It’s a little alienating – as if there’s a system, but you’re not privy as to what that system is.

The stock in Colours May Vary is all laid out in a very visually pleasing way – not in a DISPLAY ONLY DO NOT TOUCH kind of way – but in a way that draws you closer and examine everything on the shelves and maybe discover something you didn’t know you were looking for.

And it’s not just the visual set-up that’s been carefully considered; the array of art, design, photography, film and fashion books aren’t the run-of-the-mill stuff you’d pick up in the highstreet.

The research is more than evident – everything here has been specifically chosen. Everything caters for niche markets that have since been overlooked. Even their selection of magazines and journals are unique to the shop.

Until now, getting hold of some of these publications would mean either subscribing to the magazine itself or travelling to another city to get hold of a copy.

I came away with the latest issue of Oh, Comely – a magazine I’d heard of but until now, haven’t been able to find in the likes of WH Smith, Waterstones or… Oh. There isn’t anywhere else.

The owner, Becky, introduces me to a couple of other publications I’d never heard of before, such as Kinfolk and The Gentle Woman.

She also shows me Advanced Style, A Girl’s Best Friends and Felt Mistress which would all make fabulous coffee table books (if only I had a much nicer coffee table).

Then there are the cards and gifts. On many occasions I’ve been guilty of popping into Paperchase to pick up a last minute “quirky” birthday present for someone only to discover that person is already knee deep in quirky Paperchase stuff.

There’s something genuinely exclusive about the gifts at Colours May Vary. They aren’t just quirky; they’re interesting, well designed and unique.

To say that owners Becky and Andy are knowledgeable is an understatement. Every part of Colours May Vary has been well thought out.

It doesn’t feel like one of those indie shops opened on a whim – it’s not a shop selling a random miscellany of stuff that people might like. It’s a place that sells the kind of books and journals that are in demand yet unavailable.

It sells things you didn’t even know you wanted until you saw them. Becky and Andy’s passion, their interests, their knowledge in all things art and design is reflected in everything on display. And I love that. I love that people are still passionate about their interests, that they can see gaping hole in our city and use their passion and knowledge to fill it.

I did several laps of Colours May Vary and when I finally decided it was time to leave I found myself cradling an armful of items. And I realised how long it had been since I’d been shopping and discovered something I didn’t even know I wanted.

Sure, we all pick up a book or film or album that we weren’t intending to buy every now and again, but what about the treasure – the thing you see and fall in love with because you know you might not find it anywhere else?

What about the shops you find yourself visiting every time you’re in town, just for the joy of looking around? What about the places you go out of your way to visit? Colours May Vary is exactly that kind of shop.

Live in Leeds? Visited Colours May Vary yet? Let us know what treasures you came away with if so!

Jo Throup