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Ellie Bebb | Looking Back On A Year At Port Street

Ask anyone walking down Oldham Street with a standout set of nails where they got their manicure, and the answer will

be Doll Parts. What began as a two-person operation in Affleck’s Palace is now the go-to destination for Manchester’s coolest beauty obsessives to get their nails, brows, lashes, facials, and even tooth gems. Now populated by a team of seven, the studio has, arguably, transformed the city’s salon landscape, allowing its clients to tap into their creativity in a judgement-free, all-inclusive space. This is not your average beauty salon.

Looking back on a year at 54 Port Street, Doll Parts’ Owner and Director Ellie Bebb talks studio ownership and growing a cool-gal beauty brand in 2024.

What is the best thing about owning a shop front? 

People always talk about the benefits of passing trade, but in the Instagram age it’s still our digital presence that drives custom. Of course, the shop on Port Street adds to that, especially as it’s based on one of the main roads between the city centre and Ancoats. For me, having a home for our team with designated space for our clients to come for beauty, nails, and skincare is where it’s at. Being able to work in such a relaxed and self-contained environment is a real privilege and I’m proud that we got here.

What does Manchester's Northern Quarter mean to you?

I’ve always had a real connection with the Northern Quarter. I grew up visiting Manchester with my mum to shop and spend time in this part of the city so it’s always felt like home to me. Building a life in a place I love; flitting between the NQ and Ancoats and having a hub amongst my favourite hang out spots is probably my unsung career highlight. I’m grateful to just be here. 

The Northern Quarter is bursting with colourful people. I remember seeing people working in the shops and bars here when I was younger and wanting to be like them: it felt so unattainable and so far away from my small-town childhood. Now I wonder if I am one, and I’m sure that my friends are. My favourite thing about this location will always be the individuals in it. 

What are the challenges of owning and running a business?

We’ve had some pretty big shake-ups at Doll Parts since the move last February. I think stepping hard into my role as studio-owner has been difficult to navigate in lots of ways. Really, it’s all about trusting my own decision making and leaning on the team that makes this place what it is. I’ve worked my ass off to get here and I’ll keep doing it with faith in our foundations and the amazing community we’ve built. Things get more challenging, but I’m more equipped to deal with those challenges - I feel like the fun and the work grow with each other, things are getting more fun all the time. 

How does it feel owning Manchester's coolest beauty studio?

It’s dope. The work that comes out of Doll Parts makes me endlessly proud. This month alone we’ve seen attention from Dazed Beauty and Vogue Italia, and we worked on a pop-up with Schuh. We’re constantly putting out next-level work and it’s beginning to feel like par-for the course. Can you imagine that? The team is the brand’s biggest asset and it’s our clients who keep us in the business of doing what we love. Doll Parts is bigger than this shop; we’ve built a brand that’s becoming synonymous with subversive beauty and self-care for the individual, but more than that a community that genuinely care for and support each other. 

How would you describe Doll Parts clients?

The clients are everything at Doll Parts. We have a strong core of regulars that make the place feel like home, they're truly the beating heart of the place. Although you wouldn't spot the difference between someone who comes once a month and someone on their second visit here. People settle in quick and I love that! If I had to pick one thing that unifies our clients; it's personality. That's not to say everyone's competing for attention but I love seeing our clients just be themselves - sometimes that's sitting in comfortable silence at the end of a long day y'know? We're an inclusive space, welcoming individuals from Manchester's colourful queer community as well as different cultural backgrounds but I think more than that we just want you here unmasked and content whatever that looks like for you. The rest of it is the bare minimum you should expect from a self-care destination! I've always wanted people to feel as good when they walk in as they do walking out.

Sitting on Port Street, really between the NQ and Ancoats we see a huge cross-section of Manchester's aesthetics walk through our doors too. I love our clients' commitment to their personal style and since the move we're seeing an even more diverse clientele. We get the best of everyone. I'm biased but I'm grateful for that. 

What has expanding into skincare done for Doll Parts?

Skincare at Doll Parts has been very much on the cards since I met Grace a couple of years ago at our previous studio location. I think the move to Port Street was definitely the push we needed to add facials and skincare consultations to our offering at Doll Parts. Lockdown saw such a huge uptick in people really wanting to look after the skin they're in and find beauty in how we can nurture and care for our skin rather than placing sole focus on makeup. Our clients have really run with this idea and it's great to see our regulars embrace a new set of treatments in the studio.

What are the goals for Doll Parts in 2024?

I want to spend 2024 getting back to our brand values. Growth is always going to be the aim but doing so intentionally in a way that aligns with my creative vision for the studio deserves focus. I’m always thinking about the next thing. This year I want to strike a balance between looking out for the team, delivering the treatments we’ve become known for, and creative projects that create brand recognition without too much corporate noise. The fun starts here! 

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