Thursday, 29 April 2010

Style Salvage Speaks to... Oliver Spencer

Oliver Spencer founded his eponymous label in 2002 and has always made clothing that is seen rather than heard. Oli wanted a collection that mirrored his own wardrobe; a bridge between popular street wear and traditional tailoring. He approaches everything from a luxury standpoint but then injects functionality to create collections that combine classic English style with hints of Americana and Japanese ideas to consistently dish out a modern sophisticated aesthetic. Quality fabrics. Modern fits. Old school construction. Characteristic details. Exquisite craftsmanship. This recipe remains today. It is undeniably a modern British brand. More than half the line is made in the UK and while striving for quality Oli sources the fabrics and buttons before overseeing how it's all sewn. So, when we were invited to pop down to the flagship store on Lamb's Conduit Street to see the store and to speak with Oli we jumped at the chance. We've said many times on the blog that strolling down this special street in Bloomsbury feels like a little retail reconnaissance and Oliver Spencer has played no small part in that. Here we learn more about the evolution of the brand from Favourbrook, the community spirit of Lamb's Conduit Street, the importance of craft and manufacture and how Oli sees the brand evolving over the next few years...

The inviting store front on Lamb's Conduit Street.

SS: How did it all start for you? What were your inspirations, your dreams and the driving catalyst behind Oliver Spencer?
Oliver Spencer: It all started with some corduroy suits. I was doing more and more work for our other label Favourbrook that was becoming more and more luxe utilitarian/casual. I like the whole un-constructed thing. At that time a dark brown corduroy suit washed, unstructured was a big turning point for me. I wore it virtually every day.

SS: Aside from it being your name, what does Oliver Spencer mean to you?
Oliver Spencer: It’s Englishness. I am lucky enough to have two interesting straight forward names, I think it tends to stick in peoples heads, at least we would like to hope so! Otherwise I still find it a bit weird!

SS: When you founded the label back in 2002 you wanted a collection that mirrored your own wardrobe; a bridge between popular streetwear and tailoring. Does this recipe still remain? How has the label evolved over the years?
Oliver Spencer: Yes this recipe does still remain. I still make everything for myself. Colour has been the main influence going forward, primary colours are a big area in menswear.

SS: What were the first and last item you remember designing?
Oliver Spencer: First item was a waistcoat. The last was a cardigan.

SS: Craft and local manufacture are obviously very important to you as over half the line is made here in the UK. You must work with some extremely small and remote factories. Is it difficult to find them and how has your relationships grown over the years?
Oliver Spencer: No it is not difficult to find the factories, you just need to know how. Most of the factories that we work with, we have developed so they work to within our specifications. The main one that we use is an ex Burberry factory, so they have all the tools and the experience for the job. We love making in the UK.

SS: Now on to your wonderful store. Lambs Conduit Street (as profiled by Monocle last year) shows what can be achieved in retail areas as it champions a real community spirit. Whenever I speak to brands looking for a premises of their own they often dream about this stretch of Bloomsbury. How easy was it to come by? And what, do you think, makes the street so special?
Oliver Spencer: The street has great community in it, with a mix of local and professional, generally very open minded people. Key to the whole mix is three or four great pubs, which means it is a good place to go out at night too. My friend Cathal from Folk introduced me to the street and I have never looked back.

SS: What are your favourite pieces in store at the moment?
Oliver Spencer: Chukka Boots in blue suede with a white sole. Tennyson Red Navigator Jacket.

SS: How has the menswear landscape changed since you launched the label? What excites you about the future of menswear?
Oliver Spencer: Sorry to bang on about it but colour! This is the way forward for menswear. We have become more casual in the right way over the years and we use a lot of detailing. Our mantle is to be seen and not heard.

SS: Collaborations are a key facet of the brand. During the last couple of weeks we've seen the unveiling of your travel shirt with Monocle and your capsule shoe collection for Topman. What have been your favourite collaborations to date? Who would you love to work with in the future?
Oliver Spencer: For me collaborations at the beginning were brought to mind for Junya Watanabe for Commes des Garcons. Future collaborations, I have to think carefully about this as we get approached a lot and it is important that brand synergy is on the same playing field. All I can say is it will definitely be an English brand.

SS: How do you see the brand developing over the next few years?
Oliver Spencer: Footwear will develop for us. Accessories, bags and trousers I believe will be the main growth area.

SS: Finally, would you be able to share a few address book recommendation to our readers which we will duly add to our map...
Oliver Spencer: Badlams Hairdresser’s on 37 Lambs Conduit Street (Bloomsbury, London WC1N 3NG). The Espresso Room on Great Ormond Street (31-35 Great Ormond Street, London WC1N 3HZ) and CafĂ© Gitan in New York.


If you are ever in and around Bloomsbury you just have to stroll down Lamb's Conduit Street and pop in Oliver Spencer.


Matthew Spade said...

great read, i never managed to visit the store as i didn't even know it was there. but next time....just you wait.

i'm really looking forward to the topman range, been saving for it

the _ house said...
hello : ) im a fashion blogger from HONG Kong.

Unknown said...

I dont think you meant streetcar in the third question - I think you mean streetwear! x Catherine @ Oliver Spencer


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