Oliver Spencer Interview
Modern Take On Traditional Menswear
British menswear designer Oliver Spencer has taken his eponymous brand to soaring heights since its foundation in 2002. A self-taught tailor, Spencer - or Oli, as he is known to friends and associates - honed his skills at the helm of Favourbrook, the delightfully dandy English label which he established in 1990. Oliver Spencer the brand presents a more modern take on traditional menswear, bridging the divide between streetwear and traditional tailoring. It offers old school construction but with contemporary details. Drawing inspiration from hunting and the military, the clothes are smart but not in the least bit stuffy and possess an elegance that speaks for the quality of materials used. Having recently shown his Spring/Summer 2013 Collection at London Collections: Men, we decided to find out more about Oli, the man behind the brand.
Jack Smylie: You recently showcased your Spring/Summer 2013 collection – what were the underlying influences/inspirations for the collection?
Oliver Spencer: I looked at the painter Ben Nicholson and Russian Modernism, enhancing the pieces through the use of colour.
JS: It's always impressive to hear that someone is self-taught – how did you learn the craft, and what lead you to fashion design in the first place?
OS: I studied fine art at art school. Selling second hand clothing led me into the clothing business. I learnt on the job.
JS: What was the original vision behind the Oliver Spencer brand?
OS: To produce clothing that felt crafted yet luxurious, something that myself and my friends would wear. Something that had a fashion viewpoint, but wasn’t obsessed by fashion.
JS: How does that vision differ from Favourbrook's?
OS: Favourbrook is smart and dressed up. Evening wear orientated. It’s all about standing there looking good with your cocktail. Where as Oliver Spencer is all about the everyday and your life style.
JS: Your collections are very much a modern take on classic dressing. There are nods to heritage, yet the styling and fit is contemporary. Can you expand on this?
OS: The nod is becoming a lot less. We’re concentrating on producing clothing that moves us forward and not backwards. However, like most things, it’s always good to pay attention to the past and to learn what other people did.
JS: Describe the Oliver Spencer man.
OS: Above all eclectic. If he’s not design based, he has an eye for design. He likes to buy product that is original with authenticity. He gets well made clothing and luxury.
JS: Menswear has returned to tradition in past seasons - which positions the Oliver Spencer brand quite nicely, given the stylistic leanings of your designs. What are you doing to ensure you stay ahead of the pack?
OS: The use of colour is playing a big part in what we’re doing. I’m using art, in particular colour blocking as an inspiration to move forward, but not only the art, but the artist themselves. Architecture also plays a big part in what I’m doing.
JS: What do you value most in menswear?
OS: The loyalty of your clients. You must never take it for granted. At heart, I’m a shop keeper and service and quality is what we’re all about.
JS: You're not from London originally, but based there. How does the city inspire you?
OS: Its ethnic diversity. The art scene is massive in London, as is the music. The whole place is just one big melting cultural pot. Every corner you walk around somebody’s up to something, big or small.
JS: What are you doing to get into the Olympic spirit?
OS: I’ve designed a back pack for Selfridges. Practicing my javelin skills!
JS: Best thing about living in London?
OS: Being married to a New Yorker, we have this conversation daily. Both cities obviously have their pluses and minuses, but one of the big plusses about London for me are the huge open spaces in the middle of town and the different neighbourhoods, that you can go in and out of and experience different things.