From Portobello market to the boutiques of Bloomsbury, Oliver Spencer has clocked up over 20 years in the British rag trade. With a self-titled brand carving a path through the global fashion industry, it’s been quite a journey. . .
“I love the intimacy and the feeling at Liberty, it’s a buzz! The whole store’s a buzz. When you walk in you feel like you’re escaping to another world which – if you can achieve that in retail - is something fantastic.”
“[Portobello market] was totally different back then (in 1992) to what it is now – you’d turn up at four in the morning to sell second hand clothing, I probably had as much stuff nicked as I sold! It was the school of life, and a great grounding for what we’re doing now.”
What Oliver Spencer is doing now, is designing casual-yet-quality clothing for “an independent market who make up their own minds about the type of clothing they wear – they don’t get taken for granted by us and they don’t expect to be.” A focus on colour, detail and texture is tailored for the modern man, unshackled by the constraints of traditional workwear.
Although designing formalwear for a decade before starting his current label, a move away from suiting was always on the horizon, “I felt there was a really strong story to be told around individuals who maybe work at home, or are in a creative industry... one of the key things about my brand (which I love) is you can be 25 years old or 75 years old and still wear it.”
Tapping into a shift in the world of menswear, Spencer’s brand launched into an industry “dominated by Italian and American brands, there wasn’t much coming out of the UK. Over the last decade English designers, makers and manufacturers have become much more prevalent.” The launch of London Collections: Men in 2012 brought this growth to a head, “it put us on the world stage all of a sudden which was an absolutely fantastic thing, in my opinion it’s now the second most important fashion week of the season, after Paris.”
Oliver Spencer’s growth as an English-made label is hand-in-hand with the growth of manufacture in this country, “the whole made in England thing is really important for me, I do it as much as I possibly can. I don’t do it just for the sake of it, if I can get something made better in Portugal or Italy I make it there; I go to the skillset. Wholeheartedly, quality is part of our brand ethos.”
So what is the quality-conscious, stylish man wearing right now? “At the moment I like black fishtail trousers and suede bomber jackets, I love Dries Van Noten, always have done. I have three little boys who I have to get out of the house in the morning so there’s not always time to be doing the stylish thing. . . I try!”