Shelf love

Fash­ion de­signer Oliver Spencer on back­ing bricks and mor­tar

Wallpaper - - September -

Fash­ion de­signer Oliver Spencer banks on bricks and mor­tar

Oliver Spencer thinks a lot about what men are ac­tu­ally wear­ing and are go­ing to be wear­ing in the fu­ture. He is largely in the busi­ness of pro­vid­ing live/work sta­ples, well-cut ca­su­al­wear for the creative classes. Ac­tors, artists and ar­chi­tects are par­tic­u­larly loyal and it’s a very nice busi­ness, thank you very much. But he now sees a chance to ad­dress and dress a wider au­di­ence. The world of work is mov­ing his way. ‘The suit is dead,’ he says. ‘I’m think­ing about how menswear is go­ing to change over the next ten years, what the new work uni­form is go­ing to be. I want to af­fect the way peo­ple dress and the way they are in the workspace.’

Of course, creep­ing ca­su­al­i­sa­tion is not the only change afoot. The fash­ion in­dus­try is un­der­go­ing its

own dis­rup­tive, un­cer­tain re­mod­elling, as full of pain and po­ten­tial as the up­turn­ing of the mu­sic in­dus­try and print me­dia. It’s not just what peo­ple are wear­ing that is chang­ing but where and how they are shop­ping. Spencer is up for the chal­lenge: ‘I think we are do­ing busi­ness at a very ex­cit­ing time. I’ve ac­tu­ally been sit­ting around for five years, wait­ing for dis­rup­tion and change.’ Well, not just sit­ting around.

He has just opened his sixth store, in Not­ting Hill. It’s an­other foothold for Spencer in one of Lon­don’s menswear hubs (he also has two stores in Hol­born’s Lamb’s Con­duit Street, and oth­ers in Soho and Shored­itch, as well as a store in Toronto, a part­ner­ship with a lo­cal re­tailer). The open­ing com­pletes a cir­cle for Spencer, who started out at 19 with a mar­ket stall on nearby Por­to­bello Mar­ket in the early 1990s, and then spent a decade build­ing the more for­mal Favour­brook brand be­fore es­tab­lish­ing Oliver Spencer in 2002.

Spencer has worked with fur­ni­ture maker An­other Coun­try since 2014. The Bri­tish brand cre­ated the new store’s be­spoke fix­tures and fit­tings, and is also work­ing on a din­ing ta­ble, among other things, for a house Spencer re­cently bought on the Isle of Wight. ‘It’s like a bad 1970s block at the mo­ment, but it’s in a good spot,’ says Spencer, a keen sailor. He is also plot­ting a res­tau­rant open­ing in Shep­herd’s Bush this au­tumn, An­other Coun­try again likely to help with the in­te­ri­ors.

De­spite dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion, Spencer is a com­mit­ted bricks-and-mor­tar re­tailer. ‘Re­tail for re­tail’s sake is dis­gust­ing, but if there is mean­ing be­hind it, if you are get­ting a life­style, then it be­comes great.’ But he is also aware of the po­ten­tial of e-com­merce: ‘Mr Porter is my big­gest cus­tomer. Ahead of Sel­fridges, ahead of Lib­erty, big­ger than the sales of all my stores com­bined.’ Iron­i­cally per­haps, it was the brand’s suc­cess on­line that led Spencer to open in Not­ting Hill: ‘I was think­ing about who the Mr Porter cus­tomer was, and they told me that a lot of mine were in west Lon­don. So I thought, I need to open a store there.’ Mr Porter has also pushed Spencer’s pro­file in new mar­kets. ‘We sell all over the world with them, and we’re do­ing re­ally well in Cal­i­for­nia – that is the real growth area for me.’

Last year, Spencer also started sell­ing di­rectly from the cat­walk, dur­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion at a Soho car park. And he is now run­ning with the idea. ‘We are go­ing to take it on the road, hope­fully in LA and Ber­lin, but we aren’t go­ing to do it dur­ing fash­ion week. It’s all about go­ing straight to the cus­tomer.’

For the mo­ment, though, Spencer is en­joy­ing be­ing in his old stomp­ing ground, re­con­nect­ing. ‘Walk the Por­to­bello Road, all the sights, the sounds, the smells, the di­ver­sity. You can’t get that on­line.’ ∂ 19 Kens­ing­ton Park Road, Lon­don W11, oliv­er­spencer.co.uk

‘Re­tail for re­tail’s sake is dis­gust­ing, but if there is mean­ing be­hind it, then it be­comes great’

OLIVER SPENCER IN HIS NEW NOT­TING HILL BOU­TIQUE. IT FEA­TURES BE­SPOKE SHELV­ING BY SPENCER’S LONG-TIME COL­LAB­O­RA­TORS, BRI­TISH BRAND AN­OTHER COUN­TRY

ABOVE, A HAND­WRIT­TEN NOTE HANGS ON THE WALL ABOVE A JACKET FROM THE S/S17 COL­LEC­TION. IT REFERS TO THE FACT THAT SPENCER STARTED HIS CA­REER WITH A STALL AT NEARBY POR­TO­BELLO MAR­KET

RIGHT, ‘AMBLESIDE’ TRAIN­ERS AND SUM­MER SHIRTS AND JACK­ETS ARE DIS­PLAYED ON AN­OTHER COUN­TRY’S WOOD AND STAIN­LESS STEEL FIT­TINGS

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