2011 was quite a year for Oli Spencer. As well as launching a shoe shop alongside his flagship store on Lamb’s Conduit Street, he opened the doors of a new joint in Soho that sells his full range of off-kilter tweeds, English knits and utilitarian trousers. He made his catwalk debut with two acclaimed runway shows during London Fashion Week. And he was nominated for Menswear Designer of the Year at the 2011 BFA Awards. We chat to him about how it all started and where he’s going next.
‘In the early 1990s I started a formalwear business called Favourbrook,’ he says. ‘It was all done on the hoof – we got in a lot of trouble with the bank, I seem to remember, but we were lucky, too. It was 1993 and there was a god-almighty recession going on, which meant we got a shop in Piccadilly Arcade that was free for the first year.’ Their big break came in 1994, when Simon Callow’s character wore one of their signature waistcoats in Four Weddings and a Funeral. ‘That was when it really took off.’
His success with Favourbrook gave him access to a growing customer base. He started experimenting with what became the Oliver Spencer line in 2002, as more and more clients approached him for corduroy suits and moleskin jackets. ‘We did them all in our slightly off-centre way. Right from the start, the clothes were inspired by workwear, and ideas of Britishness past and present. Right from the start the aim of Oliver Spencer has been to create beautiful, wearable utilitarian clothing. Its roots are founded in clean lines, great working details and fantastic fabrics. And everything I do is steeped in British youth culture.’
For this season he’s really excited about the deconstructed travel jackets that were such a hit on the catwalk and a brilliant suede brogue that he’s produced in collaboration with Mr Porter. The real standout coat is a green mackintosh with trademark bright buttons – a piece so special that he decided to keep it as an exclusive for his shop and website.
With another hit show under his belt – this time in the big tent at Somerset House – 2012 has started well. It it’s anything like 2011 it’s going to be a big one.