Spotlight: We chat with Oliver Spencer

With International success and a shop on Toronto’s trendy Queen West….

With International success and a shop on Toronto’s trendy Queen West, Oliver Spencer celebrates it’s 2nd anniversary in Toronto. Lucky for us, while Oliver Spencer was in Toronto we got a chance to sit down with the man himself and discuss how he got histo start, his inspirations and what’s next for the Oliver Spencer brand.

A shop-keeper at heart, Oliver Spencer takes the time to craft a beautiful menswear experience.

Grayson Miller:  Being self taught at your craft what inspired you to become a menswear designer?

Oliver Spencer: I suppose, when I started off Life, I started off life on Portobello Road with a second hand clothing stand selling vintage clothing. I think knowing and feeling and buying vintage clothing and selling to others really gave me that feeling I could tell what was good and what was bad, and buying some of the beautiful old coats that were so nicely made back then really got me going to want to produce great products. I come from a textile background so textiles are also really important to me.

GM: What gets you out of bed every day? What keeps you motivated?
OS:Well My Children at 6:30 [Laughs]… Well it’s creating and it’s retailing, I like shop-keeping, I like the feeling of being in my own store it’s a great thing and I like going to other  peoples stores, I like just designing clothes. Right now what’s keeping me out of bed is a Superga collaboration which is launching in March, an eyewear collaboration as well which is launching in April; I’ve got a new store opening in London and I have a show in London Fashion Week which is on Tuesday the 8th of January. Which is less than four weeks away…

GM: What Can we expect in the upcoming show?
OS: Well it’s autumn/winter, so texture and colour  and a few shapes. My handwritings there right now, so I’m not going to go far off piste, that’s not where I’m going. 

GM:Can you give us some insights into your design process?
OS: It starts with the fabric, which in unlike how other people do it. A lot of the time I get my own fabrics made so I get my own colours done. I select the yarns for the cloths- we might sit down and blend stuff up, I like cotton and wool mix a lot. Then we get the prototypes made up. It goes down to the fact that when the cloths arrive on my desk I decide what to do with it, and what shape to put it into. 

GM: One of my favorite pieces from Spring/Summer 13 is this nigerian pattern print…
OSIs that Knitwear? It’s called the Nigerian Jumper it comes from a Nigerian blanket. You know everything influences me, I’ve just been in Morocco actually, riding my Motor Cycle with a load of friends,you get a lot of feeling for colour and light while you are out there. This [most recent] trip I spent two days in New York, doing stuff. I went out to PS1 which is the MoMa In New York, but in Queens. I went to Look at Art from 1989-1996 In Los Angeles. There was a fantastic movement of West Indian Artist that came to L.A. and just started creating this amazing stuff.

GM: I love the take you put on your shoes, where do you get the inspiration for your shoes, and where do you see the Oliver Spencer footwear line going?
OS: Well you’ve only got to go around in North Hampton and go round some of the factories and look at what’s going on, It’s just fantastic up there, and that’s very easy to do. I get influenced by colour, I get influenced by performance. So on the [Shoes] I have on now have a Goodyear welt on it, which is a motorcycle welt, which is fantastic. Function mixed with style. 

GM:You have been Quoted Saying that you admire the Style of Johnny Depp and Daniel Day Lewis…
OS: Two actors? I like Johnny Depp a lot and he has a great individual style, and the way he wears clothing is just eccentric  and charming and it’s great. Daniel Day Lewis, I know, is probably the best Method Actor there is living at the moment, and he has a great sense of style too. He dresses in a very Dickensian sort of victorian way on his days off. In any case that comes naturally to him mixed with his tattoos. Typified by Gangs of New York, which I thought was an okay movie, but the Costumes were off the chart. the two of them are great, I also love David Nevin as well for his sensibility and his straight forward style. 

GM: Do you find that those types of people inspire you in your work?
OS: I’m inspired by a lot at the moment by artists. I’m inspired by Lucian Freud, I’m very inspired by him at the moment. Actually this winter was a wardrobe for Lucian Freud. This summer’s was based on Russian Modernism, and this Winter’s definitely has an art house feel to it. 

GM:You talked briefly about your upcoming collaboration with Superga, If you could collaborated with anyone who would it be and why?
OS:Well right now I would be quite happy to Collaborate with Mini [Cooper], and I would do a Mini car for them. Because what they do now is have a great car, but it’s not Mini enough… It’s too big [Laughs]. So I would like to redesign that car and make a proper mini. I used to have a proper mini.. My wife made me sell it.. so annoying [laughs]. That would be one collaboration I would love to do. I’m going to meet Thomas Heatherwick this week on Thursday. He just designed the new 38 bus In London, which is an absolute Iconic vehicle. He also designed the Olympic Torch… I would like to talk to him about the possibility of collaborating on a shop or something like that. He would be very high on the list… He’s the same age as me, but very well known and very established…

GM: What would a Superga and Oliver Spencer Collaboration look like?
OS: Luxury. the whole point was to take them into luxury. So I’ve done it in Nubuck…Taking them to another level. See Superga has gone low, low, low… It’s like european version of converse , so our aim was to make it more luxurious. 

GM:So you have your Soho Store in London, the Bloomsbury Store in London. Why Toronto ?
OS:Well Toronto has this great style feeling for me.  I think It’s a city on the move, I think the film industry and the music industry are very interesting. It’s a natural feeling for an English person to come here. Feels kind of like a home away from home. Somewhere in between New York and London,  which I always feel Toronto is… which is a great compliment because that’s probably the most perfect city you can live in if that’s the case. I felt very natural to come out Here. My partners out here were like “Here’s a shop what do you think” I thought -yup. They said at the time that it was an up and coming area, and at the time it wasn’t up and coming it was just there. [ Laughs]  But now it’s just a good place to be. 

GM: Do you have any advice for an up and coming Designer or Entrepreneur?
OS: Just work hard, don’t expect things to happen over night. You’ll get some luck, you’ll have good times and bad times. I’m ten years into the brand now so it’s taken a long time. 

GM: Do you wear stuff other than Oliver Spencer?
OS: Sure! I wear, Patagonia I have a huge Filson bag which they sent me as a gift, which is in the back of the car because I use it religiously. I have some stuff, but otherwise why would I ?[laughs]

GM: So what are you wearing today?
OS: Oliver Spencer jeans which are about 7 years old, which I need to take off eventually. Brand New double monks,  Marks and SPencer Socks, Oliver Spencer Shirt, Oliver Spencer Jacket.. Hanes underwear… [ Laughs]