The menswear designer’s UK retail debut displays an obsessive attention to detail in keeping with its geek chic style.
Sandwiched between Bloomsbury and Clerkenwell, Lamb’s Conduit Street is the sort of place that Time Out journalists must love. Despite its central London postcode it has somehow attracted plenty of those quirky best-kept retail secrets: a boutique florist, a bookseller, a tailor, a new indie record store and – naturally – an organic food shop.
And that’s what menswear designer Oliver Spencer loves about it and why he chose it for his UK retail debut. Spencer – whose only other shop is in New York’s West Village – says: “I love the atmosphere of the street. It has that community feel. All the shops here are indie minded, open and creative and that fits in with the ethos of my store.”
That ethos means striking the precarious balance between commercial and quirky, just as Spencer’s clothes have done for the six years since he started his wholesale brand and the first order was written by fêted Manchester retailer Oi Polloi at London trade show TBC. Since then, his business has become a global concern, with stockists in Japan and his store in New York.
Given that it is all his own work, the London store’s shopfit dovetails snugly with his brand vision. “I would never work with a design company. I did it myself and used decorators,” he says with a smile.
And he worked them hard. “I made them repaint the shop three times to make sure we got the right shade of grey. In the end we used two shades – one a dark charcoal and the other a sort of gunmetal grey,” he says.
The greys are surprisingly warm and offer a homely feel. “I wanted men to come in and feel comfortable; kind of like they would if they were in their own front room only a little more challenging.”
The challenge comes partly from the eclecticism – the display tables in the middle of the store are all former school desks while props include chemistry equipment and vintage anatomical prints. With sections of parquet flooring from Spencer’s home, vintage furniture and privately sourced spotlights (Spencer’s favourite part – the shades have the exact hue of green he wanted), the look is part Royal Society, part classroom.
Does that reflect on the owner? “Yes, it’s a bit geeky,” he smiles. “Well, maybe not geeky, but very collector.” He adds that the main source of inspiration is Bauhaus and “things that interest me like sailing and engineering”. If this is school-inspired, it’s definitely a boys’ school – these are all man-friendly subjects.
You certainly get the sense that the project has been a labour of love. Before Spencer moved in, the shop was a newsagent. “It was in a right state,” he says. “I pretty much had to rip it all out.” He enjoyed the destructive and creative processes alike. “I have loved every minute of it and can’t wait to do it all again.”
Again? “The next shop will be in the West End and that’s all I’m going to say about that at the moment,” he says, giving a flicker of a smile.
Oliver Spencer 62 Lamb’s Conduit Street, London WC1N
850sq ft: The size of the shop floor
3: The number of staff employed in the store
2: Countries with an Oliver Spencer flagship