Kristian Robson, owner of the menswear boutique Oliver Brown, talks tailoring and classic British style.
Kristian Robson is a passionate advocate of classic British style. As proprietor of Chelsea formalwear boutique Oliver Brown for 18 years, he has suited customers including singer Sam Smith and actor Damian Lewis, and was the official supplier of formalwear for Team GB at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014. Drapers spoke to Robson about manufacturing in the UK, British style, and the timeless appeal of a classic suit.
How would you describe Oliver Brown?
The home of classic British tailoring. A gentleman’s outfitters specialising in the finest quality tailoring, formal wear, country and shooting attire.
What’s your background?
I’ve been the proprietor of Oliver Brown for 18 years now, and I’m a Chelsea boy born and bred. I attended the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester, then returned to London.
What did you do before?
I worked in mens tailoring for three years, on the retail side – at a shop five doors down from here. Then I bought Oliver Brown out of liquidation. We moved its focus from ladies country casualwear to men’s tailoring, which was what my background was in. We do still stock women’s tweed, but we concentrate on menswear now.
What makes tailoring in the UK so special?
The old traditions and heritage are wonderful. You see the value, cut and style of quintessentially British tailoring nowhere else in the world.
You have your own brand. Why do you manufacture in the UK?
It’s incredibly important to us as a brand that we support UK manufacturing. Also because I truly believe it is the best in the world.
How involved are you with design?
I remain very involved in all aspects of the brand, including the design. I design all of our own-label collections. Classic-cut formal suits are a favourite with our customers.
What are your inspirations?
I take my inspiration from great British style throughout the different centuries, and colours from all over the world.
You designed the Team GB formalwear for the Winter Olympics – how did that come about?
Team GB came to us directly as they were looking to partner with an independent, emerging British brand who specialised in formalwear tailoring. It was a wonderful partnership and really fun to meet the brilliant athletes. It was an honour and a privilege to work with the whole team.
What is the most important aspect of the in-store experience for you?
To offer the best customer experience, which we achieve with our knowledgeable team in store. In recent years, we have also completed an entire shop refurbishment, which has improved the customer experience and reflects the prestige of the brand in a physical manner.
What’s your favourite item you sell at the moment?
Our bespoke suits. They’re English-made – by our own in-store tailor, who is fantastic.
What do you love most about your job?
Selling superb quality clothing at very accessible price points.
Whom do you admire most in the fashion industry?
My cousin, who has a business in Norway – Ferner Jacobsen. It sells amazing formalwear and a seriously strong collection of lifestyle clothing. It was started by my great-great-grandfather in 1920, and was named after him.
Who are your own style influences?
Classic English menswear from the 1900s to the present day. In particular the 1920s and 1930s – they did great tweeds and formalwear.
How would you describe British style?
Classic, formal, structured and beautiful.
What’s the best business advice you were ever given?
Never give any of your business away.
What would we find you doing at the weekend?
Country sports, skiing and enjoying spending time with my family.
Favourite clothing brand?
My own! All of the Oliver Brown collections I design myself and I would want to wear them all
Favourite places to shop?
I love to shop on Jermyn Street and Sloane Street. I also love eBay
Last fashion purchase?
My Schoffel jacket – it is a brand we stock in store that offers incredibly good outdoor performancewear
Walking in the hills in my place in the Alps in Switzerland
Last film you watched?
The James Bond film, Spectre
Selling Christmas trees
A grouse moor keeper