After a three-year stint at Arcadia, Reeve has made a happy return to Oasis, where he is determined to bring back a sense of fun and playfulness to the womenswear chain.
Design is very much the heartbeat of Oasis and it always has been,” says design director Clive Reeve, as he stands among the mannequins that are dressed in the womenswear retailer’s spring 12 collection at its recent press day.
When Drapers arrives to meet Reeve, who joined Oasis as design director in September, there is a real buzz in the room. Various members of the consumer press are poring over the collection, taking photos and filling out call-in sheets for future fashion shoots.
Collaborations and limited edition pieces pepper the mainline, demonstrating a determination from the retailer to set itself apart from the rest of the high street.
“One of the driving forces for Oasis is design and I hope this collection captures that,” says Reeve. Smiling broadly as he takes Drapers on a guided tour of the spring 12 offer, Reeve’s enthusiasm is infectious. There can be no doubt he feels at home at Oasis and is thrilled to have returned as design director.
He first joined Oasis back in 2000 as a knitwear designer and spent eight years at the business, working his way up to design manager, before the lure of Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia empire proved too much and he left to join Wallis as head of design.
“Philip Green is an amazing person and I have so much respect for him and for Arcadia,” says Reeve of his time at Wallis. “I really enjoyed myself there and it is a great brand to work for. In fact, I’m lucky to have always worked for really great brands. I just think Oasis is a better fit for me personality-wise.”
The furore earlier this year over the Oasis design director role, which saw Barbara Horspool decide not to join the retailer and instead take a promotion at New Look, is long forgotten. “We are still a small team at head office so the design team works very closely with the buying teams and we all work well together, and I think that’s what is so great about Oasis,” says Reeve.
“If you, as a business, can generate excitement within your own culture and within your own head office, that filters down into your stores and starts to feed through to your customer.”
Highlights from the spring 12 collection include a collaboration with Nicky Albrechtsen, a former costume designer at the BBC, whose book on scarves forms the inspiration for a 20-piece limited edition collection based on silk scarf prints. This collection will only be available in selected larger stores, such as the retailer’s flagship Argyll Street store in London, and online.
“Because we are doing so much online with things like our 90-minute delivery option [Oasis owner Aurora Fashions this year launched 90-minute deliveries for online orders across Oasis, Coast and Warehouse], it enables us to do more limited edition collections. Even if the clothes aren’t available in someone’s nearest store, they can still buy it and have it delivered in 90 minutes,” explains Reeve. “The idea that you can buy any time and any place is going to be fundamental for what we do from now on.”
Another limited edition collection for spring 12 sees Oasis teaming up with east London studio Vintage Labels to produce a range of summer dresses featuring vintage prints. “We worked with them and they selected specific prints for us to use,” says Reeve.
“I really like this collection as it’s fun but also versatile. A customer could dress it up and wear one of the pieces to a wedding, but could equally wear it on a summer holiday. We’ve also had an Oasis twist to some of the fashion-forward pieces in the collection and injected a sense of fun. Everyone will have crop tops next season and so we have one too, but in our unique Oasis way.”
Reeve points to a pineapple-print crop top and skirt on a mannequin. “Look at this. If Dolce & Gabbana can do an aubergine print on the catwalk then Oasis can do a pineapple print in-store,” Reeve laughs. “Hopefully you can feel that sense of playfulness and the fact we are a fun and playful brand.”
In another room, Reeve shows Drapers Oasis’s “pastel neons” story. “We’ve tried to use a soft palette but with bright colours and very modern clothes. [There are] lots of mints and lemon yellows that work very well together or can be worn as separate pieces,” explains Reeve. “What I want to convey about this collection is that there are elements of it that are catwalk-inspired, but it is not a catwalk copy collection. Oasis doesn’t want to do that.”
In the final area of the collection, Reeve takes Drapers through what he calls the “black and gold” story. “This is the part of the collection for those girls who still like to get a bit dressed up when they are going out on a Friday night, so we’ve got some really beautiful and special pieces.”
He explains that Oasis has extended its pricing architecture to allow room for some of the more special pieces at the top end of its offer, while ensuring the retailer remains accessible for everyday staples at the lower end. “We don’t ever want to be inaccessible, but we do want pieces that have that real wow factor.
“Stretching the price architecture has allowed us to do that. Our lead-in price for our core lines for a basic camisole is about £15, going all the way up to our special pieces that lead out at £150. I like to think that, as a brand, we cater for all our customers’ needs.”
And if there’s anyone who knows what Oasis’s customers really want, it’s Reeve.
2011 Design director, Oasis
2008 Design director, Wallis
2000 Design manager, Oasis
1997 Freelance knitwear designer
1995 Knitwear designer, Richard Shops
This is your first collection for Oasis as design director. How would you sum it up?
The three words I’d use to sum it up are feminine, fun and unique. Femininity, in particular, is something I really want to respect and retain within the brand, and I hope I’ve achieved that. I also really want people to enjoy buying and wearing the product as much as I’ve enjoyed designing it.
How would you sum up the Oasis customer?
It’s difficult to sum it up in only a few words, but I think she’s someone who is both feminine and fashionable. She’s someone who loves clothes and looking her best, but also wants to wear something that is going to make her smile.
What are the main differences between Oasis and its sister fascia Warehouse (also owned by Aurora Fashions)?
There are always going to be similarities because we are working in the same market and targeting the same age group, but there are also subtle differences. The main difference is that Warehouse is probably a bit more serious about fashion whereas our attitude is a bit more fun.
What has the refurbishment of your flagship Argyll Street store in London, which reopened in October, meant for Oasis?
We’re a big brand with a boutique attitude. Argyll Street has given us the opportunity to have special collections in-store so it is a petri dish of experimentation.