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Oliver Spencer

The designer tells Laura Weir why, 10 years after the launch of his premium label, he has opened a standalone footwear store.

Why shoes?

Where can men go to get decent shoes? There’s only Poste. Richard [Wharton] started Poste [in South Molton Street, London], and he thinks the Oliver Spencer footwear store is good. There’s a bloke out there who doesn’t want to be overwhelmed by choice, who wants to go into a store and think somebody has bought this range carefully. At 250 sq ft [on Lamb’s Conduit Street in central London, near Oliver Spencer’s main store] it’s a beautiful little store. I think the high street will impale itself and I won’t shed a tear. I’m going back to old-fashioned shopkeeping.

How is trade at your eponymous menswear label?

Our sales are massively up on the basis of really strong sell-throughs. We have about 40 accounts in the UK and we’re notbusted out all over the place. We like relationships, we don’t like one-night stands. Our stockists need us as much as we need them.

What sold well to stockists for autumn 11 and how are your spring 12 designs shaping up?

For autumn 11, the Look Out coat, which is our version of the pea coat, is a strong seller and knitwear sales have doubled as we’ve widened the range and taken in different weights. For spring 12, colour is going to be really strong. I’ve got to give retailers an alternative to navy, haven’t I? Things might also be a bit more soft and drapey. Our collection is well priced.

How is business?

Cotton has gone up in price but that’s not really affecting us. I could talk about the weather and how that affects tradethe whole time, but we’re all going through the same circumstance and we’ve all got to work with it and roll with what goes on. It makes you a better designer, shopkeeper and buyer.

What do you think of the current indie landscape?

There’s a newkind of indie out there and that’s exciting. In Brighton there’s a store called Peggs & Son that’s wicked, then you’ve got Oi Polloi [of Manchester] and End [of Newcastle]. We’re also sold in more old-school stores. Then you’ve got great established stores like Sarah Coggles [of York] – I think those guys are great – and new businesses like [etailer] Mr Porter in the mix as well. There you go, I’ve done the country.

You held your first London Fashion Week show last season. How was that?

Mega – it was ace. I’m happy we did it. I hadn’t felt like I had a collection I could have done it with before last season. It was a confidence thing and people didn’t expect me to do it. It was proactive and things like the marketing budget have to be spent carefully.

What are your expansion plans?

We could grow a bit but we’re not in a hurry. As long as people buy across the range I won’t turn them away. 

Quickfire questions

What’s the last thing you bought?

A Patagonia gilet in New York.

What was the last book you read?

Yvon Chouinard’s Let My People Go Surfing.

Who is the most inspiring person in your life?

My partner.

Where do you think is the best place to shop?

Lamb’s Conduit Street, London, all day and all night. I’d challenge anyone to find a better stretch of indie retailers.

  • Oliver Spencer is founder of menswear labels Oliver Spencer and Favourbrook. The new Oliver Spencer footwear store is at 37 Lamb’s Conduit Street, London WC1.

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