Interview: Menswear Designer Oliver Spencer

Oliver Spencer

Having started out from a humble market stall in the Portobello Road self-taught designer/ tailor/ Oliver Spencer founded his own brand, Favourbrook, in unusually reasonable premises in Jermyn St.

In 2002 he expanded by creating his own eponymous clothes label that, first emanating from a little shop front in Lamb’s Conduit Street, is now synonymous with no nonsense, extremely well made gentleman’s clothing that, both traditional and modern, is made from the finest materials money can buy.

Indeed, his maxim ‘Quality needn’t mean formality; casual needn’t mean careless’ speaks volumes about the man who now has five shops, a thriving online retail presence that is stocked by most of the world’s leading department stores. Adored by thousands of males from actor Daniel Day Lewis to footballer, Rio Ferdinand, we thought a little chat might be in order.

What was the first item of clothing you ever bought with your own money?

Sky blue seersucker suit from my favourite second hand store, Portobello road, 1988.

Is there one person who has really influenced your work and dress?

David Byrne from The Talking heads.

How did all this begin?

A love of textiles, second hand clothing, not wanting to work for someone else, and a lot of passion.

Should a designer wear what he creates as I know quite a few that don’t?

I only design clothes that I love so that’s an easy question to answer for me.

Out of all the items you’ve ever designed what is the one that might be called your ‘desert island’ garment: one that you could not live without and the one that ticks the most boxes?

A Suede buffalo jacket; the first time I wore it I felt like I belonged in it. It made me feel nostalgic but very modern at the same time.

How would you describe the Oliver Spencer style?

Eclectic.

What’s the item you’ve designed that you are most proud of?

Right at the beginning I designed a pair of desert boots with a big white wedge sole. This was turning a classic into something instantly modern. There was a big trend in shoes after this, which made a lot of people a lot of money, with a shoe that looks exactly like mine. For someone who’s not a shoe designer that’s a good day. If you’re not being copied you’re not doing a good job.

Tell me about the new Oliver Spencer range?

This all started watching a documentary on Ginger Baker and how he travelled to play with Fela Kuti. A mixture between Savile Row and Africa. Pretty bohemian. Textures, colour, everything I love

What is the most stand out item for you?

1968 Omega Speedmaster

For you, what’s your favourite piece amongst the range?

Astrakhan overcoat (fake, black). From another era but feels very current.

Why are great clothes important and what do they say about a person?

At the moment I’m into really rich, deep, dark colour. A gentleman should always wear colour, whether detail or knitwear.

Can you tell me about your production criteria- cloth, manufacture etc.

Made in England is always best but go to where the cloth and factory is best.

Why is it so important to preserve classic manufacturing?

Part of our culture, heritage, the skill sets that are needed are not something you can just obtain; they should be passed down or learnt by an apprentice. My particular favourite is the shoe trade are  in and around Northampton.

Do you aim to make latter day classics?

No, it’s not my aim to make classics. It’s my aim to make clothing that is interesting and gets people thinking. Mixture of tradition and contemporary. If you want to call that a new classic, then yes.

Is making stuff that men don’t replace till they fall off good or bad for business?

Good! Guys like to make investments. When chaps make good investments, they tend to tell their friends.

What advice would you give to a young whippersnapper who wants to look the business?

Invest in good shoes. Be creative. Mix old and new.

Do you believe in the Beau Brummel maxim that if man stands out he has failed sartorially?

100%. Beau had it all going on. To be seen, and not heard.

Have you any odd clients requests?

Our clients are all individuals and from time to time we do get asked for the odd velvet boxer shorts (my favourite bit of business).

What is the most ridiculous item of male clothing that has ever been made?  

Mankini.

What was the first item you designed and made?

A waistcoat out of ecclesiastical cloth.

Why did you pick Soho and Lambs Conduit for store locations?

Both are very individual streets with a great mix of clientele in the heart of the city.

What are your plans for the future?

To open more stores. I am a shopkeeper and that’s what I like doing.

What is your idea of success and how would you define it?

Being able to open my shop door at 10am and close it at 7pm having sold lots of great clothing to a bunch of interesting people

ML

Oliver Spencer Website: https://oliverspencer.co.uk