A chat with Oliver Spencer
Fashion is faddish but style is timeless. Or so they say. How then, does men’s clobber don, Oliver Spencer, manage to produce clothes that are both contemporary and enduring? That, my friend, is the $64,000 question.
If we knew the answer, we’d be the head honchos of a brand that boasts five shops, an international online business and a slew of prestigious awards.
We’re not. But Huckle and Oliver Spencer are Lamb’s Conduit Street neighbours. The street is home to the former market trader’s first shop and Huckle’s second.
Trimmed at Huckle and dressed at Oliver Spencer, we’d say a man is almost complete. So, to celebrate our shared love of providing great service to discerning gents, we’ve teamed up to bring you a lovely offer. You’ll find the details at the bottom of the page.
Before that, though, here are the best bits from our recent chat with Oli.
A chat with Oliver SpencerHuckle: Consider the relationship between hair and fashion. How important is a good haircut to a look?
OS: I think it can certainly enhance it, for instance a cropped style might help to lend a little rawness to a look or add grit to a more clinical aesthetic. Whereas slightly longer, looser hairstyles can soften a look and project a less formal vibe.
Has a haircut ever influenced a collection?
I’m not sure that a haircut has ever fully influenced a collection, but the way hair is styled in a show has a dramatic effect on the atmosphere and style overall, and therefore can make or break a collection.
Have you had any bad haircuts?
Yes, I once let a very young Japanese kid loose on my hair. He shaved the whole of the back of my head and left it long at the front. He thought it was cool but I felt like an idiot.
Huckle and Oliver Spencer are neighbours on Lamb’s Conduit Street. What do you think makes the street special?
Without doubt the community spirit. A lot of the retailers have been here many years and are always willing to help each other when they can. Also, for people visiting the street it’s got a little of everything: great men’s and women’s brands, fantastic food and drink, a top notch barber’s in Huckle of course, and plenty more to fill an afternoon amble down the street. Plus, when you get to the end of your days you can even get buried in style.
You started as a market trader on Portobello Road in the mid 90s, so you’ve seen some changes in the city. What’s happening in London right now that you love and what do you miss?
What I love about London right now is the ethnic diversity which has created an amazing creative cauldron. What I miss is independent retail and the smell of cigarettes in traditional pubs.
You’ve had a shop in Shoreditch since 2014 but the area has changed a lot since then, and you’ve recently opened a shop in Notting Hill. How do you choose where you place your shops?
Again, somewhere that has a community feel, with likeminded neighbours and brands. An area that people can happily take their time in. Then there’s obviously spaces where we think we a have a strong customer base and can bring something different or something people need.
Technology has revolutionised retail, but customers still expect good in-person service and well-designed shops. What are the opportunities and challenges that technology presents when it comes to growing your brand while, at the same time, maintaining its values?
Obviously it’s difficult to replicate the amazing service in our stores online. When you take away the sales assistant and replace them with a screen you lose control of the customer experience to an extent. However, we’re striving to emulate the top service customers receive in-store, online, by going above and beyond with any requests or queries and basically doing anything to make them feel special.
Huckle and Oliver Spencer have a similar no nonsense approach to delivering high quality services and products to our customers. What, in your opinion, are the most important factors in maintaining the success of a brand over many years?
Passion is the key word here, plus great service and great products! I love being a shopkeeper but I also love being on the factory floor, they’re the two most important places for me.
What’s next for Oliver Spencer?
Our AW18 show in January is next on the horizon, so we’re all working very hard on that.
Good music is an important part of creating the atmosphere at Huckle, and I know your collections are sometimes inspired by music. How important is music to you and your brand?
Music is something that runs through every one of our collections in some way, shape or form. Whether it’s having musicians that are friends of the brand walk in one of our catwalk shows, or delving into subcultures for initial inspiration or an underlying theme. Music is the soundtrack to life.
The 90s is trending at the moment, with brands like ellesse, Moschino, and even NAF NAF making a comeback. How do you stay relevant without being a fad?
Staying true to your beliefs. I personally like to give a nod to what is going on, but I always remember who my customers are and what they want - something a little different, high quality with a little bit of eccentricity
Your latest collection is inspired by the brutalist architecture of the 50s and 60s as well as music. How do you choose your inspiration?
That’s right, ‘Tough Love’ was the theme for this AW17 season. It was bit of a spin on the Suedehead subculture of the 70s and the idea of wanting to always look your best and be well turned out while retaining a tough, no nonsense attitude. We shot the campaign at the Barbican, which we felt perfectly matched the feel of the collection: the protective, enclosed utopian vision made up of rugged, harsh structures.
What does your average work day involve?
Getting up, feeding the kids, walking the dog, jumping on the scooter and heading into Lamb’s Conduit Street, probably stopping off at our Notting Hill store along the way for a cup of coffee. I’ll then work on a collection, depending on the time of year. Most of the morning I’ll be involved with fabrication, have a quick lunch, then afternoons could be spent in fitting meetings or talking about new shops and retail.
There you have it. Thanks for taking the time to chat, Oli.
The special offer
Here’s the deal. Get 15% off at Oliver Spencer when you spend over £45 at Huckle the Barber. And 15% off at Huckle the Barber when you spend over £100 at Oliver Spencer. The promotion runs from 1st September — 31st October inclusive.
Collect a voucher with your receipt when you make a qualifying purchase at Huckle the Barber. Then, to receive your Oliver Spencer discount, present both when you make a purchase there. And vice versa.
This offer is available to Huckle’s Old Street and Lamb’s Conduit Street customers, and Oliver Spencer’s Lamb’s Conduit Street and Calvert Avenue customers. See in-store for full Ts and Cs. Enjoy.
Huckle the Barber: next level head tekkers . Book your appointment online here.