‘Travelling has always been a massive inspiration for what we do,’ says Oliver Spencer, whose eponymous menswear brand is now entering its third decade. ‘One of my favourite recent collections was inspired by Key West, the city at the end of the Florida Keys. I love that late ’50s, early ’60s vibe it’s got with the Cuban shirts and that muted colour palette. And I’ve done Alpine winter collections inspired by Chamonix.’
Summer in Key West or winter in Chamonix makes perfect sense when you consider that Spencer specialises in the kind of laid-back, contemporary menswear that manages to make you look thoughtfully turned out and totally comfortable at the same time. This is because Spencer knows his customer. Ever since he started in 1992, selling pieces on a market stall on Portobello Road, he has developed that rare knack of knowing what British men actually want in their wardrobes. Today, his softly structured jackets, relaxed shirts and abundance of corduroy have become go-to staples for those who want to look stylish but eschew logos and monograms. As summer approaches, his focus is on the type of tailoring that he describes as ‘the antithesis of the work suit’, genuinely versatile clothes that can be both wedding-smart and beach-casual, which makes them perfect for the whole season. As the man himself says: ‘Linen tailoring is designed to travel.’
Today we’re at his Lamb’s Conduit Street studio, the epicentre of his network of stores, which includes shops in Soho and Shoreditch. It is a beautifully put together boutique filled with his menswear, as well as a brilliantly curated range of accessories including camping gear from Japanese brand Snow Peak and Elmer gloves. Think of it as a one-stop-shop for men who like to travel in style. A group which very much includes the man himself.
‘When I go away for a weekend, I want to travel just with one bag and for me that’s always going to be our leather Doctor’s Bag, which is just the right size. The first thing to go in is always one of our unstructured Solms jackets, which is a jacket that you can button all the way to the top, which gives it great flexibility: you get that extra bit of cover if you need it, or you can fold it all down and wear it as a normal blazer. If I’m going away in the summer, then I’d take a linen/cotton mix. In the winter, it would always be wool.’
‘I always take a grandad shirt as well. I like the way it does the job of both a T-shirt and a shirt, and you can dress it up or dress it down. For trousers, I’d pack a pair of our Judo pants. Indigo in the summer. Corduroy in the winter. The good thing about them is that they’re also super versatile: I can wear them with the blazer in the evening, or with one of our heavy white T-shirts during the day.’
‘And then there are all the essentials: Hamilton and Hare underpants, Ro To To socks. I like a dark colour with a stripe. But I can wear a white sock occasionally if I want to give a look an ’80s feel. My trusted Il Bussetto wallet, and of course, my Omega Speedmaster, which I never go anywhere without.’
Oliver Spencer has four stores in central London: one on Berwick Street in Soho, another on Calvert Avenue in Shoreditch, and two stores on Lambs Conduit Street in Bloomsbury. oliverspencer.co.uk