Boy Story

Visitors to Oliver Spencer?s West Village boutique may have noticed some construction of late.

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Visitors to Oliver Spencer’s West Village boutique may have noticed some construction of late. The Brit isn’t making any sweeping changes to the Victorian decor, but there’s going to be a minor facelift to the 810-square-foot store: Spencer is adding a second dressing room. And it’s going to be one for the ladies.

This story first appeared in the September 5, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

That’s a big change for the London-based designer who, for the past 18 years, has been entrenched in the men’s wear market. He launched a bespoke tailoring label called Favourbrook back in 1990 and followed that with a sportswear line, Oliver Spencer, in 2002. It’s the latter that’s getting the women’s wear expansion this year. After starting with a small capsule collection for this fall, the designer is taking the full plunge into the market with a 30-look lineup for spring 2009. “I already have the cutting rooms and the ability to make the clothing,” he notes, “so it was quite easy for me.”

The new collection hews close to Spencer’s design roots. There’s a tomboyish vibe throughout, from the smartly cut blazers to sporty jumpers and zip-ups. “This is going to go in its own direction,” he says, “but not down a completely different route. They will be running parallel paths, for sure. I wanted to see women in clothing that had a utilitarian feel to it and still maintained a sexiness.”

Tailoring, of course, is key, but it’s served up in a relaxed and casual manner. The plaid shirtings, for example, are soft and slightly rumpled. Spencer adds that there are more washes in the women’s line — they’re done “not to age the garments” but “to loosen them up.” Also key here: The spring inspiration cues in Cornwall and the British seaside, which add to the lineup’s breezy, easygoing attitude. “I spent all my childhood summers in Cornwall, learning to sail,” he explains.

This, however, isn’t exactly the designer’s first stab at women’s wear. In 1997, he spun off a female counterpoint to Favourbrook, dubbed Violet. The short-lived label — it only lasted two years — was “very glam and theatrical,” recalls Spencer. “Lots of sequin work.” It had all the flourish and femininity that the Oliver Spencer women’s line, which wholesales from $95 to $288, very pointedly lacks. Then again, Favourbrook is “a lot more dandy,” he says. Think velvets — “lots of it” — and embroidered lilac waistcoats.

The designer’s Oliver Spencer stores currently sell a whole slew of men’s wear lines, including Engineered Garments and Nice Collective, in addition to his own. He has no plans to do the same for women’s. In fact, once the spring collections hit the store next February, he’s pulling out all other brands across the board, save those in the accessories department. The aim? Clueing in his customers to a singular laid-back urban vision. Even the label’s mascot will remain the same for both the men’s and women’s offerings. Perhaps tellingly, it’s a stag beetle.

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