From small beginnings in Staffordshire, Oliver Thomas Lipp, inspired by the older kids at his local school who had gone onto study at Central Saint Martins backed himself to have a go. ‘I knew that London was a good place to come for design and if the people a year above me were doing well, I thought maybe I could too’. And doing well he has. Since graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2015, Oliver Thomas Lipp has kept himself very busy as a freelance Textile and Knitwear Designer based in Shoreditch, London. Oliver Thomas Lipp’s knitwear and constructed textiles push and blur creative boundaries and disciplines.
Oliver Thomas Lipp has worked with WGSN to develop knit trends for Spring Summer 2016, collaborated with British Heritage brand Lyle and Scott, interned for luxury knitwear label Leutton Postle and is currently working with Derek Lawlor developing knits for show pieces and ready to wear. In the past 12 months alone, Oliver Thomas Lipp has exhibited his work at New Designers (London), the Intelligent Optimist Exhibition in collaboration with the London Design Festival, and MoOD (Brussels) as part of the Innovation Platform. Oliver’s work has also been presented at P&G in Chicago as inspiration for disruptive textiles and he was the winner of the David Bethnel Bursary 2014/2015 awarded by The Worshipful Company of Framework Knitters. In between his frantic schedule we catch up with Oliver Thomas Lipp to discuss his big plans for the future.
The Fashion Conversation: What’s the Oliver Thomas Lipp plan?
Oliver Thomas Lipp: You leave Saint Martins as a designer in your own right, because you’ve spent three years being crazy and having all of these weird ideas. Now I want to be more entrepreneurial and start my own brand. But knowing how the industry is at the moment [not great incidentally, knitwear designers are shuttering businesses all over show], now is not the right time. Instead I want to spend the next year or two freelancing for different designers and brands and learning as much as I can. I want to put the skills I learnt at Saint Martins into practice so that when I start my own brand I have more of an idea of what to do.
TFC: When you come to launching your own brand, what’s your vision?
OTL: I have a rough vision, but I think what is most important is keeping true to who I am as a designer. All of my research that I do is very important and very personal. I am not just looking at things and then regurgitating, I am looking at things that aren’t textiles to inspire textiles and fashion. I am very obsessive about finishing, so my brand would be higher end or bespoke luxury. It would be about interesting fabrics that are wearable and finished to a high standard.
TFC: How would you describe your future brand?
OTL: My brand will be innovative and tactile. I want it to be high end in the sense that the materials garments and products are made from need to feel luxurious. I also want to continue considering sustainability of sourcing in my work. For example, for my graduate collection, all of the yarns I sourced were end of line. Big factories who have yarns that are not being used anymore send them to certain shops in north London. I feel its sort of like creating things out of something that is left over. I also feel strongly about keeping production in the UK. Everyone I have worked for so far produce their collections in the UK which I think is really important. It gives you a unique selling point. I think consumers are really aware of where things are from and what they are made of and are willing to pay a little bit more for something that is made in the UK and that is quality. Keeping production and manufacture in the UK also helps to champion British designers and so I think it is really important not to just pop over to China and get things produced cheaply. I would like my brand to really convey what it means to be a British designer who studied in London and showing what can be achieved in the UK.
TFC: You talk about bespoke luxury, why is this? Are your goals influenced by economic realities?
OTL: From my freelancing experience so far, particularly for Derek Lawlor, I’ve seen that in terms of cost and money, it is a lot more cost effective to do commissions rather than producing lots of product that sits in your studio which you then wonder what to do with. The economic side of a smaller knitwear brand is something I have been exposed to a little bit from the people I have worked for and is definitely something I want to learn more about. That’s the only thing that I kind of am missing in my vision for my brand – how to commercialise my work, but still keep it true. I think my designs can still be weird and innovative, but I can make my brand more commercial by doing accessories or jewellery pieces that a lot more people can access.
TFC: As a designer, what are your key influencers and inspirations?
OTL: For my graduation collection there wasn’t really any one thing or designer that inspired the collection. I make mood boards that are big collections of images, postcards, photos, bits of paper, and fabrics which I use to feed and influence my work. I can’t say I am inspired by one particular person or thing as it changes all the time, and I think that is really useful for me as a designer because I can collect all of these things and sometimes it isn’t relevant for what I am working on currently but next time maybe it will be and I can continue to build on it. I am kind of like a magpie. I am drawn to anything that captures my attention and inspires me.