We’ve been huge fans of the colourful and irreverent London-based Lazy Oaf for years, and we’ve finally got together to collaborate. The resulting efforts are a pair of boots, shoes and a bag – each fused with the fun and whimsy of Lazy Oaf and the tough, rebellious attitude of Dr. Martens. Ahead of this super-exciting launch, we got together with Lazy Oaf’s incredible founder Gemma Shiel to talk about the design process, starting a business single-handedly and her wheeler-dealer tendencies…
Why did you decide to collaborate with Doc’s? Are you a long-time fan of the brand?
Er, yes. Next question, haha. Dr. Martens were a big part of my teenage wardrobe. I was a teen in the 90s. So I was massively into Nirvana and a lot of the Seattle bands that came out in the Grunge movement. When I was 13 or 14 I was desperate for a pair of Dr. Martens boots. But at that time, I just couldn’t find them in a small enough size, so I bought myself a pair of size 6 black Dr. Martens boots and just wore loads of socks and insoles. They were painful at first, but everyone has their own Dr. Martens method of breaking them in in.
Dr. Martens were a big part of my teenage wardrobe.
How was the design process?
I wanted something that was gonna make a statement. When I had my Dr. Martens originally I definitely Tippex-ed all over them and had flowers and writing and put beads on the laces, so there definitely had to be an element of that. And obviously our slogans that are irreverent and apathetic. I wanted something chunky and aggressive but pretty and girly at the same time. They’re really girly but they could do some damage.
You started Lazy Oaf in 2001. What do you think the enduring appeal of the brand is?
I never expected to be here 16 years later. We’ve grown quite slowly and I think that’s always been my plan. And stayed true to who we are. I didn’t want to over commercialise what we do – and I think that’s got us to where we are now.
We truly believe in having fun with our clothes and not taking ourselves too seriously. Our customers buy into the brand and they get it.
We truly believe in having fun with our clothes and not taking ourselves too seriously. Our customers buy into the brand and they get it – we have something to say, and some depth. We’re different. There’s not many people who are doing what we’re doing. I mean. some people try, but we use that to push us forward.
Do you have any advice for someone who want to get into the fashion or creative industries?
Getting started in the industry isn’t easy and expect a lot of hard work and a lot of heart ache. I started the brand with two part time jobs on the go and just did it step by step. I think some people expect overnight success but you have to put the work in and there’ll be a payoff, maybe, at some point in the future. But don’t expect three months down the line you’ll be dressing the Kardashians.
Think about establishing a brand, not just a clothing range. Think what are you about? What are your points of difference? That’s what you use to market your brand and grow, and that’s what people are ultimately buying into.
Lazy Oaf has always had a strong online community, was that an organic thing or part of a master plan?
I think we’re all just really visual, visual comes first. The internet is our shop window. One thing about everyone who works here is that we’re all really creative and so that’s how we best communicate with our customers. All the creative content is a natural extension of the brand. And illustration and design is my background.
I’ve always had an inner Del Boy.
Did the business side come easily to you as a creative?
I started Lazy Oaf from a market stall and I think I’ve always had an inner Del Boy. I’ve had a job of some sort or other since I was 12, so I’ve always had to make my own money – I’m a real grafter. I mean, I’ve had to learn as I’ve gone along and I’ve made so many mistakes. But that’s the best way to learn as once you make them, you never make them again. Recently we’ve grown from 16 to 25 people, and I can’t do this on my own, I’ve had to get people who are experts and learn to delegate.
Delegation is one of the hardest things, and I’ve had to learn it. Starting the business from scratch you’ve done everybody’s job at some point, so you know how you would do it. But you need to let go and that’s part of growing too. Quite often, more often than not, they do a better job that you did.
I ask everyone in their interview ‘what makes you weird?’.
What do you look for in a Lazy Oaf team member?
Obviously, an interesting experience. But I think more than anything a real passion for the brand. I ask everyone in their interview ‘what makes you weird?’.
Apart from our amazing Dr. Martens x Lazy Oaf collaboration, what’s next for Lazy Oaf?
We have so many exciting things coming up including our very first nightwear and lingerie range. Injecting a but of oafiness into that sector. The rest , you’ll have to wait and see.
Is there anything you haven’t done yet with Lazy Oaf that you’d like to?
Am I allowed to say footwear? Haha. I’ve loved working with DM’s so I would love to do a footwear range. A Lazy Oaf car, a Lazy Oaf Cafe.. a department store where you could have a coffee, get your hair done, shop. That would be the dream.
Finally, what do you stand for?
I stand for keeping it weird.
Shop the Dr. Martens x Lazy Oaf collaboration now:.
Also available at Lazy Oaf.
Bag available from 31st August.