|Oliver and Lena Proudlock|
As I waited for Oliver Proudlock to finish chatting with the journalist before me, I took in the essence of the new Serge DeNimes collection and appreciated the photographs captured by his mother Lena, which can be found hanging from the walls of Imitate Modern in Marylebone. I couldn't help but notice how different the space looked compared to the packed launch party the previous Wednesday.
Although best known for starring on E4’s Made In Chelsea, it’s clear Ollie wasn’t destined for reality TV. He studied art foundation at Central Saint Martins before heading north to Newcastle University, continuing in fine art, “I was there for four years, specialising in abstract painting. It was mixed media so we'd combine found materials with paint and other mediums. I came back to London and, having specialised in art since I was 16, I wanted to continue doing something creative but move away from painting. I had kind of got bogged down. Having been bought up in a household where my mum is a designer and photographer, it was very natural to move into fashion.”
Ollie launched Serge DeNimes back in June 2011 with dreams of the brand being denim-based, “That’s why I used the name - it relates to the origins of denim. I launched the brand with a small collection of t-shirts. I wanted to start with a product that I'm really familiar with and establish the brand on that one product and do it to the best of my ability to try and create the perfect t-shirts. Not only did I want the print to be really strong, I wanted the perfect material and cut and just for everything to be as perfect as possible.”
Since then, Serge DeNimes has grown at a rapid pace. The second collection features sweatshirts, beanies, jewellery and more graphic t-shirts featuring another Rio collection, where Ollie collaborated with his mother Lena for a second time, “She's one of my biggest inspirations. I wanted to give her the opportunity to showcase her work and photographs to everyone in the fashion world. They are from her book she did in 1978. I've explained it on the website and people know but I wanted to actually just show them in their physical form. And be like, look, it’s not just about the clothes, it's about the art too and this is where the art comes from and to bring the two together.”
Success hasn’t come without its sacrifices for the Made In Chelsea star though, “Doing all of this is time consuming. What I've had to cut down on this year is my social life. I get a lot of stick from my friends saying “You've changed” and I have to say, “Look, it's nothing to do with you. I don't see anyone at the moment.” I went away over Christmas and while I was there I was like I will have a really great time but when I come back, I will work my ass off. I don't want to look back in a few years and realise I’ve had such an amazing opportunity to make something of myself. The window that we have for this show is very small and you've got to be productive and make the most of it.”
With an average of 800,000 viewers a week and peeks of 10,000 tweets a minute, Made In Chelsea has been a solid platform for Ollie to launch his brand off of, “The show has given me a great opportunity to get that exposure and show everyone my brand. There are so many amazing creative people who are so talented but they have no platform to get themselves out there and seen so I've been really privileged in that.”
An accomplishment like Ollie’s obviously comes with memorable moments, “Getting into Harrods and seeing Serge DeNimes right next to Acne, one of my favourite brands, and to think I had been coming to Harrods since I was a kid, was insane. I remember thinking how proud my grandma would have been. I wish she could have seen that. I think that’s definitely my proudest moment.”
When Ollie mentions Acne his face lights up and he explains that the Swedish brand, renowned for their sharp, minimalistic silhouettes, would be his dream brand to collaborate with, as well as aspirations of designing a shoe range for Nike. Having already collaborated with Oliver Sweeney to create a collection of urban chukka boots, Ollie is already well on his way to the latter.
And what advice does Ollie have to offer up to budding designers? “Work your ass off. I think what's really important is to stick to your guns and create something you really believe in and something you are passionate about and to just constantly grind and be inspired by the things around you and don't be afraid to do things outside of your comfort zone and collaborate. Bounce off people and be surrounded by people you can trust. The people around you are important; it's so hard to do something on your own, you know. You have to believe in what you are doing and have faith in yourself.”