Following on from last Wednesday’s successful launch party of Proudlock’s Carnival ’78, I spent what would have been an otherwise dull Monday morning having a chat with the gorgeous boy that is Oliver Proudlock, and getting a better look at the beautiful photographs taken by his very talented mother Lena Proudlock, on display at the Imitate Modern Gallery. The exhibition displays some of the photographs taken by Lena at the Rio Carnival in 1978, which she visited four years running with her first husband, Douglas Villiers, and the result of which became “Carnival in Rio” – the inspirational book behind the stunning Rio tee’s of Serge DeNimes’ second collection.
I got to steal a few minutes of this extremely busy guy’s precious time, and in doing so discovered the devotion, ambition and drive behind all that specs appeal as well as some very exciting up and coming things for SDN fans! Scroll down to read the interview :)
So after discussing how ill and run down we both sounded, (I literally sound like an old man on the recording) we jumped straight to it!
So how is it all going Proudlock? The new Rio t shirts look amazing, I think the photographs are just stunning. I had a look through the whole book upstairs and it just looks unbelievable!
Glad you like them! It’s such a cool book! I’ve always been obsessed with that book and Brazil has always been my favourite place – I’ve been going to the Rio carnival since I was 18, basically inspired by that book! Obviously my mum went there with her first husband four years running and at the end of the four years they put together that book, so ever since I was a kid, I’ve always looked through it and thought that Brazil looked like the coolest place ever!
It does just look like a completely different world!
Yeah it is, I mean it’s slightly different now to what it was then but it’s still amazing. It was a little more liberal then and everyone was out on the streets dancing, where as now it’s a bit more contained. But it’s just the energy in that place – it’s like nothing else! During that period of time – during the carnival, everyone there is there for a party, everyone just wants to have fun and the colours are really vibrant. That’s why, with this collection, I wanted to do something along those lines because the images themselves are amazing and they stood out, they’re strong and bold.
So what made you decide you wanted to do this collaboration?
I wanted to do something merging with art, some sort of art form. I wanted to collaborate with someone and I wanted the images to be strong enough that they stood out – like if you saw someone wearing that t shirt you’d think “Oh that’s a cool image” as opposed to just some sort of graphic. And it was just so right at the time, I was just obsessed with Rio and carnivals, something that was a strong part of my life at that time so for me it was a no brainer. I was like “Mum, I’d love to collaborate with you” and she was more than happy to do it, so I went out to Brazil, took the t shirts, got Brazilians wearing them and it was just like that whole vibe! With the brand itself, I just wanted it to be that sort of lifestyle, it’s not just that sort of t shirt with a print, it’s part of something.
Well the t shirts stand on their own because the images are so strong, they almost tell a story!
Exactly. That’s key, that’s exactly what I want – to be a story, to be more than just an image, it has a meaning behind it.
So what are you planning to do next, are you going to do any more collaborations?
We’ve got a really cool collaboration with a brand called Dent De Man, something slightly different – they do amazing African prints on suits! They’re very out there so we’re going to do a collaboration with them, using these very cool kind of African prints, very loud prints, but using them on more urban products so as opposed to suits – working with things like oversized hoodies, big t shirts, tracksuits, stuff like that. It’s always good to do collaborations with other brands because it keeps it fresh, they’re always different and you learn so much!
Yeah that’s the thing, you can gain so much more inspiration because you bounce off of each other.
Yeah exactly, and I think it is really important in anything you do; it’s great to be able to bounce off someone because that really brings out the best in you.
It’s collaborations and individual style as well, that’s why street style is so massive now, because everyone looks to individuals for style inspiration – taking a trend and looking at it in a new, different way. Also can I say, I love that girls can wear Serge De Nimes too!
That’s another thing for me, that I wanted them to be unisex, it’s great to actually see so many girls buying the stuff!
I can see girls going for the carnival t shirts in particular?
I think perhaps because the colours especially appeal to girls, some boys can be a little intimidated by bright colours!
So which out of the Carnival range is your favourite?
I think it’s got to be the boy running, it’s definitely my favourite. That one was actually in the first collection and I decided to continue it into the second just because it was so popular, and for me it’s my favourite one!
I can see why it’s popular, it’s a strong image – very natural.
Exactly, it’s all very natural, I think those photographs were very much about capturing the moment, and because there’s so much energy and all the colours and things like that, I think as soon as you start staging it and placing things together, it just doesn’t have the same effect. It was about capturing that one shot which sums up the vibe of the carnival.
How did you choose which images to go on the shirts?
That was pretty hard, it took me a long time! I think with the first samples I did about 20 images, and there were some that I thought would be amazing but they just didn’t work on the t shirt. But it wasn’t easy and that’s why I wanted to continue the Rio range into the second collection so that I could use some more images that I had really wanted to use in the first place. I think I may do one more Rio collection after this one as well, but it wasn’t easy and I’m very indecisive so it was pretty difficult for me.
You’ve had a pretty intense year, what’s the plan for the next year?
We’ve got some really exciting stuff planned for the next year with the brand, so we’ve got the collaboration with Dent De Man, which I’m really excited about, we’re going to be moving into a lot of new products, we’re doing another pop up store in May on Carnaby Street, so we’re going to do a lot of summery stuff – we’re doing some really cool Hawaiian print vests and big oversized tees, which I’m really excited about! We’ve got snapback caps coming out, stuff like that! And then I slowly want to start bringing more denim into the brand over the year, and then aside from the clothes, we’re doing this thing called Serge Offbeat Sessions. We just recorded our first few sessions last Friday, which was amazing. So we recorded 8 artists, all unsigned, and we shot in a really cool venue called Aida, which is a really cool store on Shoreditch High Street, and we’re going to shoot there for every Serge Offbeat session so it’s kind of the home of it. And then what we want to do is launch it with a live event there and have it as like a nice intimate gig and we’ll get our top 5 artists to be there, obviously wearing the clothes. But this is kind of building into the thing I wanted when I started this brand, that it wasn’t just about fashion, it as about fashion, music and art. So now we’re sort of moving into the music and it’s just really exciting to be able to do something slightly different from being in the studio designing, and for me this is everything that ties in to what I want my brand to be about, it’s not just about the clothes, it’s about building this lifestyle, building a community.
It’s definitely all coming together, all aspects of the brand link and the whole concept of it including the fashion, music and art, it’s a pretty fool proof plan to be honest! Touch wood! There’s just such a huge market at the moment for a brand like this, and everybody loves fashion and music together because it’s nearly always interesting and they bounce off each other. How did you find these artists?
So I collaborated with a company called Offbeat, and the concept behind them is really simple – they want to be a platform for up and coming artists, designers and musicians and the put on really cool events where they merge all three. I met Ben, who runs Offbeat, last year and I told him about Serge Sessions and he was really interested and so he suggested we collaborate. I think now we’re at the stage where more and more people are looking to collaborate, where as I think previously everyone was so competitive, trying to out do each other, and I feel we’re at an age now where people recognise that things are hard, it’s not easy and you’ve got to work together and by working together we’re going to achieve so much more. So we decided to work together and it’s really great to be able to do it with someone else you know and you bounce off each other and yeah I think it’s going to be really cool so I’m excited!
What kind of sound are you looking for?
I want it to be a real mix, we’ve got this band of three guys called The Thirst, which are a very cool, soulful sound, and then we have my friend JDP who is an MC and very different! We had this amazing girl called Leanne who’s kind of like Leona Lewis, this other guy called Matthew who is like a white John Legend – I mean just unbelievable. I was really blown away and I think that’s the thing that’s going to make the Serge Offbeat Session so strong is not only the way it’s been shot, but obviously the most important thing is the acts themselves and they are just really strong!
Sounds like it’s going to be pretty good then!
Yeah I’m really building this up, can you imagine if it’s really bad now? It will be awful!
Bit of an anti-climax! I’m sure it won’t – I’m sure it will be fantastic! Especially after the success of last Wednesday’s launch here, have you had many people come in and have a look round?
Yeah you know it’s been really good! Chris, who works for me, has been in every day because I’ve got so much stuff going on elsewhere, I’ve had to juggle between being in the office, filming, my style blog as well which is turning into a proper website, and then building my brand as well, the Oliver Proudlock brand which launches next week! So OliverProudlock.com will basically be the hub of everything, because at the moment I’m doing so many different things and I want a focal point! So when you visit OliverProudlock.com you’ll have my art, you’ll have Proudlock Style, you’ll have Serge DeNimes, then you’ll also have my design collaborations under my name so Oliver Sweeney will be on there, the other one with Thea Funnell which launches in October which is for jewellery, I’m doing a glasses range with Kirk Originals so you’ll have that then you’ll have like a gallery, videos, any events I’m doing, basically just like the heart so I know it’s all in one place!
Yeah, it will be good to have everything in one place where you can see it! That is a LOT of stuff going on, pretty intense!! How have you got time for all of this??
Yeah my mind is kind of racing around at the moment! I have to admit it has been kind of tricky but I like being really busy! I do feel pretty run down at times but I think it’s always what I say – my window is very small at the moment from the show and everything, you know the shelf life is only so long. I just want to make the most of it and do as much as I can, so when I look back, I don’t look back and think I had such an opportunity to do something and I just sat around partying and messing around.
Do you think the show has been quite a good platform for launching Serge DeNimes?
I think so, it’s been a great opportunity, I’ve met some amazing people, it’s opened some doors you know and unfortunately it’s also closed some as well I guess, but it’s given me a sort of profile which has enabled me to push my brand which is really good.
It’s been great exposure for the brand, hasn’t it?
Yeah exactly, which in todays world is really hard! You know I think there are a lot of people out there who have great brands, or they’re amazing musicians or artists, but they’ve got no platform to show themselves and they can’t get it out there, and if you can’t get it out there and you can’t show it to anyone, it’s a waste!
It must be great having everyone come and support you?
Yeah obviously, having the support of your friends is always great and you know everyone is very supportive of what I’m doing and they all love the brand which is great, it’s really awesome.
Absolutely loved my little chinwag with the lovely Oliver Proudlock, he has a vision and I have no doubt that he’ll see it through. Serge DeNimes is going from strength to strength, if you haven’t checked it out yet have a look here!