Monday, 12 November 2012

Designer Spotlight: Olivia Howard (Olive & Finn)

I first met Olivia Howard a couple of weeks ago at The PR Department's Olive & Finn press showing, and I was absolutely obsessed with her passion for the clothes she was stocking, and her knowledge of fabrics and cuts. As you all know I am a massive stickler for good quality fabrics and natural fibres, as well as well made clothes, and this was one of the many things Olivia and I had in common. 

Her aim of creating an intimate online boutique has been extremely well executed, with a simple and clean format, you legitimately feel you are browsing the racks at your favourite boutique with the click of a mouse. 

With an incredible range of pants, shorts, skirts, dresses, bags and jewellery, and affordable prices, Olive & Finn is fast becoming one of my favourite online stores. 

Be sure to check out my interview with Olivia (below), and the Olive & Finn store ASAP! 

How would you describe your personal style?
My personal style keeps evolving and I have seen my style completely change since starting Olive & Finn. I like elegant very structured pieces and anything that makes a statement. I have very pale skin so I need to be careful with the colours I choose – block bright colours, or deep dark colours fill my cupboard and love to finish the outfit off with a bright or deep lip colour. I love to get dressed up and am always in heels. I feel more elegant when I wear them and feel utterly confident. I would like to think that my style would be described as ‘elegance with a twist.’

Where are your favourite places to shop in Australia?
Most of my favourite shops are around my local area in Melbourne. If I’m looking for something different and special I visit places like Fat, Alice Euphemia, Alpha60, Acne or Green with Envy. If I want some good basics or some staple pieces I like to go to Zara, Witchery or Country Road and Wittner always have some great affordable and fashion forward shoes.

What is it about Australian fashion and the Australian fashion industry you like?
There is a sense of honesty about the designers and the garments they create. Australians love a story and I truly believe Australian designers have this in abundance. Every designer I stock seems to have a story about where they found the fabric, or where they came up with the idea. I believe they create really beautiful simple pieces – they don’t try to cover it with glitz and glam, it is simply a well tailored and well made piece of clothing.

Who is your style crush? 
I would have to say my friends are my style crushes. They all dress so beautifully and I’m always asking their opinions or suggestions. We are very similar but we each have our point of difference. I’m also equally intrigued by everyday people on the street as I am about celebrities. Melbourne has such a vast array of style it is always so interesting. My celebrity choices would be Olivia Palmero and Kate Bosworth – they seem to have a great balance of elegance and quirk.

What inspired you to open Olive and Finn? 
It was my own frustration of what was readily available for me to purchase. I, like many others were using online as a tool for my busy lifestyle however felt that what was available online in Australia was what everyone was already wearing or what everyone already had. I wanted to be able to purchase something new and something different that I wouldn’t see ten other people in the street wearing.

How does Olive and Finn differ from other popular online boutiques?
I think people can notice the difference as soon as you visit our site. It is clean and simple. There is no advertising, no large sale posters or banners. I wanted to create a sense of exclusivity and to simulate the feeling of walking into a boutique shop. We are all about the designers – we know everything about them and that information is given to every customer. It is about endorsing the Australian and New Zealand up and coming fashion industry not just about selling clothes.

What is your buying process like?
It is a long detailed process that is one of the hardest things about the business. It is hard to separate your own style from everyone else’s. I have to get into a buyers mindset, otherwise I would wind up with a wardrobe full clothes instead of the store. You can never be sure what is going to sell well but you have to take a lot of chances and hope for the best. I am not a trained buyer so I have to go with my gut and hope that it all works out. It is a continuous learning curve. Designers or fashion PR companies set up a viewing for me to look through what the designers have produced from that particular season. I take notes on what I like and what I don’t like, I try things on, take photos of fabrics and colours and then go back to the office with their lookbook and set to work on the order. You then have to be careful that you double up on styles, not get to many similar trend pieces. It is hard and stressful work, but also a lot of fun.

What is your criteria for choosing brands to stock?
There is only piece of set criteria and that is that the label has to be Australian or New Zealand, everything else is open. My own criteria of course includes a certain standard of craftsmanship and fabric. Everything else changes with each designer.

What is your favourite piece in-store at the moment? Why?
Oh it’s like choosing a favourite child – it can’t be done! I  could write a very very long list but a few would include the Carly Hunter waves dress because it so elegant and chic and I love the Amore & Sorvete one piece swimsuit, so adorable and playful, perfect for a day on the beach.

What is your favourite trend this season?
It would have to be the printed pants. There is a great pair from the designer Ellison that steers away from the usual floral print and has gone for a printed graphic – with colours such as turquoise and purple – so gorgeous. I am also loving the printed ‘Sportif Pant’ by Dress Up. A beautiful pair of cotton high waisted pants – I feel like I have walked off the set of Mad Men when I wear them!

What is your summer must-have?
Oh it would have to be The Eleventh Hour Pleated shorts. Such an elegant short that elongates your legs and look cute over bathers or teamed with a super heel at night.

Where do you see Olive and Finn in 5 years?
I hope to see it evolve and to be doing exactly what it is doing today; bringing local fashion and up and coming designers to Australian consumers. Of course I can see it moving forward into a million different avenues and possibilities, I suppose you will just have to keep watching!

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