Just months after the launch of her debut collection, Olivia Cashmore is already fielding high praise. With longevity at the core of the designer’s ethos, it is a praise that is likely to stick.
On the day that I speak with Olivia Cashmore, she’s celebrating the one-month anniversary of the launch of her eponymous label. It’s a proud moment for the 27-year-old designer, though one that began with a decent dose of inner turmoil. “There are obviously so many brands out there and so much product, it was quite conflicting to even decide to start something. I thought, ‘What could I bring to the table that [is] going to be new and exciting?’ I don’t want to make things that people don’t want to buy.”
A quick scroll of her website proves she had nothing to worry about. Her debut collection, consisting of two curated capsules – a trio of slouchy leisurewear staples and a selection of elegantly tailored made-to-order statement pieces – has already started selling out. “Of course, it’s a big relief. Especially as a creative, you’re putting your ideas out there and people will either like them or they won’t. People have been supportive so far, which is amazing. That’s exciting. It’s just the start, really.”
Her thoughtful approach to fashion is unsurprising considering she got her start in the industry at friend Maggie Hewitt’s sustainable label Maggie Marilyn. “She hired me as soon as I graduated. [It] was really cool to work alongside my friend, but also to help her build her dream and her business. I worked there for four years. We were quite a small team, getting a taste of everything and doing every kind of job. It was incredible to get that experience.”
But during last year’s lockdown, Cashmore found the dream of having her own fashion label bubbling to the surface. “I was actually going to take three months off to have a bit of a break from the fashion industry. But I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I just started playing with designs and having fun – it literally stemmed from that. It felt like the right time to give it a go.”
The collection is a reflection of Cashmore’s personal style, deftly dancing between the laid-back and the elevated, the casual masculine and refined feminine – always cool, considered, approachable. “I love to mix casual and formal, colour and print with something more tailored and classic. The casual side of my style is the menswear; a slightly baggy and tomboyish fit. Then the tailored more formal pieces reveal my shape and add that touch of femininity that I like.”
Parts of the collection read like a love letter to the designer’s childhood, imbued with nostalgic nods. The ‘Again and Again’ jumper with its contrasted fleece and water-resistant panelling is a loving homage to her dad’s old Kathmandu fleece. “There is this special, homely feeling wearing something of your dad’s when you’re just hanging around at home. It’s a comforting thing to wear something from someone you love. It’s like wearing a part of them in a funny kind of way. I love the idea of having pieces that my kids can wear again.”
This idea of creating clothing with longevity is a pillar of Cashmore’s ethos – not just clothing that lasts, but that gets better with age. “A big part is the construction and how the garment is made, what kinds of fabrics you’re using to stand the test of time.
“It’s also about changing people’s mindsets. I don’t like the idea of buying something you wear to one event and get rid of. It’s seeing the value in something and cherishing it so then your daughter might want to borrow it from you. Your clothing is such a huge part of your personality and who you are,” she says, pointing to her decision to use her parents as models in the campaign.
“The world tells you that you can’t age, you can’t get wrinkles, but that’s actually the beautiful part of life. I used my parents to show that our clothes have the ability to be cherished and looked after – and still look good – in 20, 30 years time.
Photography by Rachel Soh