I had the chance to catch up with Gemma Shiel, creator and head designer of cult London label Lazy Oaf in the lead up to the launch of our first sunglasses collection together. Shop the collection here
PL: The Lazy Oaf brand started off as men’s T-Shirt label you hand printed in your dad’s garage back in 2001, can you tell us a bit about what they looked like?
GS: Not sure if I have any snaps left on hand. But cleaning out my house recently I found lots of originals from that time. I created the reversible sweatshirt and would screen print on the fluffy inside of sweatshirts so you could spill your dinner down one side and simply turn it inside out to wear the next day. The ultimate in Oafwear. At that time there was a lot of illustrations of cassette tapes, boom boxes and skulls!
PL: What was the pivotal moment when you took Lazy Oaf from being a handmade label sold at the local market to something more commercial?
GS: I think it was getting my first store which I shared with two other designers, it was called Our Shop and it was in Soho. I soon noticed how well it was doing and people actually wanted to part with cold hard cash for something I had created. I also started to do a small street wear trade show on my own and having stores from Paris and across Europe wanting a to buy! I guess then I knew I couldn't carry on doing this by hand, I am too messy. So I had to start looking at ways to get professional.
PL: What’s the story behind the name ‘Lazy Oaf’?
GS: Lazy Oaf was a very quick decision. Probably took me 5 minutes to come up with. I was getting some screens made to print with and needed to have a brand name quickly. I didn’t know I would still be using it 15 years later, whoops! It sums up my style of drawing and what my general sensibilities are towards life.
PL: What’s the best part about running your own business?
GS: The best part… I love seeing people wear the stuff! That is so exciting and still blows my mind. Aside from that it’s getting to do loads of fun projects like working with Miss Poppy Lissiman of course! I quite like travelling too.
PL: The Lazy Oaf brand spans across so many different styles for both men and women; when I dropped by your London studio you were in the middle of designing some socks. Is there anything in particular you enjoy designing the most? What do you least look forward to working on creatively?
GS: I love designing collab collections because I get to play with someone else’s toys for a bit! It’s always a little more challenging and I really like trying to break the rules on it a little bit! My least favourite thing to design for me is probably jewellery. I am not good at 3D.
PL: You have collaborated with a wide selection of artists and brands such as DC Comics and Looney Tunes, who would your dream collab be with?
GS: I would love to work with more real people rather than 2d characters I think. But my dream collab would probably be with Mickey Mouse though. I am an insane fan.
PL: What movie do you know all the words to?
GS: I would have to say Grease, most likely! We’re gonna ruuuuuuule the school. Totally dig Rizzo.
PL: If you were reincarnated a dog, what breed would you be?
GS: Well I have a mini schnauzer called Bob so I feel obliged to say that so we could still be friends.
PL: What’s the strangest thing you have in your house?
GS: I have a 5ft tall Native American Duplo man called Frank. Just one of the strange things in my house.
PL: Do you collect anything? If so, what?
GS: I collect Mickey Mouse stuff, it’s a problem!
PL: What clips never fails to make you burst out laughing?
GS: I am the queen of gifs