Designer Spotlight : Olive Cooper

At House of Coco we love to support British designers and so we are loving Olive Cooper right now. Its a brand which is inspired by the city of London because the collection was born while co-founder Olivia Martyn (aka Olive) was herself working in the city. Olivia was motivated to help professional women bridge together their work and social life with their handbag.

Olivia developed a range of handbags, which can be subtly detached to become a larger and smaller bag. Genius, right?
Taking your large workbag out with you in the evening is a thing of the past. We spent some time with her to find out more…

When did you launch the brand and what was the inspiration behind it?

We officially ‘launched’ our Autumn/Winter Collection in September. My inspiration for the product started when I was a graduate working in Central London. London is such a fast-paced city. You always have to keep up with the speed and energy, or you’re at risk of going unnoticed or missing out. Everyone is running back and forth, and diving from desk to dinner at the speed of light. I used to run from the office at ridiculous o’clock to go for coffee with friends, for dinner or a drink. Yet, while I was sipping a glass of wine, or twirling my fork around spaghetti, I always had work in the back of my mind. Those targets I had to meet tomorrow, or that email I needed to send. Well, of course I did; my laptop was touching my feet under the table, in my workbag.

It was this realisation that inspired me to develop a product that would enable me to separates work and play, physically and mentally. When I would go out after work, I wanted to be able to switch off, at least to some extent. An aching shoulder reminding me that my laptop and office essentials are over my shoulder, just didn’t help. I could never have a really good time. I also was fed up turning down spontaneous social events just because I’d be lugging a trunk with me. Olive Cooper reminds you how easy it is to be professional and sociable, flexible and spontaneous. We’re starting with handbags.

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What’s your background?

My background is a little atypical.

I’ve always loved selling, particularly fashion. During my early teens, I often travelled to London’s top charity shops to find designer and vintage gems I predicted I could sell for a profit on eBay. I would refresh them and style them, which was the best bit. Valentino Scarfs, Burberry jumpers, Stella McCartney dresses. You name it, I found it hiding. I then took a little detour and graduated from the University of Birmingham with a BSc in Psychology in 2013 (don’t ask – it was a ‘what the hell do I do with my life’ decision). I was then one of 40 out of approximately 1000 applications, to join The New Entrepreneurs Foundation programme, which got me back on the right parth. I joined with a view to learn the core skills necessary to start a business. Alongside this programme, I also worked full time in London as a Marketing Manager. Marketing is another strong passion of mine – I love the idea of creating and building relationships with customers, and I constantly put my customers at the heart of everything I do. I really think that is key to a successful business. It was during my time within the New Entrepreneurs Foundation and working within Marketing, that I started to develop Olive Cooper.
How many people are involved in the label and whats the process behind launching a new piece?

There’s really just two of us right now, other than some talented people working with us intermittently. There’s me, and there’s my business partner, Jeffrey Cooper. Jeffrey is the previous founder of Stirling Cooper – a large and successful fashion house in the 1970’s. His expertise in manufacturing has been vital in enabling us to fast-track our progress.

The process when launching a new piece is fairly simple. Once the design is ready and materials have been sourced (which is the hardest and most time consuming part) we take it to our manufactures to review. They often advise us that the materials we have chosen may not suit the structure, or that it’s difficult or easy to make. Once everything is finalised, they can start working on our samples. The first sample often doesn’t work out how we’d expect, so changes to the design may happen. Once the piece is ready, it’s just a matter of getting it out there and getting feedback, making changes and doing it all over again.

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If we were to buy just ONE product from you for Christmas, which one would it be?

Definitely the Kingly – in nubuck or suede (or in our limited edition silver leather coming soon). It’s a show-stopper, and our best seller.

What do you tend to do for Christmas?

Personally, I love London. I spend most of Christmas in the city admiring the lights and festivity with friends and family. Oh, and I also love gifting. I’m sure plenty of close ones will be getting a new handbag this year…

In regards to Olive Cooper – we’re definitely not forgetting Christmas. All products bought between now and Christmas will include an Olive Cooper Christmas cracker with a gift inside.

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Tell us one fact about you that people wouldn’t know?

I used to play football. I was also quite good at it… (if you meet me this may seem more shocking).

2015 is just around the corner, where do you plan on taking the brand?

We have a lot of exciting things happening in 2015. However, our main aim is to create more brand awareness and get it in front of our customers. We have great stockists lined up and even better designs on the way! The rest is a secret…

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To date, what has been the highlight since launching?

The highlight was actually just before we launched. We had a landing page and social channels ready but hadn’t started selling. I then got a Facebook message from a young lady who said she spotted me (or one of our bags on me, rather), on the Victoria Line in London, and she spent the entire journey working out where the bag was from. After catching a glimpse of our hanging Olive Cooper label, she looked us up. She was curious as to why someone on the train had a bag, and yet online it said we were coming soon. Little did she know that it was me! And yes, she did buy the bag!

I was so excited; mainly because we hadn’t revealed them yet, and our assumptions that the bags were brilliant, fantastic, and gorgeous, hadn’t really been proven. However, that proved it all and now, all I need to do is remember that day to keep me moving forward.

Where can people find out more? (website/social media) 

Visit us at www.olivecooper.com, tweet me @olivecooperldn and like me at www.facebook.com/olivecooperldn

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