3 Questions for Oliver Clark

Oliver Clark is on the fast track.

“It’s Pierre Hardy meet Marc Jacobs,” Clark said of his year-old namesake brand, which offers handmade brogues and utility boots for men and women. Cut, sewn and assembled by cobblers at Clark’s factory in India, the collections retail for $300 to $500 and have gained a following at Bird stores in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Gimmeshoes.com.

“I grew up with quality being an important thing,” said Clark, 24. “I was trying to have the quality of the boot you can ride a horse in, but with a contemporary look.”

Clark, who founded canvas sneaker company Zuriick at age 17, worked on Marc Jacobs’ specialty accessories line before launching his own collection. Now he’s debuting his first collaboration: three women’s styles for Ruffian’s spring ’13 runway show in New York next month. 

“I always wanted to collaborate,” said Clark. The styles, which include a platform wedge and cut-out lace-up boot, are a departure from the designer’s decidedly masculine aesthetic.

“I’m slowly trying to transition into being confident enough to design super-specific directional women’s shoes,” he said, adding that women’s product makes up 75 percent of his overall business.

The Oliver Clark for Ruffian collaboration was produced at Clark’s factory in India and will be sold through both brands’ showrooms.

Here, the designer discusses his first collaboration, working with handmade product and the importance of social media.

1. How did you approach your first collaboration?
OC:
I designed what I would put in my own collection had I designed specific women’s styles. It was a collaborative effort, but I first came to them with what I wanted to see. Ruffian has a similar aesthetic, and they’re open to [mine] and tweaked what I brought them. So far, we feel like it fits really well.

2. What are the greatest challenges that come with a handmade collection?
OC:
One of the biggest problems is finding enough people that have the skill set. I can hand-make my product, but I can’t produce it [at this level]. All the best leather is Italian, and I get that shipped to India to a factory that works only for me. It’s a really good setup. It makes it easier for me to do small runs, but harder to expand my brand. I just started working with Archetype Showroom, and that has expanded my business a lot. I’ll have to [eventually] find a new space, add staff and spend more time in India.

3. How has social media impacted your brand?
OC:
There’s been a big direct sell-through. I posted one of my moto boots on Instagram, and I sold four or five pairs in the following hours. People really enjoy a little bit of contact with someone. If they write a question on Facebook and I respond, people react well. That drives them to purchase more and feel invested [in the brand].