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Olly Shinder
Photography Wolfgang Tillmans

‘It’s a feral, animalistic energy’: Olly Shinder on his funked-up workwear

We talk to the rising designer about his tender and testosterone-fuelled fashion, fetish websites, and Peppa Pig

It’s almost impossible to read about Olly Shinder’s entrance into fashion without some reference being made to the year he worked at Snickers – which I originally thought was a chocolate bar, but also happens to be a Swedish brand that makes practical clothing for construction workers. Where most students in their final year at Central Saint Martins jostle for internships at highfalutin Parisian fashion houses, Shinder dedicated 12 months to making hi-vis trousers, GORE-TEX jackets, and tool belts – which is to say: he’s not interested in the clout and status that collects around expensive brands. For Shinder, there is as much value in a flame-retardant coverall as there is in a painstakingly-crafted ball gown, even if he counts Martin Margiela and Jean Paul Gaultier as initial inspirations. 

The majority of our conversation is pocked with responses like “I guess” and “I don’t know” and “I’m not really sure”, which says less about Shinder’s self-confidence, more about the pressures the industry places on emerging designers to know exactly who they are and what they’re selling. “I’m still very young and developing,” he says. “I’m excited to see where it goes in the next few years.” And yet the clarity of his graduate collection made its way into Dover Street Market in Paris with a Wolfgang Tillmans-shot lookbook less than six months after its debut. Silk camo trousers; delicately-boned utilitarian hot pants; crepe military shirts; and origamied shell jackets – Shinder’s work might be huffing with testosterone, but it’s tempered by touch. “I really wanted to bring out a feral, animalistic energy in people,” he says. 

Below, we catch up with the designer on his funked-up menswear, how people misinterpret his work, and Peppa Pig. 

Hey Olly! How would you introduce people to your work? Who do you design for?

Olly Shinder: Who do I design for? Myself, somehow. Although, I don’t really buy from designer brands. I occasionally do buy something nice but normally I go for functional products from workwear shops and army surplus stores. I guess I’m inspired by art, music, fashion, and my friends. That sounds really vague and broad but I take inspiration from everyday things, conversations with friends, people I see on the street and on public transport, the seasons, nature… it really is endless! I’d say the look is very workwear oriented at the moment. There’s a strong sense of utility but then I guess there is also a sense of softness to it. There’s a very thoughtful, considered colour palette. The details are very thought through. The cuts, even though they are not necessarily crazy, are also very considered.

How and why did you first get into fashion?  

Olly Shinder: My first real interest was when I was about 13 or 14. I think my earliest gateway was the cotton Margiela book. I remember going into the Margiela store in Mayfair and seeing this fabric-covered book and thinking it was the most amazing thing ever. And then there was the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the Barbican in 2014. That really had a strong impact on me, too. I’m at a point where I take a lot of sportswear, workwear, and military inspirations and I put them into a fashion, art context. However, I’m still young and developing, so I’m excited to see where it goes in the next few years. 

Can you guide us through some of the inspirations behind the latest collection? 

Olly Shinder: Honestly, the latest collection was a total mix of personal references that I liked. There were some superheroes. There were some army dogs and sniffer dogs in uniforms. There were a lot of animal references, actually. I really felt like wanting to bring out this kind of feral, animalistic energy in people. I’m not sure how well it was achieved but there we go!

What do you think people are likely to misunderstand about your work?

Olly Shinder: I think the main misunderstanding has been around the details and the careful, subversive use of fabrics that are often missed in photos. It’s a totally different experience when people see the clothes in person and feel them up close. But in 2022, where people are sharing content over the internet and hyping digital fashion, it seems that the love for craft is often missed. People don’t have the time and the patience to really zoom into those photos and understand what those details are. So I am really looking forward to the clothes hitting stores in February – so that people can really understand what these clothes are trying to do.  

Which piece(s) are really totemic of the collection as a whole? 

Olly Shinder: I think it’s a balance. The outerwear pieces are very strong, as are the trousers, and the coordinating sets – the camo shirt and the camo trousers, the silk shirt and the silk trousers, the gore jacket and the gore trousers. I think there’s something really uniform-like about it all.

When did you first become aware of the power of fashion? Did you have a freakum outfit when you were growing up?

Olly Shinder: I guess, yeah. Growing up in London in 2013 and 2014, I saw all of this stuff happening, and all these designers, and wild people! Suddenly I was aware of this London fashion thing that was going on and it seemed to draw me in and move me. I remember there was this Rick Owens party at Selfridges, I didn’t go but I saw coverage of it on the internet and I remember thinking, ‘Oh my god who are these people, why are they dressed so amazing, what are these guys' stories? There is something really exciting going on here.’

Would you design Rishi Sunak’s next TV look for £10,000? 

Olly Shinder: No.

What’s your weirdest internet obsession?

Olly Shinder: I don’t really know if I have one. I sometimes go down weird research holes, looking on fetish websites and strange, cult websites trying to find specific imagery. 

The most embarrassing picture/screenshot on your camera roll? 

Olly Shinder: Embarrassing? I guess anything I don’t like I just delete. I’m not really ashamed of any photographs that I have. 

The most recent note on your Notes app? 

Olly Shinder: My Christmas film list: Peppa Pig, Edward Scissorhands, The Kingdom of Exodus.

Your weirdest comfort food?

Olly Shinder: Dominos? I don’t think that’s even that weird. It’s my one comfort food that I sometimes go to when I’m feeling really hungover. It seems to hit a special spot within me, but I do find everything about it really gross… somehow I’m still drawn to it. 

The worst advice you’ve ever been given?

Olly Shinder: I tend to forget bad things. I really don’t know, I mean life is just a moving thing. I usually like to listen to a lot of advice from different people and then make up my own mind.

Who’s your nemesis?

Olly Shinder: I don’t think I could publicly write a name here. I wouldn’t say I have one singular nemesis. I’ve definitely fallen out with people in the past, but it would be very ungracious to mention them here. 

What’s your star sign and are you typical of that sign?

Olly Shinder: I’m a Taurus. And very typical of that sign. I love food and I take great care of myself whenever I need it. If I feel remotely tired I will just take the liberty of a 12-hour sleep. If I am tired after the working week, I will unapologetically spend the whole weekend in bed. I listen to my body.

Pettiest thing you’ve ever done?

Olly Shinder: I can’t think of one.

What Dazed headline would you be? Let predictive text do the work.

Olly Shinder: The Government Artist Confronting Women and Children.

Who would be in your nightmare blunt rotation? And your dream blunt rotation?

Olly Shinder: WTF is a blunt rotation? I don’t really smoke much, I couldn’t really tell. 

What would your ghost outfit be?

 Olly Shinder: I guess a sheet of material that was vaguely translucent so it made me look like a hologram? 

What do you reckon you’re most likely to get cancelled for?

Olly Shinder: OMG, well, I don’t know. I haven't really got to that point yet. I try to keep all my morals as good as I can.

 Title of your biography? 

 Olly Shinder: Don’t know.

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