Exclusive interview with Olivia Burton designers

14/03/2014

Exclusive interview with Lesa Bennett and Jemma Fennings of Olivia Burton
In a recent interview to Harper's Bazaar Karl Lagerfeld confessed that, in his opinion, British girls make some of the best fashion designers. I think he is right. Not only British girls keep leaving their significant mark on the history of ready-to-wear, they are pretty good at creating striking accessories, too. 

Take Lesa Bennett and Jemma Fennings, the talented duo behind Olivia Burton, a British-born brand of beautiful vintage inspired classic watches that I've already confessed my love to a while ago. Their watches seemed to have appeared from nowhere - one day as I was browsing the web I stumbled upon the Woodland butterfly. It looked different, beautiful and like nothing else I've seen before. I haven't heard of the name either. 

Following my curiosity and google I've not only discovered a new brand to adore, but also got a chance to interview its founders and share their story with you today.

WHO: Jemma Fennings and Lesa Bennett, designers behind Olivia Burton, a British brand of wrist watched the girls set in 2011 and turned into a mega-successful enterprise by 2013.

WHAT: Unique, vintage-inspired and feminine watches that will become your favourite accessory.

WHERE: Find your treasure at ASOS, The Dressing RoomHarvey Nichols, Topshop, NellyAnthropologie and Modcloth and follow Olivia Burton via Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.

WHY: A new British classic, these watches are affordable and tell a story about the girl who wears them.

LOOK FOR: Big dial in mink and rose gold, Hummingbird, Woodland butterfly or one of the sweet colour crush watches.

Exclusive interview with Lesa Bennett and Jemma Fennings of Olivia Burton
What is the most exciting thing about fashion?
Lesa: A cliche maybe, but fashion allows us to express ourselves and our personality through our clothes and accessories. Working in the fashion industry is incredibly exciting and fast paced, no two days are ever the same.

Are there any particular fashion designers you admire?
Jemma: I love mixing high street with designer and confess having a soft spot for Mulberry. My biggest splurge to date was a leopard print metallic Bayswater. It spent the first 6 months of its life in a dust bag because it was just too beautiful to use - now it rarely stays off my arm.

Lesa: I have a weakness for shoes. My shoe designer of the moment would be Lucy Choi, the niece of Jimmy Choo. Her shoes are beautifully designed and comfortable - critical when you're darting around London from one appointment to the next.

What is your signature style?
Jemma: I think it's fair to say that I am generally in skinny jeans (Topshop or J Brand), a statement jacket and lots of accessories. I love experimenting with bright colours and am a total magpie when it comes to sparkle and sequins.

Lesa: I have a more formal style and love tapered trousers and structured jackets. Whistles and Reiss have some great pieces that I team up with high street tops from Zara and Topshop. I also love accessorising and stacking up bracelets with my Olivia Burton watches.

How did you get into the fashion industry? Where did it all begin?
Jemma: We both had a love of all things vintage and fashion from a very early age, and knew that fashion was something we felt passionate about pursuing as a career. After A levels we both went on to study fashion at a degree level. After graduating, we took on entry level positions within buying and started at the bottom as buying admin assistants.

It's a tough ladder to climb and requires dedication and a lot of hard work and resilience to progress. Between us we racked up time working for the likes of Selfridges and ASOS.

And when and how did you come up with an idea of your own brand?
Lesa: We've always been passional about accessories and we always struggled to find a brand of watches that we wanted to wear. We felt that there was a very genuine gap in the market for vintage inspired watched, so we set about to create our own.

Can you describe Olivia Burton in three words?
Jemma: It's very hard to describe the brand in three words, but I would say that it's contemporary, vintage and fun

What is the secret to a good partnership?
Jemma: Communication, respect and appreciation. I think it's fair that it's key to any good relationship whether work related or not. Whilst similar in many ways, we are wildly different in others and bring a different set of skills and ideas to the table. We don't always agree on everything - who does - but the success lies in listening and respecting those differences and harnessing them to drive the brand onwards.

What is it about watches you find most fascinating?
Lesa: Wrist watches as we know them today were first worn y women over 100 years ago and men used to mock them for wearing something that they thought was a "fad". Now they are the most popular accessory in the world.

Where or whom do you turn to for inspiration?
Lesa: We take inspiration from nature, catwalk and vintage. We love the city life and being in London, but being in the countryside is equally as important to us and I think this shows in our collection.

You once said that Olivia Burton, Lesa's great aunt, was one of your inspirations, both in her style and approach to life... Has she ever given you a piece of advice you've remembered forever?
Lesa: She is still with us now, flouncing around in vintage Mary Quant, Chanel handbags and adorning her wrists with her favourite Olivia Burton watch (which happens to be the midi dial in black and gold). She has a huge appetite for life and a great sense of humour. 

She's offered a lot of advice over the years, but one of her famous lines is "it's better to be overdressed than underdressed" and she is a firm believer that one should never save your favourite clothes and accessories for "best" - after all, every day is a special one.

How do you feel about creative collaborations? And who would be your ideal choice?
Jemma: Collaborations are fantastic when you get the right fit. They used to be very rare and the fan-fare surrounding them huge, but they've become a little diluted now. We prefer to work collaboratively with our stockists offering our key players exclusives, which gives them an edge and something to shout about.

Where do you see the brand in five years?
Lesa: the demand for Olivia Burton has bee overwhelming and it spans worldwide. In the next five years time we would like to see it develop into an international brand.

Photo source: c/o Olivia Burton

29 comments:

  1. They have lovely timepieces. I agree, with a partnership you definitely need those key elements to make it work: "communication, respect, and appreciation."

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  2. Lovely interview:) Karl is right...British girls do make amazing designers. I love the vintage-inspired pieces the line has.

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  3. Wow, I loved reading this! I had no idea Olivia Burton really exists, she sounds fabulous! Eeep. I was lucky enough to meet Jemma and she was just lovely, she told me the story about the pocket watches being worn on the first - so interesting.

    Tara xo

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  4. Great questions, great answer.
    amupyourlifestyle.blogspot.de

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  5. Great interview!!! I really did not know about them, nor the brand...
    xoxo

    Novelstyle

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  6. as always i love your thorough interviews! happy weekend, love.

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  7. nice watch !! ;-))

    i invite to me too

    www.live-style20.blogspot.com

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  8. Wow they do make A-mazing watches and smart to do so as yup it one of the most if not the most popular accessorie. And better to be overdressed then underdressed..priceless

    Allie of ALLIE NYC
    allienyc.com

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  9. I'm not familiar with this brand but their watches are sure pretty! Fantastic interview!

    Rowena @ rolala loves

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  10. OOh, I've never heard of this brand before but will have to check them out. I love watches as a statement piece and the black leather band with rose gold face in the first picture is so pretty. Great interview! : )

    xox,
    anna-lamode.blogspot.com

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  11. Lovely post and great review. Beautiful pieces. The first pic is wonderful. :)
    Fashion Happenss

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  12. Two fabulous women & designers. Thank you for introducing them to me Natalia. I will definitely take a look at their watches. They truly love what they do.
    http://www.averysweetblog.com/

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  13. Nice post. Have a great weekend.
    http://www.fashiondenis.com

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  14. Such a great Q+A! I've seen their watches around and always thought them SO cute! I've recently gotten back into wrist watches...the urge for them always comes back around during the spring/summer! Such an inspirational duo of ladies!! Thanks for sharing dear Natalia! Enjoy your weekend!!

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  15. great!
    xoxo
    http://www.milanotime.net

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  16. Hi Natalia, their watches are really beautiful and classy, now that I saw ur previous post I remember them. You did, again, such a great job with the interview. They looks very nice and also down to earth. I wish them much success. Have a wonderful weekend dear, kisses! xo

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  17. Thanks for sharing this interview! Very interesting in getting to hear a point of view from someone "who's started from the bottom". So inspiring!

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  18. Excellent interview and thanks for introducing us to the brand. Wishing you a wonderful weekend hun!

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  19. Wonderful interview, Natalia! Thank you for the introduction.

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  20. The more you write about Olivia Burton designs, Natalia, the more I fall in love with their collections. Hearing from the two brilliant women behind the line only increased my love for the beautiful pieces - and gave me a new admiration for the designers, too. I am not a fan of Karl Lagerfeld, but I think in the case of British women, he may be onto something.
    xox,
    Cee

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  21. It was so nice to read this interview, especially I am in love with OB watches! It's really inspiring to read that the real Olivia Burton says we shouldn't save anything for the best, and everyday is special- I'm going to do that from now on!!

    I need more OB watches in my collection... Only have one at the moment!

    Ayesha xxx

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