Oliver Spencer decided back in 2002 that contemporary menswear was missing something: him. The clothes he wanted to wear didn't exist yet, or that is how he saw the state of affairs and so he took it upon himself to create his own wardrobe in the hopes that other men would catch on. They did and just three weeks ago, on a small stretch of Queen Street real estate, Spencer opened up his first Canadian doors and the results speak for themselves.
Spencer remarked, "we didn't think we would sell so well in the beginning." "It has only been three weeks and I am very pleased." It doesn't surprise me that there has been such positive reception for Oliver Spencer, a brand well known for its modern attempts at the neo-traditionalist garb of today's man.
The emphasis is - after all - in the quality of fabrication, with the breadth of his collections produced in England - a true homegrown designer with global aspirations. In fact, it seems there is a lot of hype surrounding the UK brand, since just this past weekend the newly opened store experienced a break in. It was an episode where thieves left their "shopping spree" with a selection of jackets. He makes a joke about their "taste level," but I sense some pride in his tone too, since it seems that even criminals want a piece of Spencer. Please do not take this as permission to ransack his shop.
Entering Oliver Spencer, some guests mentioned that it "feels like the perfect apartment," which highlights the cozy, homey quality of the store. Everything seems familiar, but where you might be designing your plans for a breakfast nook, Spencer is here to sell.
The famed Donkey Jacket greets you as your fingers graze the first few racks - it is a tailored jacket that boasts elbow patches and shoulder panels in waxed cotton, which is paired with melton wool. It comes in a variety of palettes, including black or navy, but my favourite is a checked wool which adds a bit of whimsy to the working man's staple.
For those wondering if Spencer is planning to bring his Monocle collaborations to Toronto, you'll need to wait a bit before anything is finalized. Spencer says, "It is something I would like to bring, but it is still new and we're figuring things out."
A vast selection of dapper shoes coat a back wall, including Spencer's partnership with Quoddy ($395) and some of his own design ($550). Again, his shoes are made in England, but upon inspection they feel sturdy and look timeless. You'll find a brogue boot and some less fanciful-yet-equally-stylish solid leather boots and shoes to suit most tastes.
As for shirting, I think Oliver Spencer is a good example of the kind of designer who makes clothes that you'd want to return to. If not return to, buy 10 of, since the checks resemble core essentials that you'll wear quite regularly.
A red check shirt ($195) is the perfect pop of colour to wear under a field jacket, or even a sharp blazer. For the quality and versatility you'll find, the price points are good. Spencer noted that prices will typically be at the $195 mark, but could go up to $210 - the idea is, this isn't a fast fashion acquisition and you will wear it to death.
Another great find is a waxed cotton duffle coat ($560), which adds a boost of interest to the ubiquitous waxed cotton jackets seen in stores. Or for the ultimate in luxury, a 3/4 length tailored wool jacket will set you back a cool $750, but you'll be so impressed by the quality of tailoring and fabric, that any doubt will simply come through as a whisper.
For those gents who might see Oliver Spencer as a challenge, don't. Spencer says he is offering "luxury, but with flexibility," which is another way of saying he does not wish to discriminate against the less discerning. Consider this an education of sorts, with your end grade being a new wardrobe of looks that will - easily - see heavy rotation. Like I said earlier, you'll wear these pieces to death and come crawling back for more.
Welcome, Oliver! Speaking as a Toronto man, I think it is encouraging to know that we're worthy of some new menswear. My only request is that you keep it coming. Oh, and before I forget, please bring us your navy quilted Signalman's jacket with plaid lining and crushed leather buttons. I need it.
Photos by Dennis Marciniak