We first met Lucy & Ollie a few weeks ago, when artist and inventor Jack Stiling showed us around his workspace at Loft 6D. Eager to spend more time in the company of the inspirational duo behind Ottowin and to learn more about their footwear design and making venture, we returned to this buzzing creative hub on a rainy Saturday afternoon and found Lucy & Ollie passionately absorbed in their work.
Putting down the tools of their craft for a while, they opened up about how they met and how they joined their creative forces and technical mastery in order to found a footwear company that champions a sustainable and thoughtful alternative to the world of fast-fashion. Using a wide array of traditional shoe making methods and techniques, Lucy & Ollie design and make high-end contemporary unisex footwear of a fine aesthetic quality, featuring sculptural contours, vivid colours and joyful geometries, and what we love about their handmade shoes is the subtle way of expressing a high energy, urban style while making a beautiful statement against wastefulness. Leaving Loft 6D behind, we journeyed to Lucy & Ollie home, where we chatted about their life in the city, their passion for art and their amazing cycling adventures.
For those who don’t know you, who are Lucy and Oliver behind Ottowin Footwear?
We are a couple who live in Bristol, we started making shoes together about 3 years ago. Ollie studied Fine Art and Lucy has been making & designing footwear for the last 13 years from college & university to working in Industry.
What are your most vivid childhood memories?
Ollie: My most vivid childhood memory is standing on the front of my grandparents’ skis and holding their hands as we went down a slope, the feeling and the scenery stick out.
Lucy: I remember the first house me and my twin brother ever lived at was a converted boat house. We used to go wading through the mud flats out between the house and the sea, looking back it seems quite dangerous, we used to get up to our chests in it ‒ luckily neither of us ever got stuck.
How did you two meet?
We met whilst working for a fashion retailer. We bonded over a shared dislike for the quick turn over of products & the inherent waste in the industry. As well as all the usual stuff like we fell in love at first sight despite of Ollie’s terrible hair cut, we made each other laugh, and liked each other’s stories and going on bike rides with picnics together, all of which inevitably involved wine.
Ottowin… How did you come up with the name for your business?
The name is a fairly unceremonious conjunction of Lucy’s nickname for Ollie ‒ “Otto” ‒ and Ollie’s nickname for Lucy ‒ “Winnie”: together they make Ottowin. It's that simple.
What are your strengths as a team of creatives?
We enjoy problem solving and having fun with our work. We balance it so we don't end up repeating monotonous tasks but find a flow in our method of working. We bounce ideas off each other and the design process for a new style is like a call an answer choir with one person taking the lead and the other responding until we find something we’re both excited about.
Do you think the younger generation today still has an appreciation for traditional shoemaking and investing in quality over quantity?
There is a growing number of people who are regaining a love for locally and sustainably made products. There will always be people who put their trust in quality over quantity. We see a large movement in both directions ‒ away from the high street to more individual brands and ideals and at the same time a lot of people are moving towards lower quality fast fashion.
How many pairs of shoes should a person own and why?
That is a tough question, depending on where that person lives, what their job is and how many different hobbies they have you may need anywhere between three and twenty pairs of shoes. But for someone who lives in the city and doesn't do climbing, road running or ballet three pairs should be enough: Ottowin sandals, Ottowin shoes and a pair of Ottowin boots for winter.
How many pairs of shoes do you own?
We have a massive appreciation for footwear of all styles and types, I don’t know how many we have but I’d say it's a surprisingly small amount for footwear makers.
What is the most frequent question that people ask about your shoes?
“No really, you make them ?” ‒ in response to us telling them that every pair is made by myself and Lucy in our Bristol studio.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career as an artisan shoemaker?
Never give up, start small and blossom. Don't be put off by specialist equipment; you can start off with very few tools and work up from what you've got.
Tell us a little about “The Loft” ‒ how does this creative space enhance your relationship with your craft and with the local community?
Loft 6D is an amazing place to work. Started by Ollie and an amazing group of mates 4 years ago when they left University, they created a work space so they could continue to have studios and produce artworks. The space is a melting pot of makers and creatives, from illustrators, web developers, jewellery makers, animators, seamstresses and us footwear makers. There is a lot of encouragement and motivation, it's a great place to work and the people and the space really supported us when starting Ottowin.
What does a typical day look like for you?
We wake up to Shaun Keaveny on the radio alarm, feed our cat, have breakfast and a coffee then cycle to our studio. We start with a team meeting in which we go over our daily plan, have a chat with other people in the studio and then crack on. Ollie starts with Admin and then joins Lucy in producing whatever project or pair is the most pressing.
What subject appears most often in your conversations?
Haha ‒ probably food, we love to cook and try out new things… and we’re nearly always hungry.
Running your own business can be stressful at times. What do you do to relax?
Gardening and walking and cycling and doing DIY at our house, making food and having meals with our friends.
How does the perfect Saturday morning look like for you?
Waking up slowly, having a luxurious breakfast in pyjamas then getting out into the garden or driving out to the countryside for a walk.
You are both passionate cyclists. What was your most memorable cycling adventure?
The most memorable cycle we’ve done so far was 2 months starting with a cycle around north Spain and up into the Pyrenees then following the coast into France, along a series of 5 Natural Parks: the Camargue, Alpilles, Luberon, Verdon and finally the Prepares d’Azur, before dropping down into Italy following the coast to Cinque Terre before heading inland and up to do a lap around Lake Maggiore, dipping into Switzerland for breakfast before flying home. We can't wait to do it again maybe this summer.
What does the future hold for Ottowin Footwear?
A busy summer! We have a lot of plans and a lot of making to do.
Can you recommend us:
A song: Hotel Beds by Elder Island. Amazing, we saw them at Thekla in Jan and they smashed it!!
A book: we're listening together to the audio book of Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts at the moment.
A film: We are really looking forward to Isle of Dogs by Wes Anderson which is coming out very soon, very exciting.
Thank you, both for your time and company and for the wonderful insight into your personal and creative realms.