For our latest issue of AMBITION, we had the pleasure of speaking to Oliver Proudlock. The designer and entrepreneur speaks on the importance of having a great team around him, giving his all on the various projects and businesses he takes on and shedding his reality TV personality skin. Perhaps most fittingly, though, the new dad shares his next ambition: to make his kid proud.
Where does your ambition come from?
Since a young kid, I’ve been very passionate and there’s always been something that I’ve been super addicted to and I put everything into it. That kind of comes from my mum and dad. They were very different but both super very ambitious becoming entrepreneurs and doing their own thing right from the get go. My mum is super creative which is where I get my creative side from. She was a photographer then moved into design. My dad, on the flip, is was an entrepreneur as well but he was in the food business and had restaurants. I guess growing up and seeing the two of them being their own boss always gave me that ambition to follow my dreams. My mum always used to tell me, “whatever you do in life, don’t just love it, you have to live it.” There are many things we can love doing, but in order to really succeed and push the boundaries, I think we have to live it. It has to be 24/7. So much of the person we are I am now is down to nurture. For me Fromfrom day dot, it’s down to the madre and the padre my parents. as well as my siblings.
How important has growing your personal brand over the years been to the success of your various entrepreneurial ventures?
There is so much crossover in everything I do, from my brand Serge DeNimes to Quatre Vin, because these are the things that are very authentic and real to me. They are an extension of me. You know, fashion is something I live everyday within my own personal brand. When it comes to wine, that’s something I’ve taken on from my Dad with him being in F&B. It’s something we used to bond over. In terms of my personal brand, it’s about setting things up that are really true and organic and authentic to me. Same goes for working with other brands and collaborating in terms of building my personal brand as well. It’s always within fashion, travel, fitness or lifestyle, as these are the things that I live everyday. I just try to be true to myself and hope people come along for the ride.
Having gained popularity on reality television, did you ever feel a need or pressure to prove yourself when that chapter of your life ended?
I think I was lucky in a sense that I always had a direction. I had my brand Serge DeNimes before I started the show. The show came about and was an amazing opportunity for me to try something different and go into the unknown a little bit. I think that’s the exciting thing about life, sometimes you have to take risks. You regret the things you don’t do in life more than the things you do. One, it would be fun doing the show with my friends and trying something different, and at the same time I thought it could be a good opportunity for my brand that I’d set up 6 months prior to me joining the show. But there was always that struggle of being pigeonholed where people just see you as the guy from reality television, which I was a little bit scared about. It did take me a long period of time for people to see me in different sort of lights by showcasing the things that I’m truly passionate about outside of the show, and collaborating with brands or like-minded creatives. But it did take time. It’s been 5 years now since I’ve left the show, and people still occasionally recognise me from the show, but I’m so grateful for that chapter and I don’t regret it at all. It did open up loads of doors. At the same time, some doors that I really wanted to open maybe were closing, but by building relationships and people understanding me as an individual, I’ve managed to open them up again. I guess in that sense I like a challenge. You’ve just got to grind and work hard for it.
With so many varying pursuits in your life, how do you effectively manage your time?
Time management is probably the hardest thing. I feel like all of us, to a certain extent, struggle with this. We live in a world now that’s so fast paced. I remember my mum back in the day would just take on too many projects - I think a lot of creatives are guilty of this. If you have a creative mind it’s constantly going and buzzing and you get inspired by somethingnew things daily. It’s hard to stick with one thing. But I always used to say to my mum, why don’t you just focus on the photography and you could nail that. My mum was so talented doing so many different things, and I definitely feel like she could have done them all if she had the right team around her, whereas she tried to do them all by herself. That is something that I’ve learnt. I think now I’m able to do what I do because I have a great team. Without my team, there’s no way I’d be able to manage my time and juggle these various things. This is the one thing I love about the creative industry - it’s so collaborative. It’s about working within a team, and I’m very lucky to have created an amazing team over the past few years. These are the guys that give me the opportunity to work on quite a few things. Without a team, we’re nothing!
You’ve launched Quatre Vin alongside your wife, Emma Lou. Any tips for those who are partners in both life and in business?
When it comes to Quatre Vin, it was four friends coming together launching a brand that we’re all so passionate about. We’ve known each other for about ten years now, and it was just so organic. It wasn’t forced, and I think that’s a really important thing. If you’re looking to go into business with your partner, don’t go out trying to push something. I think it has to happen naturally. Emma and I are very lucky in that over the years we’ve worked a lot together. We push each other in a good way. We’re not competitive and we both like to see each other shine. I think sometimes couples in the same business can develop a little bit of rivalry. I think the important thing is to support one another and obviously if it’s a project you’re doing together, it can be tricky if you don’t have the same vision. It can get a little tricky because you’ll start butting heads. Emma and I have a very similar vision and a similar eye, so we’re lucky in that sense. If we weren’t in it for the same reasons or didn’t have the same vision, I don’t think we would have gone ahead. It’s important to know from the get-go that you’re both on the same path. I think as well when you go into business, it’s important that everyone has their lane. Obviously you’ll cross over lanes, but each person has to bring something different. I think that’s why it works so well with QV, with myself, Emma and our two partners Elliot and Paula, we all have our different areas of expertise coming together. It’s the perfect match so far, touch wood, and it feels like such a blessing.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career? How did you overcome it and what did you learn from it?
The hardest part about setting up Serge DeNimes was trying to find a factory that I could work with. You put so much trust into the manufacturing with deadlines and dates, and then you start working with wholesale accounts. I remember about three years in when we mainly focused on clothing, I was working with a factory who I put a lot of faith into and I was travelling there three times a year. We just started doing wholesale and I remember we had just opened an account with ASOS. They had just made a huge order, our biggest order to date at the time. We put all the money in, set up and put this order in, paid the factory and had a very strict delivery date. Something happened at the factory though, and none of the products got produced in time. ASOS ended up cutting the order because we missed the delivery date. Trying to manage that and sort cash flow at a point where everything was super, super tight was a huge moment in Serge. The fact that we managed to come together and pull through it was a learning experience. I learnt to always have a backup and not put all your eggs in one basket. You just never know what could happen.
You’ve always been known to stand out from the crowd with your unique sense of style. Do you approach your business ventures with the same attitude, striving to be different from competitors?
There are so many brands out there. It’s about finding your USP and your niche and standing out from the crowd. It’s a funny one because my style is obviously a little more out there than most, and sometimes when we do our design process for Serge, I really want to go out there and push the boundaries. But at the same time, we’ve also got to look out for those people who want to be a little more under the radar. So what we do now is we’ll have statement pieces in each collection that are proper standout pieces. At the same time we have to have those nice clean pieces like the silver signets because not everyone wants to pop. But I don’t think it’s something that’s always on my mind. In terms of my personal style as well, I don’t dress to stand out. I dress more to feel comfortable, and that’s probably something I got from my mum. She has a really crazy style, and she always just taught me to be myself and wear whatever makes me feel comfortable. But I do think it’s important when you have your brand to have a clear identity.
If you had a microphone and the whole world was listening, what would you say?
That’s deep, that’s a big one! If we could just treat everyone with respect and spread love and positive vibes, that’s the most important thing. I think that’s what I would say.
Where will Oliver Proudlock’s ambition take him next?
I guess that’s the exciting thing about life, you never know what’s around the corner. For me, my main focus is to just be the best dad I can be, and be extremely present, loving and supportive to my wife. I just want to make my kid proud. It gives me so much more purpose in life, but also the decisions that I make from both a personal and work perspective, I want them to be something my kid would be proud of and be like, `That's my freakin’ dad!” You know what I mean?