You probably recognise international model, Oliver Cheshire, from walking some of the most famous catwalks in the world and seeing his chiselled jawline and enviable physique at the forefront of some impressive campaigns. Taking a small, temporary, step back from the runway, Oliver is switching roles and adding another string to his fashion bow. He is now Creative Director of his own line with his debut menswear brand, aptly named CHE´.
London-born Cheshire has had numerous successful collaborations with well-known brands, but now is the time to take the creative reigns into his own hands, along with some help of his business partner/friend, Toby Watkins, and Saville Row alumni Mehm Ali. Together they have produced a stylish and retro-inspired collection of men’s swim shorts and resort-wear. It may appear like a relatively small debut collection, however, having spoken with Oliver himself, there are poignant reasons for this. It is clear he wants to create high quality clothing in order to encourage his customers to invest in the brand, but also learn that buying one decent pair of swim shorts will last you much longer than a pair of cheap throwaways. You would hope that if someone of his generation can encourage fellow models and admirers to shop this way, it will incur a positive chain reaction on the environment.
One of the stand out elements of CHE´ is that Oliver is pushing to create products that are as sustainable as possible – not an easy feat for a first-time designer. Cheshire and his team have spent time researching eco yarns and fabrics, such as ECONYL, to be used throughout the collection, as well as using biodegradable PVA in the packaging. ECONYL is fortunately becoming a popular replacement for virgin nylon, and an ideal material for swimwear. It is produced from plastic waste, like discarded fishing nets and plastic bottles, which are then broken down and spun into ECONYL. They have also chosen to use ECOVERO which is classified as a type of viscose, but with much less environmental impact. The collection consists of three styles of swim shorts; the Sunseeker, Baller and Runner, which all conveniently go well with the Valbonne shirt. Each of the shorts and the cuban-collared shirt are available in a variety of pleasing colours. The designs have been inspired by Oliver’s own style with a nod to cosmopolitan street style, as well as looking to the past via vintage photographs. The clean tailored lines and striped waistbands give the shorts their retro feel, as does the 70s boxy fit of the Valbonne shirt and Baller shorts. You can definitely visualise the modern man sporting a pair on an Instagram-worthy beach, as well as chilling by the poolside with his mates. It is clearly a well thought out collection and with the added sustainable technology, we look forward to seeing what the future holds for CHE´. Menswear Style had an exclusive chat with Oliver Cheshire, before the London launch last night, to pick his brain a bit more about this new brand.
Congratulations on Ché! Has creating your own brand always been a personal goal?
“Menswear was a passion of mine way before my modelling career began and designing is something I always wanted to move into, eventually. I was cutting up clothes as a young kid and customising everything from my jeans to my school uniform. I have been lucky enough to represent some of the most talented designers in the world in front of the lens but I have always dreamt of driving the creative process from the other side. I have had opportunities in the past to collaborate on a brand but I was determined to build a business from the ground up and have full control of the direction. Luckily, the opportunity presented itself with a good friend of mine who is an experienced clothing manufacturer, so we partnered in the business and I have taken the reigns creatively. We develop the product right here in London which is an incredibly rewarding process.”
Your first collection mainly revolves around men’s swimwear. How did you decide to concentrate on this area and will swimwear remain the main focus of Ché?
“We discussed the current menswear market in depth before deciding to focus on swimwear. We wanted to select a category and specialise to begin with because we figured that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing properly. In hindsight, this was a bit of a masterstroke because it allowed us to spend so much more time on a smaller range rather than than rushing through and trying to produce an enormous range. I suppose this set-up is a bit of a nod towards the slow fashion movement where one piece of well designed, well made clothing will outlive five pieces of cheap clothing.”
There is quite a retro vibe to the designs, and apparently you have taken inspiration from vintage photographs. What eras have you been inspired by and is this reflected in your own style too?
“When we first sat down I had printed out these incredible images of street-side basketball courts in LA from the late 70s and this was something that continued to inspire the range. The West Coast around that time seemed to have so much energy and the street style was so effortless. We wanted to re-imagine that sporty elegance in a modern way by using rich luxurious colours, refining the cut and using a mixture of sustainable materials.”
What is your favourite piece in the collection?
“The Baller swim short is one of my favourite pieces and it was inspired by the vintage basketball photographs I loved.”
In your new role as Creative Director, what have you found as your biggest challenge?
“I suppose I had to come to terms with the fact that designing isn’t just a light bulb moment. You have to follow each idea through with a lot of care and attention and be patient with it. There was a lot of trial and error in our London studio because we were selecting three short shapes so they had to be just right. On the technical side of the things, we enlisted the help of designer Mehm Ali who has Savile Row training and an unbelievable eye for detail when it comes to these things.”
You have used ECONYL in the manufacturing process. Was sustainability always in your mind when first creating Ché?
“We have really tried to make the collection sustainable where possible. It was important to the team to find a way of making the product whilst minimising our impact on the environment. The shell fabric of the swimwear is made using ECONYL yarn which is an innovative nylon yarn produced entirely from recovered fishnets and other nylon waste recovered from oceans and landfills. Even the mesh lining in the swim shorts is made from recycled PET bottles. We are trying to stop ourselves from wasting resources wherever possible.”
You’ve had such a successful career in modelling, do you feel a certain amount of pressure with this more personal project?
“Short answer, yes! It is a completely different kind of pressure because modelling is so fast paced and the results are instant with the click of a camera. This process has been much slower; it is so hands on and requires a lot of drive and energy. As a team, we are making a real long term commitment to the Ché customer. We want to produce original product with a high level of craftsmanship and sustainability, season after season.”
What can men expect from Ché in the next couple of years?
“We will certainly look to increase the range of colours on offer and we already have some exciting new swimwear and shirting concepts in the pipeline. I expect prints will also become more important to us as a business and we may naturally shift into other product categories once we are ready to make that move.”