Every week, we shine a spotlight on the best small brands we think are worth shouting about. We love our great British high street, but there are so many fantastic independent brands out there making clothes, accessories, homeware and more from a place of passion and love and we need to support them – now more than ever.
From fashion and beauty to homeware, accessories and food, we bring you the best small businesses you need on your radar. This week, we chat with Chloe Torpey, founder and owner of clothing brand, Olive and Frank.
How did Olive and Frank come to life?
I always knew I wanted to work for myself and growing up I loved fashion. As a teenager I would scour charity shops in search of vintage clothes I could sell on eBay and that sparked a realisation that I could earn a living outside of a traditional 9-5.
After completing an art foundation course I did several internships in the fashion industry but I wasn’t happy in London. I moved back home and worked temp jobs, saving every spare penny towards creating a business of my own.
Eventually I started a side project selling jewellery made by other independent designers. I would sell at craft fairs and later set up a website. I then started selling some pieces of clothing but I really wanted to create my own designs. With no formal design training the most simple way to start was with T-shirts and from there, over time the brand has grown and evolved to become the Olive and Frank you know today.
What three words sum up Olive and Frank?
Uplifting, genuine and caring.
Who is Olive and Frank for?
For those who want feel-good, super-quality clothing that reflects who they are from an independent brand that genuinely cares.
How do you go about designing and making your collections?
My design inspiration comes from a variety of places – vintage finds, art, street style, film – but my biggest inspiration is our customer. I talk to our customers daily and their feedback helps inform design choices from new styles to fabric and colour. I’m not trained in design and so this has been a challenge and means I work in a fairly intuitive, non-traditional way! I usually collaborate with a designer to translate an idea from my head to a format my factory can understand. From there it’s a process of sampling and tweaking to get each item just right.
What’s a typical day for you?
Running a brand means spinning lots of plates, I can be reviewing samples one day, on a shoot another day and working through admin the next day. I’m involved in every area of the brand but enjoy the challenge and that every day is so different.
What’s the best thing about running your own business? And the most challenging?
The joy of building a brand and the buzz of taking a product from my mind to reality never gets old. I get a deep sense of fulfilment from creating something from nothing. The nature of a growing business means there is always a challenge of some kind – I think for me the biggest challenge is my own self doubt, something I battle with regularly.
The best moment so far?
There have been lots of highs – it’s always really exciting to spot my designs on a celebrity or featured on TV, however my biggest achievement has been employing my sister. We lost our mum in April 2020 and in September 2020 I was able to hire my sister to work with me. She helps with every area of the brand and all major decisions; I know mum would be so proud of what we’ve created together.
Which piece is your favourite?
It’s hard to choose a favourite but the heart embroidered tracksuit is probably the item I personally wear most. It’s become a bit of a hero product and has certainly contributed to the growth of the brand over the last couple of years.
Anything exciting in the pipeline?
We are doing a couple of IRL events this summer including Happy Place Festival, it’s always so good to meet customers face to face and something I’ve missed the past couple of years. I’m also working on a couple of new product lines, I can’t say too much because we’re only just sampling but I’m super excited about the new styles we have coming.