oliver bonas retains retail individuality after twenty one years

Oliver Bonas retains retail individuality after twenty one years

Shop spotlight on Oliver Bonas (Affiliate Link). This independent British fashion and homeware brand comes of age this year when they celebrate 21 years in business. They sell a delightful mix of carefully curated items ranging from clothing to jewellery, handbags, body care and bath products, home accessories and furniture. It’s undoubtedly a great place to pick up unique gifts. With many items now designed in-house, they strive to keep individuality and desirability at the heart of their offering. It all started with one shop on the Fulham Road in 1993, and now this empire has 43 stores nationwide, a sizeable online presence and employs over 450 people. I caught up with the owner, Olly Tress, to find out more about Oliver Bonas.

oliver bonas new bath and body products

New Bath and Bodycare Products (Picture Affiliate Link)

Meet The Oliver Bonas Owner

Olly’s love affair with design started at an early age. He loved flicking through his parent’s glossy coffee table books on culture, art and photography. He also travelled extensively as a child and later, while at Durham University (studying Anthropology), he’d often visit family in Hong Kong. Friends would ask him to pick up watches or handbags, and soon the word spread around campus, and he found himself inundated with requests. So that’s pretty much how the empire started, with Olly sourcing merchandise in Hong Kong that you couldn’t buy in the UK.

oliver bonas owner oliver tress

Olly Tress (Picture Affiliate Link)

After leaving university, he opened up his first shop on Fulham Road in London in 1993. He says, “I needed to give my tiny business a platform for growth, and that seemed like the best opportunity. I decided on the Fulham area because my parents lived nearby so I felt that I should stick with what I know.” He admits that he had no retail experience and not much money, he tells me, “I had a second hand till and a group of friends help to paint the walls in return for a pint!”  He named the shop after himself and used his girlfriend’s surname – they’re no longer together but have remained friends!

oliver bonas shop interior

Shop Interior (Picture Affiliate Link)

Today, Olly is still very involved in the business but does have a strong team in place. He has a hand in buying products but takes more of a back seat. He tells me, “the favourite part of my job is seeing products come to fruition and being well received by customers.” When asked which piece of advice he’d pass on to those wanting to start their own retail business, he told me, “do it but think strategically from the word go. Ask yourself all the classic questions – what is my USP, is it scalable, what skills do I have to execute the plan. Use modern technology and social media, build a platform designed for growth and then be flexible when it doesn’t all go to plan!”

The Oliver Bonas Retail Empire

If we fast forward 21 years, there are now 43 shops in the UK with the majority dotted around London. The flagship store can be found at High Street Kensington, which is the largest outlet. Olly tells me that growth is not slowing down; he has plans for more premises in the UK and possibly some overseas, so watch this space!

oliver bonas shop exterior

Shop Exterior (Picture Affiliate Link)

What you’ll find in-store is an eclectic mix of fashion, jewellery, handbags, home accessories and furniture. Olly’s vision is not about chasing trends or mimicking the catwalk, and it’s about accessible design with an individual twist. His collection is carefully curated, and today the majority of pieces are designed in-house like the now-classic Velvet Tub Chair which comes in 14 colours.

oliver bonas velvet tub chair

Velvet Tub Chair (Picture Affiliate Link)

Olly tells me, “the diversity of unique designs across different categories gives a rich and surprising experience at accessible pricing. We think of ourselves as being on a design journey which our customers are invited to share with us. Our products do change over time, especially as we bring the design in house and can express ourselves. Newness excites us and gets our greatest satisfaction when our customers share that.” So, it’s no surprise that his typical customer is aged 30, and she’s a design-savvy and stylish woman who is confident to express her personality rather than being a fashion follower.

oliver bonas shop window

Shop Window (Picture Affiliate Link)

As for the future of retail, he says, “convenience and experience are the words that best sum up my feelings – which is why transport hubs are important. All shopping destinations have to be relevant. If they do not deliver on convenience or a great experience (and product!) people will go somewhere else, and the internet and social media have exaggerated this.”

View The Oliver Bonas Online Collection

If you don’t have a shop nearby, you can always shop online. The website launched in 1998 and represents around 10% of their sales. To give you an idea of what’s available to purchase from the website, the team recommends the following five items.

oliver bonas unique gifts

J’adore Jumper by Poem £39.50, Handmade Nerine Statement Flower Necklace £69, Digital Floral Cushion £28, Navy Lucella Slouch Tote £45 and Colour Pop Copper Matt Bamboo Bowl £14 (Picture Affiliate Link)

Buy Oliver Bonas Products

You can either purchase the products online at the Oliver Bonas Website (Affiliate Link). If you want to pop into one of their lovely shops, you will see a locations list of stores on the website. As the shops vary in size, they may not house every item so you can telephone in advance to check before your visit. If you’re after a unique gift for a friend or member of your family, they offer a next day delivery option online. Happy shopping!

Author: Homegirl London. Photographs: Oliver Bonas. Thanks: Olly Tress and Sara Morris. Disclosure: This feature includes the following affiliate partner link – Oliver Bonas Ltd (if you click through from my website and purchase items from the affiliates I will earn a small commission).