Timothy Oulton – Be Original
Today’s episode is a celebration.
The transformation of London Real studios marked the transformation of our show. It also coincided with the birth of the Academy.
It was my ambition to sit down with designer Timothy Oulton ever since we chose his work to become the new image of London Real.
The large flowing Union flags, the smooth chest of drawers made of metal from wartime Spitfires, and of course Winston the dog – all these are the inspiration and craftsmanship of Timothy Oulton.
When we set out to change things up, we wanted to capture a classic British gentleman’s club, with a bit Shoreditch cool added into the mix.
Not an easy combination, as Timothy says during our conversation.
How we managed to pull this of is as much about Timothy’s journey in finding his voice as a designer and entrepreneur, as it is the journey of London Real.
Timothy spent years working in antiques. His apprenticeship gave him a grounding in classic furniture, and the heritage of European styles.
You can see the influence in the Art Deco shapes and features of our set, and the trademark typewriters.
But eventually Timothy was dissatisfied, both creatively and as a businessman, with the stuffiness of the antique world.
Like any marketplace set in its ways, antique dealerships have their dogmas, and Timothy saw new possibilities.
He knew he could forge a different creative reality, but he also knew that there was a new kind of buyer out there.
People wanted the heritage and the classic atmosphere, but the world had moved on. Eighteenth century antiques didn’t speak to a new generation of elite buyers.
So Timothy took a risk and started his own range, fusing the traditions he knew so well, with a modern sense of practicality and seductive cool.
Again here you find what has become a bit of a theme on London Real – the intersection of creative innovation and daring business acumen.
Timothy moved his manufacturing to China – a controversial move for anyone whose brand is so intimately tied up with British culture.
But it wasn’t cost savings, it was about getting the right kind of craftmanship.
Anyone stuck with a business decision, will learn a lot from Timothy here, and his willingness not be wrapped up in dogma.
Timothy’s instincts for style are second to none. The “ten thousand hours” spent in the UK antiques industry give him a knowledge of beauty and craft that are just part of his DNA now.
But he understands branding very well. From the moment I stepped into his showroom in London’s Harrods, I knew this was a company that understood the buyer.
But there’s something important about Timothy’s work, that maybe he doesn’t quite realise.
The subtext of our set, and his brand in general, is the cultural heritage of Britain. Each piece of furniture and decor is imbued with history.
To take these resonances of British history and turn them into a brand that communicates with everybody of all ages, is a fantastic achievement both artistically and economically.
The best brands make a statement, and they appeal to everyone without losing the depth of their meaning.
That is Timothy Oulton’s achievement, and I hope you enjoy this amazing conversation.
[09:10] Timothy Oulton changed London Real.
[10:22] Set design. Male fraternity house to English gentlemen’s club meet Shoreditch cool.
[12:30] This is your lucky day.
[13:13] Designing furniture. Making antiques interesting.
[14:42] We don’t see it as furnitures, we see it as beyond that.
[16:00] Creating an experience. Every 10 years we need a seismic shift in your business model and your way of thinking.
[17:00] Timothy Oulton opening a restaurant in Hong Kong.
[18:00] I want people walking away from the store thinking, flipping hell, that was fucking brilliant.
[18:22] Food and Beverage with the complete furniture experience.
[20:30] The why of Timothy Oulton.
[20:45] We only want to have 50 stores.
[21:50] Passion from the staff.
[22:50] Based in China. We call it Chinglish.
[23:30] It’s basically a bunch of British guys who parachuted in.
[24:00] 4000 people and it’s all done by hand. It’s not cheaper in China.
[25:35] Mentality of getting things done.
[26:50] Big milestones in Timothy Oulton.
[28:00] Big yellow submarines.
[28:40] What’s the feeling of walking into a Timothy Oulton store?
[29:00] Eyes first heart second.
[30:00] Fake furniture.
[30:20] Convincing 20 year old to work in antiques. Living with Benedictine monastery.
[33:00] Clearing houses to reproduction of furniture.
[34:00] Keeping the niche and scaling the business.
[35:00] Canton Fair, biggest fair in the world.
[36:10] Brand, product and service.
[36:30] Britain as a great export. London Real is hosted by a Yank.
[37:30] Britishness in a international company because of British product guys.
[38:50] I’m always amazed by NY. I always think, I must do better.
[39:00] The attention to detail.
[40:00] California. LA.
[41:00] They are inquisitive.
[41:20] The Bowler hat symbol.
[42:30] What is the point of hosting people if not to draw them in and give them an experience.
[44:00] Pubs were a great institution
[44:10] New York has better communities than London.
[45:20] Public house tradition.
[47:30] London vs New York.
[49:10] Scaling the business.
[50:30] Copies of product. Fakes. Design rights.
[51:10] We copy from antiques.
[51:40] Going to flea markets.
[52:10] What is your favourite piece?
[54:00] A design that’s going to sell huge, you put it out there and nothing.
[55:10] Weeds kill the roses. Removing features until you get the basics.
[56:00] Walking away from your own product.
[56:30] Advice to a young person.
[57:10] Having a reputation for being honest. Integrity is a value. Lick them of kick them.
[1:01:10] Watching Conor McGregor UFC ringside with Ido Portal
[1:02:00] Well organised event that lasted 13 seconds.
[1:03:00] Anything can happen.
[1:04:10] What are they thinking?
[1:05:00] Taking punishments as a fighter is similar to running a business.
[1:06:00] Business failure vs personal failure
[1:06:45] Success secrets?
[1:08:08] Advice to the 20 year old.
[1:09:30] Learning from the monks.
[1:10:40] London Real set.