Interview With Gemma Shiel | Lazy Oaf

The creative label Lazy Oaf was started back in 2001 by Gemma Shiel. From it’s humble Market stall beginnings Lazy Oaf has grown and grown, with its Soho store opening in 2004 plus over 150 stockists worldwide. Gemma is a big inspiration to many people so it is an absolute pleasure to welcome her to BlogAndBuySale.


 Hello Gemma! 

So you started back in 2001 selling screen printed t-shirts from a market stall. What was your background before this point?

I studied textile design at nottingham trent, I didn’t really understand what that was exactly, but i ended up screen printing t shirts for all my friends with my illustrations on. There was a light bulb moment that perhaps their might be more people in the world that might like them! So, after uni I set up a screen printing bench (a door on legs) in my dad’s garage. I also worked 4 days a week as a sales assistant and then a graphic designer to enable me to eat during the first 4 years of business!

Other than selling on your market stall, what sort of paths would you recommend using to get your products out there? Do you think it is easier these days to sell your goods with the likes of etsy / big cartel?

In my day there was no such things as these sites. I think they are an amazing way to get your product and brand out there, a great start without to much effort. You can test your product and see if people like what you have to offer.  Starting your own site is a little more expensive and time consuming but is worth it in the end, if there is a market for your product.

Another idea is to contact a few stores that you think are an appropriate stockist for your creations, maybe not as a sales call but in an advisory capacity. You can ask them what they think, what they see  it retailing for and how they would consider merchandising this.

If you could give people out there 3 pieces of advise about selling goods online what would they be?  

1. visuals and information on the product are very important, make your product look exciting, desirable and expensive and have all the necessary boring information easily accessible such as returns policy, delivery etc. Time is of the essence online, you don’t want to make looking for information on your site difficult for you customer or you will lose them.

2.  Personality/identity: It is important to make an impact. Unlike the big stores you can have an individual personality, you can do this with graphics and writing which can back your product. This does not mean you have to be ‘zany’ or ‘out there’ there just has to be a consistent depth to it.

3.Know who your customer is: if you know who your customer is, this will help with working out a reasonable selling price and where you can reach these people with marketing.

What were your early inspirations?

My early inspirations were revolved around drawing food, 80’s references, old magazines, video games, trips to Japan, watching too much tv and dogs in bow ties. Nothing much has changed!

What is the future for Lazy Oaf? Worldwide domination? :D

The future. I think in this current climate it is scary We are 10 this year which makes me feel really old. I would like to have world domination but then I also think I would just like to make sandwiches for people and watch Columbo. (RIP ..this was written before Peter Falk sadly passed away)

Have you sold anything that you now regret?

I would like to say no, but there are always things that make me cringe a little, but then I might love them next week.

We at Blogandbuysale are ridiculous hoarders, are you a collector of anything in particular?

I am also a ridiculous hoarder, i collect the bits of tat that no one buys at the car boot.  I collect mickey mouse stuff and have a kitchen full of it. I also collect small china figurines that just sit there and develop a thick layer of dust all over them and now resemble strange furry creatures, who has time to dust anymore!

Blogandbuysale are massive fans of the Lazy Oaf designs, do you still get involved with the creative side? or do you have a creative team to help you out now?

I pretty much do most of the creative stuff for lazy oaf, my pal, John Slade helps out with our menswear. But that is it!

Your designs are really fun, have you always drawn in this style? Or has it developed into this over time and do you think it could ever drastically change?

I think that over the 10 years our style has changed and adapted to stay relevant and to keep looking fresh, although not drastically. It is important to me to remain whimsical, bright, pop and colourful. I think if it had stayed the same I would have died of boredom.

Tell us what the day in the life of Gemma is like.

I get up, shower, have breakfast and watch lorraine kelly for too long.

decide what sock and shoe combination is best.

Go to work by bike, tube or scab a lift.

have a cup of tea, read emails …. then the day starts.

today I am:

designing a range for the tate,

quality controlling our latest delivery of t shirts.

Planning an artist t shirt range.

Checking in with all my suppliers…..and probably getting cranky.

approving latest samples.

Planning our exhibition stands for upcoming shows.

Then it is 6ish and I will either go to the pub and meet friends, drink cider and we will talk about the last episode of the game of thrones.

Or eat dinner and watch sopranos.

Thank you very much for your time Gemma and it has been a pleasure speaking to you!

Be sure to go and have a browse through the wonderful Lazy Oaf online shop.