We speak to Oi Polloi’s Steve Sanderson, Nigel Lawson and photographer Alex Hulsey about their new Reebok collaboration and campaign lookbook.
Oi Polloi launched its new collaboration with Reebok this week, a reissue of Reebok’s long-lost NPC UK II, with an exhibition and party that took place around the corner from its newest London store. The exhibition showcased its work with photographer Alex Hulsey, who worked on “Catch Me Daddy,” the UK film from 2014. We caught up with Nigel, Steve and Alex to find out more about the project, the store and more.
What’s the exhibition about?
Steve: We did a shoot for Reebok. The idea was to do a shoot based on [the] working class lad going fly fishing. We just took that idea and tried to make it look as natural and as believable as possible without looking really styled. So [we chose] Alex because we’d seen the book of still photography from “Catch Me Daddy.” Alex had shot most of the stuff in there and it had a really natural, atmospheric and a bit filmic feel. That was kinda the idea, to shoot something and make it like stills from a film.
How did you get in touch with Oi Polloi?
Alex: The [store] got in touch with me, but I’d known [its] name from spending time in Manchester. We shot the film there. I worked with the director Daniel Wolfe, who loves Oi Polloi. We’ve sourced clothes for shoots in the past [from the store] before and as a style reference for pretty much everything he does. As soon as they reached out I was like, “Yeah, sounds good!”
What was your brief for the shoot?
Alex: When we first started talking about concept, they wanted cinematic and slightly narrative. So we gave the character a journey, starting at his house and going all the way to fishing.
Nigel: One of the connections on that was probably the Bolton Manchester. Oi Polloi is a Manchester shop, Reebok is a Bolton brand and it’s a sportswear brand. The connection was the canals between Manchester and Bolton. That’s where the fly fishing comes in.
Steve: This project was intentionally done because Bolton is just down the road from Manchester.
Have you done a collaboration with Reebok like a new pair of trainers?
Nigel: Yeah, the Oi Polloi Reebook NPC UK II. It was a pair of trainers they used to make in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, then adidas bought Reebok and the knowledge of some of the rarer workout shoes didn’t seem to be there. I just put forward a pair of my old sneakers — trainers, sorry — and said, “Look, can you make us those shoes because they’re about as good as I can remember.” This is basically a Newport Classic but it’s got the side design, both aspects of the Reebok logo on the side. Most workout shoes don’t have any shapes on the side, and by shapes I mean stripes or a swoosh.
Have you noticed a difference in the customer you’re seeing between London and Manchester?
Nigel: The overview of the [London] customer seems to be quite similar to the customer in Manchester. The things that sell well in the Manchester store — Engineered Garments and Beams — are very, very important to us across the business. They’ve done exceedingly well. In the London store, Arpenteur, Lacoste, Nike. It’s kinda a mixed bag.
Steve: It might be because we’re new to it, but we err toward a slightly older customer [in London] in some ways. I think that’s the kind of person that works in and around the area, the creative agencies.
Nigel: There’s industry types, guys in-the-know who’ve got a lot of money to spend. They’re the ones who are first coming in, because they’ve bought from us online. Whereas the younger hype lads, in Manchester, we do have guys who are into sneaker culture but it’s a real small amount. There’re the guys who are maybe mods, casuals — you know, 17-year-old lads — they’re the ones who are filled in the young developments of the Manchester punter.
In London, the younger guy hasn’t found us. Maybe because of the sort of products we sell. We don’t sell t-shirts with big brands on them; we’re not skate. In Manchester, people totally understand the culture. In London, we’re selling really good, popular sort of brands, but overall, what’s doing well in Manchester is doing well in London.
Steve: We’re a bit more classic in that sport element. It’s less hype and more product. Quite clean and more grown up.
Nigel: You’ve got Golden Bear, Champion, Sassafrass, Anatomica, OrSlow, Reebook… We’ve never been streetwear.
Do you plan to do any more collaborations with Reebok?
Nigel: According to the sales today of the new shoe, yeah! [laughs] Simple, really.
Shop the new Oi Polloi Reebok NPC UK II here.