Lazy Oaf Success Story: From London Garage to Cult Favourite

Lazy Oaf Success Story: From London Garage to Cult Favourite

Cathy Carpetta

Cathy Carpetta

April 19, 2024

Forget mass-produced boring streetwear. Lazy Oaf, a UK indie brand known for its vibrant colours and playful graphics, has been building a cult following since 2001. 

They started small, hand-printing tees in a London garage, but their commitment to authenticity and community has propelled them to global fame.

In this article, we explore how they captured the hearts (and wardrobes) of fashion icons like Gigi Hadid! 

1. More than just streetwear: What makes Lazy Oaf unique?

1.1 Lazy’s Oaf’s humble beginnings to streetwear leader

Lazy Oaf was founded in 2001 by Gemma Shiel in her father's garage in North London. 

Shiel started by hand printing t-shirts, sold at a stall in Spitalfields Market, East London. 

Despite the challenges of the pre-e-commerce era, the brand flourished by engaging directly with its audience through live events and store collaborations. 

“It was built through who knew about you through events, stores you stocked in, parties, sub cultural goings ons and doing stuff that we can’t even comprehend anymore,” Shiel says for Forbes.

The brand grew organically without significant outside funding and achieved a $5.3 million annual revenue, according to Rocket Reach

1.2 Lazy Oaf’s strong brand identity built on authenticity and sustainability

Lazy Oaf isn't your typical streetwear brand. They reject monotonous trends, championing individuality. 

Their signature style? Playful illustrations, vibrant colours, and a healthy dose of humour – a perfect fit for a young generation seeking self-expression through fashion.

For instance, their popular "G.E.M." collection, inspired by the 90s cartoon aesthetics, sold out within hours of release.

Sustainability has been a core value for Lazy Oaf long before it became a buzzword.

They prioritise quality and environmental responsibility, ensuring their garments are built to last, not destined for landfills. 

The design and development process takes roughly a year, resulting in roughly 400 unique styles annually – a stark contrast to fast-fashion giants churning out double that in a week.  

To minimise waste, Lazy Oaf produces limited quantities (150-250 pieces) per style.

Once collections are ready, they often shoot campaigns in-house before launching them in-store, on their app, and online through weekly or bi-weekly drops to keep things fresh.

As a "Direct2Oaf" brand, you won't find their clothing elsewhere (more on this later!).

Since 2021, 50% of their clothing has gone up to size 24 or 3XL, with plans to expand size inclusivity across all styles in the coming years.

2. From Tumblr to 1M followers on Instagram: Lazy Oaf's social media rise

2.1 Cultivating a devoted community

Lazy Oaf quickly gained a cult following, becoming a favourite among early fashion influencers and celebrities like Lava La Rue and Gigi Hadid. 

The brand built its strong foundation through a combination of in-real-life community events and a strategic online presence that flourished on platforms like Tumblr. 

Fast forward to today, and they're still killing it on social media with over a million Instagram followers. 

Their feed features a mix of real people from their community with UGC, brand value, their collaborations and their new collection! 

Lazy Oaf keeps the conversation going with followers, hosting Q&A sessions with designers and sneak peeks of upcoming collections.

To connect with fans, Lazy Oaf launched their media called Oaf World, presenting behind-the-scenes content like staff stories! 

The brand's social media platforms have become a hub for fans to share their own Lazy Oaf-inspired outfits, further cementing the community feeling.

2.2 Boosting engagement with limited edition and collaboration 

This dedication to community shines through in their 20th Birthday Collection which celebrates the brand's 20 years of existence.

The collection is a trip down memory lane for long-time Oaf fans. It features beloved prints and designs from the archives, reimagined for a modern audience. 

The campaign features a diverse cast of Gen Z and young Millennial creatives – artists, students, and fans from all over the globe. 

These are the real faces of Lazy Oaf, a testament to the brand's commitment to inclusivity and its power to unite people through fashion. It's a celebration of the Oaf community.

Lazy Oaf 20th birthday collection, source: Dazed

Additionally, Lazy Oaf frequently collaborates with artists and other brands to keep their collections fresh and exciting. 

They've fostered strong partnerships with Dr. Martens, Crocs, Lush, and Vans!  

Their recent Disney collab, featuring iconic characters with a Lazy Oaf twist, attracted both Disney fans and streetwear enthusiasts, expanding their reach even further.

3. Lazy Oaf’s retail evolution: Redefining their omnichannel shopping experience

3.1 Retailer partnership and London flagship store

In 2003, Lazy Oaf debuted at Margin London, a prestigious trade show, that launched them onto the global stage. This success led to over 150 stockists worldwide, including iconic boutiques like Colette in Paris and renowned department stores like Selfridges.

Source: Margin London

In 2008, they opened their first flagship store in London, creating a seamless omnichannel experience.

The London flagship isn't just a store, it's an extension of the Lazy Oaf experience. 

Hosting art installations and live music events that embody the brand's playful spirit, these stores go beyond sales, fostering customer loyalty by creating lasting memories.

3.2 Shifting to a “Direct2Oaf” for more brand control

Recognising the growing importance of direct customer interaction and in reaction to Covid 19, Lazy Oaf shifted from a wholesale model to a D2Oaf strategy. 

This strategic decision allowed them to sell directly through their website and stores, scaling back from hundreds of global stockists. The D2Oaf approach offers greater control over brand identity and customer experience.

Customers can check stock availability in-store via the app, pick up and return in stores. It ensures a frustration-free shopping journey across online and offline platforms.

With so many fashion brands out there, Lazy Oaf proves that being true to yourself and building a strong community really matters. 

They never gave up on their fun and unique style, and they found smart ways to reach customers online and in stores.

Lazy Oaf's journey from a one-woman operation to a globally recognised brand is a masterclass in brand identity, community building, and, of course, keeping it weird.

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