Last week we caught up with Olivia Francis, founder of Hamilton and Hare, a London based brand founded in 2014 with the aim of taking men’s underwear to a higher standard. She told us how she started the brand, as well as her favourite place to disconnect from the chaos of the city. Read below the full interview to find out more.
Tell us your story - from where you grew up to your most exciting phase (is it now)?
I grew up in London and started my career in advertising working for M&C Saatchi. While I was there, I spotted an opportunity in men’s underwear, I could not believe how unloved the category was, especially compared to the female equivalent. I decided to start a men’s underwear brand that wasn’t driven by celebrity marketing and profit margin but instead was about well-designed, well-made underwear from natural fabrics. It wasn’t a radical idea, but I think it was a good one.
Since the brand launch, we’ve opened a flagship store in Marylebone on Chiltern Street and sell our underwear all around the world through our own website as our key channel instead of relying on department stores and distributors.
Starting a business on your own, especially as a total outsider to the menswear industry was a huge challenge but I am delighted I did, it’s thrown up so many opportunities and friendships and I am really proud of the team I have built who believe in the business as much as I do. I think excitement is a misleading term, building a business in my experience is less about the excitement and more about grit, determination, and resilience. There are exciting moments, but quiet satisfaction is more motivating for me.
What is your London? What is it about?
I’m at my happiest in London when I’m walking. It’s the best way to see the city and removes a lot of the stress for me by avoiding public transport. I love walking down the river by Hammersmith Bridge, it is so open, and the wind blows away any cobwebs. Then, the bridge, it is such an icon although, sadly not in use at the moment, it’s made of wrought iron and wood and dates back from the 19th Century.
What is your morning routine?
I have three children so there isn’t much grace period between asleep and awake. Mornings are quite a hectic preparing for the school run but there is a lovely moment of calm afterwards before I sit down at my desk.
Coffee or tea when you wake up?
Straight to coffee, it's a genuine delight for me that gets me out of bed most mornings. My favourite is Allpress' coffee.
What do you do to motivate, switch up your energy throughout the day
Natural light is really important for me to keep my energy up, I try and get outside every day and really find it hard to stay productive after the sun goes down which is difficult in winter! I also drink a lot of turmeric tea.
With a demanding work life, how do you keep your focus?
I use a notepad and pen religiously and keep a to-do list for urgent/important as a guiding principle to try and make sure I’m balancing my time between the two.
What is a relaxing evening like for you?
I love to cook, but hate following recipes so I like to open the fridge and be creative. It is more an organic process for me, where a dish develops as I cook it. I find it very relaxing most of the time.
What are you listening to at the moment?
A lot of Fleetwood Mac, the perfect working soundtrack that never gets old. Fortunately, a podcast for comforting chatter and my kids are very into Lin Manuel Miranda’s new Disney movie soundtrack, Encanto which I find myself singing along to, his lyrics are genius.
What are you reading at the moment?
Stanley Tucci’s new book, Taste which I am loving.
Where in your home have you created your haven?
I am lucky enough to have my own studio and here is beautifully ordered chaos, lots of scented candles and a view over the garden.
Sleeping is one of our clients’ main goals. How do you sleep better?
I think temperature is the key for me to sleep well, I’ve realised I sleep much better when it’s just a few degrees colder than I think I want.
What is your self-care routine?
Yoga, walking, hot baths.
What are your 5 top tips for living well?
If you can, have some children - they are the most wonderful perspective changer, they live in the moment, have no tolerance for bullshit and love so freely.
What is your creative downtime like?
I like to read, almost always fiction as I find non-fiction feels like I need to retain information so it’s not relaxing.
What is your go-to meal? Why is it special?
I love fresh pasta. I could eat in for every meal.
Who in life has inspired you the most? How?
My father who’s driving mantra was ‘go the extra mile'.
Where do you go to find space, or to be with yourself when you’re not at work?
Outside, I’m the happiest walking and talking with friends, preferably by the sea. I love the north coast of Cornwall, in particular, with its rugged coastline changes every day and it is always beautiful, even in the rain. A corner of paradise to disconnect from the hectic city.
What is the mantra or philosophy to face life’s challenges?
Nothing easy was ever worth doing.