Q&A with Matt Oliver, Our Founder

Q&A with Matt Oliver,  Our Founder


Matt Oliver, Oliver Co

We sat down with our Founder, Matt, to dig deeper into his ambitions for Oliver Co. With a lifelong passion for design and an unwavering commitment to sustainability, Matt brings unique insights into the transformative power of design. Having been a designer for all of his career, he's got a few things to say about the power of design to create a better world.

Oliver Co. stands at the intersection of design and sustainability. Why is design such a powerful tool for bringing together people, products, and the planet?
Design can inspire people. It can tell a story and make people think twice. I do this with our wallets and make them out of apple leather. In this story, these moments of surprise can spark wonder, joy, and intrigue. And it's those things that people want to share. I love that people talk about the apple leather- it gets people talking, and that's what design can do. It can create these moments of wonder that get people talking about sustainability. That's a powerful thing.
Design can make products more sustainable in a literal sense, not only with materials but also by creating a connection between the user and the product. The design can take on a life of its own; for example, people use their wallet pockets in various ways, like having a picture of their loved one inside. Design can play a role in making people fall in love with products and use them for longer. Design can and should make sustainability feel invisible when done the right way. If you create a product that looks beautiful and functions beautifully, people don't think of it as a sustainable product. That's why designing without compromise is so crucial for us, so people don't necessarily know that they're using a product that's kinder to the planet; they see a very high-end product. The sustainability becomes invisible.
Design can also communicate complicated subjects in a very clear way. Whether through infographics or just how text is presented, design can make something complex easier to understand, digest, and enjoy. Good design can be a fun way of presenting information that inspires or makes people think twice. There are ways of using design within typography and graphic design, where you can tell a story or give more meaning to words. Effective design is essential because people with little time to digest information need it quickly.
You've mentioned the desire to use design not just as an aesthetic tool but as a means to inspire and educate. What stories are you eager to amplify through Oliver Co?
We want to share the whole picture in a balanced way. When discussing sustainability, we want to present both sides to any story; that's important. We're also trying to tell the story of the product in a more literal sense, of how the product came to be, to tell the story of the factory that made the products and the name of the person who made them—sharing the story of the materials and their impact and everything that the customer needs to feel informed about their product. All these details can connect us to a product before it's even arrived with you. It is beautiful how the products are made, the handicraft, and their nature; this is a story that our factory and I are incredibly proud of.
We did an Instagram series where we showcased the factory workers and brought in a professional photographer, and they loved it. They're genuinely proud of it. They post the pictures themselves because they're proud of the work that they do. Our customers will also see that and feel proud to support a company that creates products this way.
How does Oliver Co craft its products to not only be beautiful to look at but also durable, functional, and essential conversation starters?
I've been on this journey for five years now, and before that, I was also working in accessories. It's been a real story of iteration with the designs. We started with what I thought was a good design. Then we used it and realised that there were improvements that we could make, so we made another version. We learned from that version, and we improved on it again. All these things make the product last longer, easier to use, and a joy to use.
Materials like apple leather are massive conversation starters. But the colours we're using are striking and timeless and are conversation starters in their own right. The green gets people talking. Customers have said that when they bring out their wallet, and people comment on the colour, that sparks a conversation of "Oh, guess what it's made out of?" That's what's beautiful about the products.
What are your dreams and ambitions for Oliver Co in the next five years?
My dream for the next five years is to carry on our philosophies and take them to new levels. There's so much more we can do from a storytelling perspective, sharing the journey from the design and concept stage to the factory and making until it gets into the customer's hands and beyond. I would love to create content about how our customers use the products and tell that story more.
From a product perspective, it's applying the philosophy we've already done to a broader product range and creating products that people genuinely use, not just accessories that stick in and stay in cupboards for long periods.
We make things that become everyday items, timeless and beautiful, and can be used for years and years. Currently, we connect with our customers and find out what they think about them, improve on them, and iterate, but we want to iterate faster. I'd also like to build out our team, which can keep asking these questions to create more products that grow lower and lower in impact. That's the dream.


What does a sustainable design future look like to you?
The future of sustainable design is circular. A circular economy would mean making products that have absolutely no waste and where everything that goes into the product at its end of life can either return to nutrients in the ground or be turned into a new product with no degradation of performance or quality.
In the meantime, the epitome of sustainable design is making products that last as long as possible, that can inspire and are better than the status quo, so these products look and function better than non-sustainable alternatives on the market. This must come from innovation material innovation, better design, factories improving their techniques and coming up with new techniques and new machinery.
Circularity is a revolution of how we work, make, and consume. We're turning an enormous ship around, and the concept is gathering pace, but it will take everything we have to do. We must change not only from a product perspective but also from a marketing and sales perspective- we need to revolutionise the whole beast of retail and fashion. Everything will have to change and innovate to make the circular economy a reality, change customers' thought processes in buying better, and ensure these products last a long time.

Follow Matt and Oliver Co on Instagram for more @oliverco.london

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