Lazy Oaf Founder Gemma Shiel Likes Making “Weird” Clothes & Her Fans Love It Too

When celebrities hang out with Bustle editors, we want to give them the chance to leave their mark. Literally. So we hand them a pen, a piece of paper, a few questions, and ask them to get creative. This time, Lazy Oaf founder Gemma Shiel is taking on the Bustle Booth.

It didn't take long after graduating from university for Gemma Shiel to learn that the fashion industry wasn't going to make space for her. "I couldn’t get a job as a print designer," she explains. "My portfolio was too weird."

And so, like all great innovators who came before her (she names rule breaker Elsa Schiaparelli as one of her favourite designers), Shiel took matters into her own hands. If there was no space for her, she'd carve it out herself.

It started small: a stall in Spitalfields Market selling t-shirts Shiel printed in her dad's garage. At this stall, there was no such thing as "too weird," and customers dug it. In the 18 years since, Lazy Oaf (the brand name Shiel decided on after toying with the idea of Fat Trucker) has gone from strength to strength, now boasting a huge online store that has more than 250 stockists worldwide and an enviably cool boutique store in Soho, London.

If there was no space for her, she'd carve it out herself.

Shiel's fashion empire runs on weird. Lazy Oaf's signature style is youthful, mischievous, distinctive, and, above anything, fun. Something you have to look hard to find in an industry that takes itself so seriously. Browse Lazy Oaf's website and you can expect to see googly eyes, graphic tees, hearts, clouds, frills, and (faux) fur at every turn. The brand's collections include a Mr. Men mash up and a range called The World of Pink.

But alongside this self-confessed "irreverence," Shiel uses her platform to raise awareness about important social issues. In May 2019, Lazy Oaf released a limited-edition collection in partnership with mental health campaign Time to Change. The capsule collection, called It's OK To Not Be OK, included "T-shirts, a shirt, trousers and a tote bag" with stylings and illustrations aimed "to raise awareness, change attitudes, and encourage speaking up about mental health through various forms of creative expression," the website explains. And the brand is currently working on a second mental health project, Shiel reveals. So watch this space.

Besides Elsa Schiaparelli, Shiel's favourite fashion designers include Alexander McQueen ("I am in awe at how incredible [he] was") and Ashish, whom she asked to design her wedding dress when she got married this summer. She's "obsessed and inspired with youth subcultures," explaining that she loves "how they interpret style and put together their own lewks from old, borrowed, streetwear, and high street as opposed to an elite unattainable designer version of fashion." Right now the designer is coveting Billie Eilish's look, but who isn't?

When you have a person as uniquely creative as Shiel, there's no better way to get inside their mind than a Bustle Booth. Check out Shiel's answers below to get a taste for the weirdness that is set to take over the fashion world.