Find out how Olivia Tullett is transforming the way women dress in the shooting field with country clothing designed for the lady gun, by the lady gun.
With the grouse season well under way and the start of pheasant shooting approaching quickly, there’s no better time to chat to country and shooting clothing entrepreneur Olivia Tullett to find out more about the inspiration for her eponymous brand, her love for the British countryside and what she plans to do next.
What inspired you to start your own business?
Both my parents ran their own businesses, so there’s certainly entrepreneurial spirit running in my veins. My father sold commercial lawn mowers around the country and my mother has had her own successful beauty salon for as long as I can remember – she started it when she was just 19 years old! My father was keen for me to take the reins of the family business, but I found fashion a bit more appealing than lawnmowers, so went to university to study it in more depth. I lectured at university after completing my Masters in Fashion but quickly realised that I found students not turning up to lectures and or being largely disinterested in learning quite irritating, especially when I was so driven and hungry for success. I love making clothes and accessories, and there wasn’t really a ‘lightbulb moment’, I didn’t really ever consider doing anything else.
After dabbling in other areas of fashion, what made you decide to focus on shooting and country wear?
I was surrounded by the countryside as a child, spending heaps of time outdoors with my father when he was working and remember seeing him head off for shoot days with a big smile on his face. I started going shooting with him when I was 14 years old and just fell in love with the sport. While I was at university I took a break from it to enjoy being a student (and partying!) but came back to it when I started out in the world of work.
Dad and I shot together a lot (I would be his driver for a lot of driven game days, which suited him very well indeed…) and alongside having a great day out, I couldn’t help but notice what people were wearing to shoot, in particular the lady guns. I was getting frustrated with what constituted ‘women’s’ shooting kit – simple putting an elasticated waistband in just doesn’t cut it, particularly on a cold day when you have to wear lots of layers underneath. Eventually, I designed and made my own shooting gilet to wear in the field, and I received lots of compliments and interest in it. Everything started happening organically after that – people asked me to create shooting clothing for them, and I soon had a full order book of bespoke shooting clothing. It’s no secret that if you look good and your clothing is comfortable that you’ll feel confident and happy, and that’s what I want for lady guns.
How did the business grow from those early days to becoming a key player in luxury shooting clothing?
I first exhibited at the British Shooting Show in January 2016 and returned again in January 2017, and both times I came away with so many bespoke commissions to work on. In October 2017, after a full summer exhibiting up and down the UK, I partnered up with my American stockist Hound & Hare and that partnership has been a huge success, with them working so hard to help me raise the profile of my brand in the US. I also made the decision to build up stock so that I could offer ‘off the peg’ clothing as well as my better-known bespoke designs. I have some incredibly loyal customers who recommend me to their friends and family, and who come back year after year for their latest shooting clothing.
What challenges have you faced along the way?
As I’ve said before, I love shooting and adored my days out with my father for driven game days, but it wasn’t always the easiest day out. Some men did, and probably still do, believe that women don’t belong on the shooting field (or at least, not with a gun in their hand) and I would either be ignored all day or be told I shouldn’t be there. Luckily it didn’t put me off, if anything it made me determined to encourage even more women to get out into the shooting field looking good and full of confidence that they could shoot just as well as the men!
My father has been an enormous influence on my business, as I certainly wouldn’t be involved in shooting if he hadn’t been so passionate about it. He was the perfect person to talk to about business and both he and my mother gave me the guts to go and start my own brand. Shooting together was something we both enjoyed immensely. Very sadly, he died just a week before the Game Fair this summer. It was an enormous shock and I’m still having my wobbly days now, but I know he would have wanted me to keep focused so I still went along. He had exhibited at the Game Fair for many years, so I had people coming to talk to me about him constantly that week. I admit those weeks are all a bit of a blur now, but it was a successful week and I know my Dad would be proud of me.
What makes up an ideal day shooting for you?
It’s got to be a day of driven pheasant shooting. For me, nothing beats getting dressed in my favourite shooting clothing, heading to meet everyone at the pub and then enjoying a great day of shooting. I find clay shooting immensely frustrating, hitting a target once and then missing it twice! Pigeon shooting can be a great opportunity to get some time away from work and people, but of course that has its frustrations too – they are like fighter jets, so nimble.
What’s next on your list of things to achieve?
My aim for the next 12 months is to really build up the American business with my two stockists there, and I’m heading there in September to attend a Game Fair and plenty of business meetings. I’ll also be building up more off the peg stock and adding new lines to my website, so keep an eye on that! I have a busy book of bespoke orders that will be sent all over the world when they are ready, and that gives me a huge buzz. Finally, I have some new products I would like to bring to market, such as something to assist women with their shooting posture, that they can wear under their jacket or gilet. I don’t know exactly what they will look like, but I have meetings in the pipeline. Oh, and I’m also getting married and working on a Canadian stockist – so things really are busy busy!
Shop Olivia’s stunning collection here: https://oliviatullett.co.uk
Like her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/oliviatullettclothing/
Follow her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/oliviatullettclothing/