I first met fashion designer Olivia Jayne Tullett (28) at Hepworth Hall, where I was working at the 2016 Essex Masters and she’d come along for the day to show me some of her handmade clothing and accessories. The items she’d brought along were gorgeous.

A totally different style to what I had become used to seeing in the ladies shooting clothing market, but it wasn’t just the style that was different – it was the practicality too. It was clear, looking at the clothing, that these had been created for shooting ladies BY a shooting lady.

I immediately placed an order with her for some of her beautifully handcrafted soft leather Shotgun Certificate Holders, to be bespoke embossed with the Femmes Fatales emblem. These have been extremely popular with our members so we’ve had to place repeat orders.

What struck me about Olivia, was not just how knowledgeable she was about clothing design, but how determined she was to push her brand forward and to really make it a staple in ladies shooting attire. I remember thinking ‘now there’s a woman we’ll be hearing a lot more of in the future!’…  Fast-forward twelve months to the 2017 Time Inc Shooting Industry Awards and it is plain to see that her hard work and determination has certainly paid off!

“I was approached by one of the representatives of Time Inc the company who owns the magazine behind the awards amongst others. They came onto my stand at the British Shooting Show 2017 and said “we think you should enter, its great to see something new for women” So I thought why not! Plus, Claire Sadler was on my stand at the time and said “You ARE entering this!!”

Her ‘Olivia Jacket’ was shortlisted in the Best Ladies Clothing category at the annual awards ceremony hosted by publishers Time Inc, with editors of Shooting Times, Sporting Gun, Shooting Gazette and The Field magazines among the judges. The jacket was up against some long established and leading brands in shooting attire, so for a one-woman-band to be recognised amongst them it was quite an achievement in itself.

But not only did ‘the Olivia’ make the final three, it was selected as the Best Ladies Clothing Product of the year at the most prestigious accolades in the entire shooting industry, much to Olivia’s utter astonishment “I was happily sat sipping my wine with my Mum and Dad when my category came up in the awards ceremony. They started introducing the winner and when they said “this isn’t only a jacket but also a gilet” I knew I had won.

“I looked at my Mum who had also realised, and then to my father who looked at me with a confused look, he clearly hadn’t been listening (laughs). Collecting that award was surreal and slightly overwhelming. I managed to settle my nerves with a glass or three, or four of bubbles. Haha!”

“I never expected to win, but I am great believer of being in it to win it. If you don’t try you won’t know. What’s the worst that could happen? They don’t list me as a finalist or I don’t win? In which case I know my product needs improving and I would have gone away and improved it ready for next year” – a great attitude to have!

If you’ve not yet seen ‘the Olivia jacket’ then you should definitely check it out. It really is an innovative piece of shooting attire nothing like the existing pieces you’ll find in country clothing shops. “Not only is my product fashionable and stylish but it is also practical and versatile. The sleeves zip off to create a gilet. Meaning it is ideal for those days where one minute its warm and the next it’s bloody freezing.

“I have combined tweed and leather to create something traditional but with a modern twist when it comes to the design and styling. There are many other features, which I included to appeal to a wide range of women. The shaping of it is designed for the female figure – because no body wants to look like a sack of potatoes when out shooting! The zips that hold the sleeves on are two way zips meaning they can be opened for slight ‘ventilation’ if one is having a ‘power surge’ (we don’t call them hot flushes in my house) Haha!”

“The front leather pieces are padded on both sides. The collar is a double layered one because not everyone wants to wear a scarf plus a soft collar is always nicer against the skin than tweed! The cuff is also double to stop and drippage when shooting in the rain! The length is designed to cover the bottom, because no one wants a cold bottom!” She really thought of everything when she designed this piece!

The Beginning

Olivia, who studied at the Cambridge School of Art and went on to achieve her MA at University in Norwich has certainly come a long way. Her award winning clothing is flying off the shelves at the many Game Fair and country events she exhibits at, and there’s a waiting list for her bespoke, made-to-measure designs.

But where did it all begin? “When I was 14, my best friend told me she was starting a sewing course after school and that I should do it with her so she wasn’t alone. So I went along as a bit of a laugh and here I am fourteen years later with two fashion labels!”

But it wasn’t always plain sailing; and this is where her solid determination has kept her going in the right direction when certain people weren’t particularly encouraging of her work. “I was being told constantly that I’m not good enough and I need to get a ‘proper job’ by people that have come into and left my life. It did make me tougher and more determined to succeed. It was a hurdle worth jumping!”

Fortunately though, Olivia does have a lot of people who fight her corner “I am very proud to say I have a lot of ladies mainly (but also some men) that have been forever supportive of my business and developments”.

Her father, in particular has been a great inspiration to her “He built up his Business over 24 years from scratch. Everything I have learnt is from him. I have taken advice from other successful people who are unfortunately no longer around but, as he always has been, my father is my no 1.

“A very close second is my Aunte Rose. She isn’t a blood relative but has been in my life for over 20 years. She worked in the hospitality industry mainly in HR and worked her way up from reception to some of the highest, trusted positions within the various hotel groups she worked.

“Despite encountering a tough period in her life over the last few years, she continued to work hard and pushed her career to the top. Even though she has now retired she refuses to stop work and has set up a consultation business meaning she can teach everything she has learnt over her decades of work. A true female inspiration in my life”.

Style Inspirations 

Inspiration comes in many shapes and forms and there are many designers that Olivia looks up to, however one stands out in particular “Difficult to narrow it down but it always been Vivienne Westwood. Her use of draping and shape manipulation taught me to think outside the box” and when it comes to style? “know she was more of a sex icon but Marilyn Monroe. She was a beautiful woman with a curvy figure and all the confidence in the world just being who she was.

“She embraced her figure and that to me is the best style there is. I also have an admiration for Audrey Hepburn. She was sleek in her beauty. I like to think that a combination of these would make my ultimate style icon.”

While her style inspirations are usually found on the catwalk, in designer boutiques and on the silver screen, Olivia’s design work has taken a very different direction. Her pieces are more at home in the great outdoors, this has come from her love of the countryside and in particular, her love of shooting sports.

Shooting 

“I started shooting clays with my Dad when I was 14 yrs old. I loved it and went almost religiously a couple times a month. Then I discovered being 18 and going to Uni was something new and different and got carried away and didn’t even pick up a gun for about 4 years. I recently got back in to it and am slowly building myself up again”

“Sporting clays are fun but being a country girl game shooting appeals more to me, plus I prep, cook and eat what I shoot. Waste not want not.”

Running two labels (as well as her namesake label, Olivia also runs OJT Designs for totally bespoke, 100% made to order pieces) can take up a lot of time so she’s lucky if she gets some free time to shoot “I fit it in whenever I can, with my current work and show schedule it is hard to fit it in but I try and combine visiting customers with shooting or if I am travelling far and there is a nice shooting ground near by I make sure I take my gun”

“My current local shooting ground is Sporting Targets, Bedfordshire but I grew up using Hereford and Worcester Shooting Ground. Both fabulous places but Ian and his son Gareth at H&W are fantastic coaches and I couldn’t recommend them highly enough.”

Olivia recently got engaged (Congratulations!!) and counts her fiancé as her best shooting buddy; her favourite person to go shooting with. “He has shooting experience from when he was younger and we get on really well, minus the occasional spat! Haha!”

At Femmes Fatales, we like to keep our finger on the pulse of all things shooting related, including clothing. It has been really encouraging to see the shooting industry acknowledge the rise in numbers of ladies taking up shooting, and with it, the emergence of lots of new ladies shooting clothing labels – including Olivia’s – but we’ve also noticed that there have been the occasional fads and phases, with ‘fashion’ taking precedence over ‘practicality’ and that’s something Olivia has been keen to tackle.

While beautiful tweed capes with huge fur collars look amazing, we wouldn’t recommend them for shooting in because of the way they hinder the wearer from properly mounting the gun. We’d urge you not to choose style over substance, a sentiment shared by Ms Tullett “I very much agree. I have watched some ladies do just that for a while and it pains me to see.

“Its one of the reasons I have recently bought out a tweed wrap with armholes and fur trim which makes them ever so slightly more practical! Again I am a great believer in being comfortable and dressing appropriately for the activity at hand.”

Being Herself 

Being a fashion designer, it would be natural for us to assume that Olivia has never made any mistakes in the style department. Wrong! “My biggest fashion mistake was trying to follow trends and to be like other people! Now I always wear what I like and what looks good on me.” Amen to that!

We love a bit of individuality! We’re patiently waiting for  the end of the weird make-up phase that’s doing the rounds at the moment. The one where everyone has these massive, drawn-on eyebrows and really non-discreet highlights painted on their cheekbones! “Yes!” agrees Olivia “I am someone who doesn’t wear make up unless she’s doing a show. I don’t even know where my makeup bag is half the time.

“Women should just embrace the body and looks they have and stop trying to impress others by doing what they think is improvements to the visual appearance.” Preach!

Definitely one to embrace the au naturale look, when she’s not wearing her own designs, she generally dresses down “Jeans or Joggers and a t-shirt or if its warm and I’ve remembered to shave my legs a floaty dress! Not very exciting, I know!”

“If I am at shows and need to look presentable I normally wear an Entwhistle Shirt with one or more of my items. If it raining I wear my trusty Imperial Explorer boots by Fairfax & Favor and my Akubra hat. If its absolutely chucking it down then its my Harkila Lady Pro Hunter jacket all the way!”

Olivia is pretty active on Instagram “What I do is a visual thing and that, for me, is the best way to get across the image I want” and loves to see images posted by her clients wearing her designs “It still makes me look twice! I am like ‘Oooooh they look nice! It makes me happy to see them smile because I know how tough it is to find something practical AND flattering for ladyguns!” You can follow her here.

Who would she most love to see posting a selfie in OJT clothing? “Kate, Duchess of Cambridge. Don’t ask me why but I think she would look great in one of my garments plus I think the future Queen of England (or whatever her official title will be) needs to shoot and look even better (than she usually does) doing it!” We’re absolutely certain Kate would look amazing in one of Olivia’s masterpieces!

Olivia has just returned to her Cambridgeshire home from an epic weekend at The Game Fair (where she teamed  up with our friend, artist Clare Shaw) Three whole days of exhibiting at the most prestigious event of its kind, packed with visitors who were keen to look at (and of course purchase!) her clothing and accessories. If you missed that, don’t worry, she’ll be heading to Weston Park, Shropshire on the 16th and 17th September “I’m currently doing lots of developments with the Olivia Tullett® label and will be launching at the Midland Game Fair. Watch this space! All will be revealed on social media closer to the time!”

We can’t wait and we hope to see lots of you shooting there!

 

Quickfire Round

Louboutins or Jimmy Choos?

“Louboutins”

Twelve or Twenty Gauge?

“Twenty”

Wine: Red or White?

 “In Winter, red. In Summer, white. (but depends how my mood takes me!)”

Skeet or Sporting?

“Sporting”

Facebook or Instagram?

“Instagram”

Medium or Rare

 “Medium-Rare”

Kim or Kylie?

“Don’t know/don’t care/don’t watch!”

Shooting Vest or Cartridge Pouch?

 “Vest”

Cat or Dog?

“200% Dog”

Le Chameau or Hunter?

“Both!”

Shooting or Shopping?

“Shooting and online shopping (it’s very often too ‘peopley’ out there!)”

City or Country?

“COUNTRY!”

Harrods or High Street?

“Online! Haha!”

Flat Cap or Trilby?

“Fedora!”

 Soft Top or SUV?

“SUV”

Tom Hardy or Cillian Murphy?

“Had to Google Cillian Murphy! Not for me – Mr Hardy please!”

 Eastenders or Corrie?

“I despise both!”

 Summer or Winter?

“I love the sun so Summer but I love the Game season so Winter”

 

By Lydia Abdelaoui