BY ANJA FAHS
(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 1 2019)
Eric Kent’s sense of individuality was legendary. His fashion style still inspires – and so do the many stories told about the founder of the long-established British fashion brand “Kent & Curwen”. Kent is said to have thrown flowers across his studio floor in order to find unexpected colour combinations. He liked to make fun of the conventional dress code of the ‘30s and to combine sports fashion with formal suits. Today it is David Beckham who portrays the archetypal Kent & Curwen man and is world-renowned for his style as well as his achievements. The ease and intuition with which he assembles his looks defines the new direction of Kent & Curwen. Together with creative director Daniel Kearns, he wants to show the way the men of today dress from a new perspective and has therefore helped to give the brand and its heritage a fresh start.
Also contributing to that goal are the coveted Capsule Collections designed by Kent & Curwen and released in limited editions. For example, a collection was created for the BBC super series “Peaky Blinders”, and another was done more recently in collaboration with the British rock band “The Stone Roses”. “I grew up with the Stone Roses”, says Daniel Kearns. “For me it’s one of the bands that shaped the look and sound of the “90s”. The music of the rock band is now the inspiration for the current spring/summer Capsule Collection that celebrates the feeling of the British summer, the legendary music and the English culture. With its designs, the collection brings the indie attitude of the ‘90s back to life in a modern way.
What would Eric Kent and Dorothy Curwen have said of this when they first met on the famous Savile Row in London and founded their brand in 1926? It was the beginning of a story full of quirks and strong characters. The brand initially made a name for itself with fashionable neck accessories and provided venerable universities such as Cambridge and Oxford, the country’s best schools as well as the gentlemen’s clubs of high London society with ties – even the British regiments throughout the Empire were equipped with Kent & Curwen.
In 1932, Eric Kent and his business partner Dorothy Curwen bought a knitwear factory in order to create the first cricket sweater. Soon, Kent & Curwen’s influence extended beyond the Atlantic to Hollywood, where they founded the Hollywood Cricket Club, whose members included Errol Flynn and Laurence Olivier. The style of the legendary cricket sweater from Kent & Curwen evolved from sportswear to fashionable standard – it became the first “it-piece” of fashion society and established the brand’s reputation around the world.
Kent’s presence and his individuality and feeling for style still live to this day through the brand. The three lions, for instance, one of the distinctive brand design elements, are taken over from his family crest. The logo was later used as an emblem of English sports teams and is part of the company’s British heritage. To transfer the legacy of Kent & Curwen into the 21st century, Daniel Kearns has embraced its authentic historical past and mixed classic features of British sports with men’s fashion basics. And so, inspired by David Beckham’s style, the basis of the Kent & Curwen collections emerged. Daniel Kearns and David Beckham have jointly developed the new vision for Kent & Curwen. They did research in the archives and revised the striking logo of the three lions and the English rose. In doing so, they brought modernity to the heritage of the brand with the aim to create a contemporary lifestyle brand that can be worn by men all over the world.
That’s why Beckham is also involved in all aspects of the business, including product development, market expansion, advertising and store aesthetics. He recently proved his involvement with the opening of the new flagship store in London. “Daniel and I have been looking for the perfect location for the shop for some time”, says Beckham. “And I think we have found it in Floral Street. It’s been one of the legendary shopping streets in the heart of this great city for a long time – and we are delighted to be at the forefront of it with Kent & Curwen”. The Kent & Curwen flagship store is housed in a Victorian building originally built in 1860 as the Adelphi School for Boys. The building has old wood panelling and mouth-blown green glass windows. Whitewashed brick walls enhance the nostalgic ambience. The interior design clearly showcases David Beckham’s masculine aesthetics, with a typical industrial look of welded steel tubes and coat racks reminiscent of old school sports facilities. Recycled oak wood elements and brass details add to the style of the shop. Green and cream tiles are a subtle reminiscence of old pie and mash shops that used to exist in this area. “We have created a space that feels traditional and yet modern, luxurious but also grounded – it suits our product, which follows the same ethos”, describes Daniel Kearns. And he tells us what still excites him about Kent & Curwen, a brand rich in traditions.
Daniel Kearns is an Irish fashion designer born in Dublin in 1975. He has a BA in Fashion Design and an MA from The Royal College of Art. He worked for Louis Vuitton and Yves Saint Laurent before he was appointed as Creative Director of the British heritage menswear brand Kent & Curwen in 2016.
Picture credit © Kent & Curwen