EXCLUSIVE

In­side Ted Baker Lon­don, the in­die fash­ion em­pire that could. by laura decarufel

Elle (Canada) - - Story Board -

En­ter the

mag­i­cal world of Ted Baker.

By Laura deCarufel

ray Kelvin is known as fash­ion’s in­vis­i­ble man: He rarely gives in­ter­views, and in all of his on­line pix, his face is ob­scured by a teapot, a large bass or, in one mem­o­rable 2011 shot, the Com­man­der of the Or­der of the Bri­tish Em­pire (CBE) award he was given by the Queen for his ser­vice to the fash­ion in­dus­try. A sim­i­lar re­serve in­formed Kelvin’s 1988 de­ci­sion to found his busi­ness, then a sin­gle Glas­gow shirt shop, un­der the moniker “Ted Baker,” rather than his own name. (“If it had failed, I would not have been able to han­dle it,” he once told The Tele­graph. He needn’t have wor­ried: That shop is now a global mega-brand worth $1.2 bil­lion.) In per­son, how­ever, the in­vis­i­ble man is a com­plete chat­ter­box. He talks in para­graphs, calls out warmly to staff as they walk by and prof­fers com­pli­ments, jokes and hugs—lots of hugs. (A green cir­cle on the floor be­side his desk in­di­cates the “Hug Zone.”) “I just love these people,” he says of his team.

We’re hav­ing lunch at his of­fice, a sprawl­ing Cam­den com­pound whose non­de­script brown-brick ex­te­rior be­lies its in­side charm: Out­fit­ted like a Ted Baker shop, it’s all warm and vin­tage-y, with mis­matched or­ange chairs, glass lamps and book­shelves. The airy sec­ond floor over­looks the atrium, where staff sit at pic­nic ta­bles en­joy­ing the free noon­time meal of grilled sal­mon and quinoa salad. This is head­quar­ters for the brand, which has stores in more than 34 coun­tries, in­clud­ing an al­ready beloved Cana­dian out­post that opened two years ago at Toronto’s York­dale Shop­ping Cen­tre. “That store is

out­ra­geous!” hoots Kelvin about its prof­itabil­ity. “You re­ally love us.”

Ted Baker’s wom­enswear suc­cess is built around a sim­ple prin­ci­ple: The clothes and ac­ces­sories—in­clud­ing this sum­mer’s flo­ral fit-and-flare dresses, tex­tured body-con frocks and clutches in juicy fruit colours—make women look and feel lovely. Ted Baker boasts a ro­bust de­sign team, but Kelvin is al­ways the sar­to­rial start­ing point. “I can just feel things—I have a sense of fash­ion,” he muses. “I look at people, what they do, where they’re go­ing, their at­ti­tudes.”

Kelvin’s keen eye for style dates back to his child­hood, when he helped out in his grand­fa­ther’s menswear store. He spent his teen years work­ing in his fa­ther’s Tot­ten­ham blouse fac­tory, idol­iz­ing foot­ball play­ers and ad­mir­ing the “sharp de­tail” of ’60s gang­sters—his first style in­spi­ra­tions. Dur­ing his early Ted Baker days, Kelvin sold shirts all day and slept on the shop floor at night. He still loves sell­ing— he re­cently spent a cou­ple of days hus­tling at Ted Baker’s Fifth Av­enue flag­ship in New York.

Of the brand’s in­ter­na­tional suc­cess, Kelvin is mod­est to the point of be­ing dis­mis­sive. “It has be­come a global brand be­cause of glob­al­iza­tion—it’s not be­cause we’re that clever,” he says. “To­day you sell all over the world, whereas when I started, you just sold lo­cally. The last thing I need is more; I want bet­ter.” What, then, is he proud of? “You see that guy—the blond one?” Kelvin asks, point­ing across the atrium. “He’s gor­geous; he works in IT. He was chat­ting with the guys, and I heard him say, ‘Ted Baker saved my life.’” Kelvin takes a sip of iced tea, savour­ing the dra­matic pause. “When I asked him why, he said he’d worked at an­other brand and never, ever felt so de­feated; then he came here, and he has never felt so loved.”

Kelvin sits back, beam­ing. He traces the con­den­sa­tion on his glass, grow­ing thought­ful as he sums up his phi­los­o­phy: “For­get the clothes—they sell them­selves. It’s the people who make the com­pany. That comes through to the cus­tomer. It comes through in ev­ery­thing you do.” ■

Ted Baker teamed up with Eng­land’s Gif­fords Cir­cus for its quirky, colourful s/s ’14 cam­paign.

In­side the whim­si­cal Ted Baker bou­tique in Sain­tGer­main, Paris

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