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Ted Baker founder on new venture: ‘Fashion with performance’

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“It’s raining caps and dogs,” says the slogan on the wall at the Sealskinz store at 29 Marylebone Lane, London, nodding to the brand’s waterproof credentials.

First launched in 2009, the Norfolk-based brand has been known for its waterproof and breathable hats, gloves and socks which it supplies to the British military.

Ray Kelvin, who founded Ted Baker in 1988 and resigned as CEO of the business in 2019, bought majority shareholding in Sealskinz last November. Next is also a shareholder with around a 25% stake.

A keen fly fisher and outdoorsman, Kelvin decided to bring the accessories brand into the fashion arena by introducing clothing designed “for urban environments with functionality at its core”.

The pop-up features the brand’s first clothing collection, “Vitae”, which ranges from polo shirts and T-shirts to versatile shackets and stretch chinos alongside its core waterproof accessories. Retail prices for its clothing line range from £59 for UV-protection T-shirts to £189 for water-repellent Jersey shackets.

The pop-up will open for eight weeks until mid-January

Kelvin told Drapers that his ambition is to develop Sealskinz from a waterproof accessories-only business into a fashion brand with technical attributes.

“There is a void in the market [for outdoor clothing that’s fashionable] and I decided that I should jump back in. The brand has recognition and is looking for a narrative,” he explained.

“We have a firm strategy to create and design beautiful products with benefits. It’s not outdoor clothing that has adopted fashion, it’s fashion with performance. [We will focus on] softness, colours and added value and detail.”

Kelvin said that “every product has some forms of attributes, whether it’s stretch, comfort, waterproof or added pockets, there is something about it.” Examples include hidden side seam pockets in its polo shirts and the foldable peak design in its waterproof baseball cap, which can easily fit into pockets.

He also demonstrated the products’ waterproof credentials by pouring water in its bubble hats in front of Drapers, which are made of Teflon coating on the outside and micro-fleece liner on the inside, separated by a layer of waterproof membrane.

Its clothing collection includes polo shirts, T-shirts, versatile shackets and stretch chinos

The store was fairly busy when Drapers visited on a weekday afternoon, welcoming shoppers from all over the world including Scotland, Japan and the US.

“Half of the people coming into the store already know the brand or have bought something in the past,” Kelvin explained.

The brand has more than 2,000 stockists worldwide including US department store chain Nordstrom, which it launched last month. It is also considering opening permanent stores in the future.

When asked about new product categories for the year head, Kelvin said there is a lot to explore including running, equestrian, hiking, skiing, swimwear and cycling.

In five years, he envisions the brand to have a presence “in all fronts”, including ecommerce, stores and wholesale: “We want to be known for doing specialist clothing that’s fashionable, also as having a strong tone of voice, big personality and having shops.”

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