For Autumn / Winter 2018, Kent & Curwen’s artistic director Daniel Kearns and brand ambassador David Beckham (who needs no introduction really) partner with English photographer and film director Perry Ogden to present the latest collection at London Fashion Week Mens this Sunday lunchtime in the presence of Scottish artist David Shringley among other VIPs. “British, Authentic, Masculine” are the key words Daniel, – former Alexander McQueen and Yves Saint Laurent menswear designer – used to describe the ethos of Kent & Curwen. “I have always been a fan of Perry’s work. His book Pony Kids is one of my favourite books! I reached out to him and spoke about the collection and asked if he was keen to collaborate with us for the season. Perry seemed to understand what we were trying to do. It was very organic, it all just fell into place and we started working together very easily.” Daniel also highlighted his complicity with David and how they nurture each other’s creativity: “the way I work with David is a constant ongoing dialogue he is regularly in the office to see what I’m up to and discuss what we are doing or by email where we share thoughts and ideas. I think now after already working together a few seasons there is an understanding which we had from day one but now feels strongly established.”
This season, Kent & Curwen takes inspiration from its eclectic heritage and brings together art, music and sport in a more direct way with a three-fold campaign focused on the energy of The Artist, The Musician and The Boxer. “I love the way that Kent & Curwen is re-inventing a traditional British look. A look that is almost timeless but feels very modern. I was trying to capture this idea of ‘preparation’. The preparation that a musician, a boxer and an artist go through before their performance / bout / painting. That passion for what they are doing or about to do. I also wanted to capture youth culture.” Perry – whose photographs have appeared in exhibitions worldwide including at the Van Gogh Foundation in Arles, and in magazines including L’Uomo Vogue, W, The Face, among many others – said about the fantastic visuals. “We had 4 weeks to find locations and casting for [Kent & Curwen]. I spend a lot of time with the pre-production elements, particularly the locations and casting as it is very important for me that it looks authentic.”
One of the most interesting locations for this campaign includes the roof of The Beatles’ Apple Music at No. 3 Savile Row, a few doors down from Kent & Curwen Headquarters. On the very same street Eric Kent and Dorothy Curwen first met in the early 20s. Legend has it that in the 1970s, Paul McCartney received a Magritte painting from his gallerist friend, the flamboyant dandy dealer Robert Fraser who had a gallery on Cork Street, a parallel to Savile Row, who staged art performances with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. McCartney loved the apple motif of Magritte so much that he decided to use it as the logo of the Beatles’ record company. In the collective consciousness, this Savile Row roof top remains iconic partly because that’s where The Beatles performed their last gig. Consequently, the campaign also features a series of young musicians, all photographed on that roof, a nod to the cultural legacy of The Beatles.
Daniel gave his secrets on how to refresh the brand every single season based on this heritage: “We are fortunate to have a rich and exciting history. The brand also has so many associations with British culture in general that are for me a massive source of inspiration. Mixing this up and making it feel current is important. I always reach to the last season both positively and negatively in terms of how the collection felt and go on gut instinct from there. But the key for me is the rich cultural heritage and storytelling that exists around the brand.”
While “The Boxer” examines the role of sporting institutions such as the Repton Boxing Club on London style, “The Artist” revisits the Soho of Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon and John Deakin and the legacy of London’s world-famous art colleges. Perry has also photographed Francis Bacon’s studio, in a fantastic book published by Thames and Hudson in 2001. A self-taught genius, haunted by personal demons, artist Francis Bacon was born in Dublin and moved to London in 1928. Dublin is where Perry lives today and where Daniel grew up. The city holds precious significance for the photographer and the designer. Perry’s personal vision clearly transpires in the Pony Kids project which feature inner city youths in Dublin. “Lucian Freud, John Deacon & Francis Bacon and that Soho set that haunted the likes of the Colony Club were an inspiration for ‘The Artist’ in the AW18 collection.” Daniel continues. But how does he continue to refresh the brand every season? “We are fortunate to have a rich and exciting history. The brand also has so many associations with British culture in general that are for me a massive source of inspiration. Mixing this up and making it feel current is important. I always reach to the last season both positively and negatively in terms of how the collection felt and go on gut instinct from there. But the key for me is the rich cultural heritage and storytelling that exists around the brand.”
Photography, art, sculpture fully support the brand’s DNA: “Everything and more, as long as it feels authentic and not forced. This collaboration with Perry came very naturally and felt right for the brand. I think that the Kent & Curwen guy is cultured, bright and interested in other worlds to fashion so it is nice to weave the brand into the worlds of art and photography – as well as sport and music.”
Was it a challenging collection to put together? “I think there were many challenges as ever putting a collection together sourcing exciting fabrics and new cuts but probably the biggest challenge was to find the right way to express this idea and so working with Perry made that possible and I’m so happy with the result.” The new collection features ample trousers, tailored-jackets, and a mixture of formal and casual elements as always. It’s brilliant. Dr Martens are everywhere too: “Kent & Curwen are actually doing a collaboration with Dr Marten’s this season. I am constantly inspired by music, the late 70’s early 80’s indie and punk bands; The Clash, The Sex Pistols, Joy Division etc. the Dr Martens boot typified that generation.”
The three-men collaboration is an absolute success and Kent & Curwen probably remains the most significant, authentic British menswear brand today.
“Once this is done, I am under pressure to finish a book, which I am working on with the stylist Tara St. Hill. The book is about Paddy and Liam, two Irish boys who feature in the Kent & Curwen exhibition. It is being published by Idea Books, London very soon.” Perry said. Daniel is more reserved: “Now that would be telling! One thing I can say is that we will consistently commit to pushing the brand forward, trying to keep it on its toes and move with the tide of fashion.”
“I’ve always respected Perry’s work and he really has captured the essence of the brand in a powerful way” said Kent & Curwen partner David [Beckham]. “The idea of preparation strikes a chord with me personally as that has always been a key characteristic of my career – and Perry has managed to capture those moments in his brilliant film”.