LONDON — Claire Kent, the former Morgan Stanley analyst who tracked the dramatic ascent of luxury goods companies such as Gucci and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton in the Nineties and early Aughts, has spun her background in fashion and numbers into an e-commerce business.
Today Kent and her husband Bill Byrne, a former mathematics teacher and IT expert for British Airways, will launch Iffley Road, a small collection of stylish gear for the amateur runner.
Kent, who along with her husband is a longtime running enthusiast, said in an interview that the collection aims to fill a style and function gap in the market, and put a stylish spring in the step of the everyday, amateur runner
“We honestly felt there was nothing really elegant to wear when running. Personally, I think that the Iffley Road collection is elegant enough to wear even when you’re not running,” said Kent, adding that she wanted to offer an alternative to the standard “very brightly colored, overdesigned, shiny” running gear that’s currently on the market.
Iffley Road offers tops in colors such as navy, white and heather, and shorts in black or white. She said the fit has been designed “to enhance the physique. A woman can put on the white zip-neck top and white shorts and feel like Grace Kelly.”
The shorts have pockets in the front so that runners can lie on their backs and stretch without fear of keys or coins digging into them. Each model has two pockets, one for keys and one for a credit card and money.
The shorts are also more fitted than normal, and have a flat front. Kent stressed that they are not bulky and don’t make runners feel like they’re wearing a “nappy,” the British term for diaper.
The fabrics, which Kent said are ultrasoft, have been made by an Italian mill and the garments produced at a factory in Portugal. More specifically, the tops are made from a bespoke Dri-release micro-blend, a high performance fabric that looks and feels like cotton but works better than performance polyesters, said Kent.
The well-connected Kent said she relied on “industry recommendations” for sourcing and some of the styling, although she declined to elaborate on who, specifically, helped her.
Prices range from 60 pounds, or $93, for a pair of shorts to 70 pounds, or $109, for a zip-neck top. Everything will be sold via the Web site iffleyroad.com, and there are no current plans to wholesale the line.
She said she and Byrne might do a pop-up shop if the Iffley Road proves to be a success. Prototypes for the winter collection are already in the works.
“One thing I learned from the luxury industry is how to control distribution and price points. I want to be the one in charge of how the line is presented,” she said.
The name Iffley Road is inspired by the Oxfordshire track where Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile in 1954. It’s also where Kent, an Oxford University graduate, would regularly run during her years there.
The line is self-funded, and will remain so. “I have taken so many companies public — and I know all of the headaches,” said Kent, who continues to work as an independent retail and luxury goods consultant.
She advised on the Prada and Pandora initial public offerings, and remains a consultant to Prada and to Investcorp, which recently acquired Georg Jensen. She is a non-executive director of French Connection and Georg Jensen.
Kent refers to Iffley Road as “my fourth child,” and said she wants the business to be a slow burn. “I am not out to make a quick buck. It’s a life project for me, and my aim was to create a product that makes people feel great. We hope to draw the focus back to real running and the pursuit of personal growth,” she said.