LONDON — Kent & Curwen, the British men’s clothing collection aligned with David Beckham, has taken some new design talent on board.
WWD has learned that Daniel Kearns has been named creative director of the label, which belongs to Trinity International Brands Ltd. An announcement is expected today.
The 40-year-old Kearns, who has worked for brands as diverse as Louis Vuitton, Alexander McQueen and Façonnable, will begin work this week and be based in London. He will report to Richard Cohen, chief executive officer of the Hong-Kong based Trinity, and to Cody Kondo, Trinity’s chief merchandising officer, who oversees all the company’s collections.
Kearns succeeds Simon Spurr, who in October became creative director of Gieves & Hawkes, which is also owned by Trinity.
Kondo said Kearns was a natural choice because of his diverse professional background. “He had this unique combination of having worked for the big international, high-end brands, and at the premium level. We had a very exciting list of candidates but that really stood out for us,” he said.
Beckham, who inked a deal in the fall that sees him personally involved in all aspects of the brand’s business, including product development, market expansion, advertising, store design and location, called Kearns a “talented and accomplished” creative.
“From our first meeting I felt Daniel understood the real potential of Kent & Curwen,” Beckham told WWD. “We share the same vision for the brand and it’s going to be enjoyable trying to realize that ambition. Daniel has an impressive track record working for some of the leading men’s wear fashion houses in Europe, and will be a strong addition to the team. I look forward to working with him closely.”
The Dublin-born Kearns was most recently artistic director at Façonnable, the French sportswear firm, and steered it in a more sophisticated direction. Prior to joining the French brand, he worked as a consultant at Ermenegildo Zegna on Stefano Pilati’s first men’s wear show.
Kearns said it’s an exciting time for Kent & Curwen. “I look forward to partnering with David Beckham and the K&C executive team in order to engage the brand’s rich British heritage, while building on its tremendous popularity in China, and launching the brand worldwide,” he said.
Karen Harvey, ceo of Karen Harvey Consulting, had conducted a global search for the creative director position.
Kondo said the company is “bullish” about building the brand on relaxed sportswear with a modern mentality and added the collection would mirror Beckham’s closet, from suits to “very, very casual” looks. “We really have the ability to address the wardrobe of the modern man.”
Kondo added that Beckham is involved on a deep level. Later this week, the former soccer player is planning to go over mood boards in meetings with Kearns, Cohen and Kondo in London.
In terms of positioning for Kent & Curwen, Kondo said the company sees “a big white space” between premium product and the lower end of the designer clothing spectrum. He said the aim is to continue to expand in greater China, currently the brand’s biggest market, and reap the “significant growth opportunity” in rest of the world.
Kent & Curwen operates 113 stores in 51 cities in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Kondo said there are more stores in the pipeline, with a flagship in London set to open within the next 12 months.
Kearns graduated from the Royal College of Art with a master of arts in men’s wear, joining John Galliano in 2002 to work on the launch of his first men’s wear line. In 2005 he was named design director for men’s wear at Alexander McQueen, working closely with McQueen himself and polishing his tailoring credentials. He moved to Paris in 2010 and joined the outerwear division at Louis Vuitton.
Kent & Curwen is Beckham’s only apparel line. He and his longtime friend and business associate Simon Fuller are 50-50 partners in Seven Global, a venture with Global Brands Group Holding Ltd.
Last fall, Seven Global signed a five-year licensing agreement with Kent & Curwen. Both Global Brands Group and Trinity are controlled by Hong Kong’s Fung family. Global Brands is a Li & Fung spinoff, while Trinity is part of the privately held Fung Group.
Beckham is meant to expand the British brand’s appeal to younger consumers.
Beckham said, “I’m always looking to work with brands and companies that have a rich history and authenticity. When this authenticity is rooted in the country that I came from, it attracts me even more to the partnership.”
Kent & Curwen was founded in 1926 and has its roots in the manufacture of sports uniforms, particularly for cricket but also for rowing. The brand evolved into a men’s sportswear collection that includes in its offerings polo shirts, trousers and button-down shirts.
The updated Kent & Curwen line will include a separate capsule collection, also influenced by Beckham, which will be available this coming fall. The capsule collection, still unnamed, will include accessories, eyewear and boy’s apparel.
Trinity is also basing Kent & Curwen’s international expansion strategy around the deal, with plans to open 20 new Kent & Curwen stores around the world in key destinations for Chinese tourists like New York, Miami, Milan and London.