Mr David Beckham And Kent & Curwen

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Mr David Beckham And Kent & Curwen

Words by Mr Dan Rookwood

1 December 2016

As the revamped Savile Row brand lands on MR PORTER, its new co-owner takes us on a tour of its debut collection.

Mr David Beckham is rifling through a rail of inspiration pieces in Kent & Curwen’s subterranean vaults in central London. From heavyweight peacoats, military parkas and sheepskin jackets to beaten-up rugby shirts, frayed regatta-striped rowing blazers and mothballed cable-knit cricket sweaters – each piece is decades old, imbued with the unmistakable musty smell of a vintage store. He pauses, his eye caught by something familiar: the Three Lions, England’s heraldic crest. It’s sewn into a mud-spattered England goalkeeper’s “jersey” – actually an off-white chunky knit rollneck (how performance wear has evolved) – worn in a game against Yugoslavia in 1950.

Mr Beckham sported the same crest on his chest 115 times playing football for England between 1996 and 2007 – 59 of those as captain. And now he’s a co-owner of the heritage brand for whom the Three Lions is a trademark.

“We found incredible things in the archive,” says Mr Beckham. “Of course, the Three Lions is associated with me, but it’s something that’s always been a part of Kent & Curwen, so there’s a nice harmony there.”

The brand was founded 90 years ago in 1926 by tie-maker Mr Eric Kent and seamstress Ms Dorothy Curwen, who met on Savile Row. They began as collegiate outfitters, specialising in ties for sports clubs, fee-paying schools and top-tier universities. In recent years, the brand has been quiet in the UK, but it retains a huge presence in Asia, where it has more than 100 stores. Mr Beckham and his longtime business partner Mr Simon Fuller (who famously managed the Spice Girls) spotted an opportunity to blow the dust off of one of England’s most storied heritage brands and breathe new life into it.

We’re used to seeing Mr Beckham as the face of other brands, but this is the first time he’s been the face of his own. “Because I’m part-owner, we were trying to think how not to put me in the campaign,” he says. “But…” he shrugs apologetically and tails off. Yeah, it would be silly not to.

Mr Beckham is not the brand’s designer – that’s the job of recently appointed creative director Mr Daniel Kearns, an erudite, well-dressed 41-year-old Dubliner with an impressive CV that includes stints at Louis Vuitton, Ermenegildo Zegna, Alexander McQueen and Façonnable. But the collection is conceived with Mr Beckham as inspiration. (He is all over Mr Kearn’s mood boards in the design studio, alongside other British style icons including Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Michael Caine and Mr Paul Weller.) “People know I’m very English in the way I like to dress, and that’s what we wanted to bring to this,” says Mr Beckham. “Daniel understands how I like to look and how I like to dress – and how men want to dress in general. It’s everything that I would wear. It’s everything that I would be seen in, it’s things that I have worn in the past, it’s things that we have discussed about me wearing in the future.” He adds somewhat unnecessarily: “This is not a scam.”

The outerwear is particularly strong. Standouts include a double-breasted camel coat, a shearling shawl-collared peacoat and the shearling-lined red-check lumber jacket that Mr Beckham has picked out to wear on this late autumn day in London. And then there are the pieces that are more recognisably Kent & Curwen and, let’s be honest, less recognisably “Brand Beckham” – the lived-in lamb’s-wool V-neck cricket sweater, and the washed-out rugby shirts replete with embroidered red English roses.

Who is the target customer? “I took some pieces home the other day and Brooklyn [Mr Beckham’s eldest son] saw them and said, ‘Where are these from? I want to wear them!’ He’s 17 years old, I’m 41. There’s no age group we’re trying to hit.”

“These are the clothes that I love to wear when I go shopping or when I go out for dinner, or when I take the children to school,” he says. “They’re everyday clothes, but with a twist that makes them not everyday – you can walk through the park in them or wear them to the theatre or an amazing restaurant.”

As a player, Mr Beckham graced the top clubs in five different countries. “I've always lived in great cities – whether it’s been in LA, Madrid, Milan, Paris.” (Sorry, Manchester.) “[But] I don’t take London for granted just because I’m from London,” he says. “I pinch myself every day that I live in a place like London. I’m an East End boy, but being able to drive past Buckingham Palace every day on the way home from seeing my parents or on the school run… I’m very lucky.”

Taken as a whole, this first seasonless collection is comprised of signature pieces that Mr Beckham believes are reflective of the city he has chosen to make his home.

MR PORTER spent the day with Mr Beckham, in the passenger seat of his classic 1969 Porsche 911 as he drove from his home in west London to the Kent & Curwen offices in Mayfair to put the finishing touches to the launch collection, which we are proud to stock exclusively for the first month. And we somehow managed to get through the whole shoot without a single “Porsche and Becks” gag.


Film by Mr Antony Crook