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Interview: Darren Kennedy

It was a month ago now, but it feels like yesterday when we got chatting with Darren Kennedy at LCM. A well-known figure over in Ireland, Mr Kennedy is a stylist, presenter and columnist on TV and in the papers and was recently voted Ireland’s Best Dressed Man. That’s a lot of rep to live up to! Thankfully, he’s not let it go to his head and is a brilliant conversationalist. We had a chat with him about the highs and lows of LCM, and his festival essential…

PlanetNotion: Hello Darren, how are you doing? How was LCM for you?
Darren Kennedy: I’m very good, how are you? I’m on a shoot! Would you believe, I’m standing in the courtyard of Trinity College in Dublin. LCM was great: I’ve actually been to all three, but I’ve always missed a day or two, so this was my first time experiencing the full run of it…

PN: It’s bloody awesome isn’t it? There’s such a variety of talent…
DK: It’s great. Obviously I’ve attended women’s Fashion Week and stuff like that, and it’s just nicer. I find men’s a lot more refreshing and relaxing, and people are just a bit more chilled; which is nice!

PN: I’ve had that conversation with so many people, about why menswear is so different from womenswear. Why do you think that is?
DK: I think it’s men! The fact is, I think it comes down to that 90% of the people at the shows are men, and it’s just men’s approach is different. I think the different between them and men is actually that even the serious fashionistas are, in a sense, more laid back.

PN: Do you think this reflects the way that men dress and the way they’re changing their attitudes to clothes?
DK: Yeah I think it does actually. I think it’s a reflection overall of how men approach fashion. I guess men’s fashion in comparison to women’s is a lot less daring for the vast majority. It’s more about subtleties isn’t it, and less of a major statement, even though it’s great that men’s fashion is developing, Men’s fashion is more subtle; men tend to be more subtle. That’s what tends to come through and what transpires into men’s fashion.

PN: What were your show highlights, because it was quite interesting seeing the difference between the sartorial elements and all the more streetwear vibe too?
DK: I really love all the tailored stuff. I really enjoyed stuff from Hackett, Burberry — Burberry I love because the embrace the use of colour, and I really love colour and I thought it was that little more relaxed with that tailored edge — but one of my absolute highlights was the Katie Eary show. I just thought it was epic.

PN: Absolutely – when you separate out some of those amazing print pieces, it’s actually quite wearable.
DK: It’s very wearable. Obviously, the way they styled it was crazy. But, I saw four or five pieces from that collection where I thought to myself, “I need to get my hands on it!” I was even thinking one of those shirts, the pink flamingo one – would look amazing with a tailored slick tux.

PN: It’s really great that designers are going down that route of making commercial pieces, and an also reclaiming commercial a non-dirty word as well.
DK: That’s what I’m all about! I go to any of these shows with a very selfish interest and I’m looking for clothes I want to wear more than anything else. Clothes that are too far out there, too outlandish, are great on the catwalk, but I’m all about practicalities. And actually, coming back to your earlier question on men’s fashion, I think men do have quite a practical approach to clothes.

PN: It’s that difference of looking at clothes of something that you’re just putting on your back, and something you can make a statement with. I think men are becoming more comfortable with that.
DK: Absolutely. My approach is, whatever way you look at them, they are a second skin. They are the closest physical thing to a skin to our bodies that we wear every day. There has to be something there. People who don’t recognise that this layer that you’re putting on, that rubs against your skin all day, that moulds to your body, that you end up having emotional nostalgic connections to – that has to be important.

PN: So in terms of styling, what is the biggest trend you took away from the collections?
DK: Broad strokes of vibrant colour, like for instance they were using real zingy shots at Burberry. They were using bright yellows and bright reds, and it’s also the mix of those colours that’s really refreshing. It’s a really zingy colour palette, with some subtle print in there– so obviously playing with contrast. I think that’s one of the big things for men; playing with contrast, textures and fabrics, although not volume not so much. That was one of the big things for me: I think that the trends in men’s never move as quickly as elsewhere. Then a big trend in footwear is cutaway detailing, which I quite enjoyed, because I spotted a fabulous pair of Paul Smith cutaway brogue sandals on Mr Porter, have you seen them?

PN: I have, and they are beautiful.
DK: They are delicious, I want them! And then obviously there was a bit of clashing print. At the Hackett show there was a lot of pastels and sorbet colours in suiting, which is quite nice. Really broad lapels obviously had influence of the ‘20s and The Great Gatsby is still kind of filtering through as well..

PN: I think it’s interesting you’re talking about colour, because opposed as to last year where it was very much about orange, this year designers showed a bit of lots of colours. Do you think it’s more about leaving it to guys to make their own decisions?
DK: I think designers and fashion editors are starting to realise that men, to a certain extent, like to be less distated to. Leaving it open to interpretations, so if you are going to invest in a piece that you love, that red or yellow jumper that you mentioned is actually not dated to a particular season.

PN: It promotes creativity with your clothes as well, right?
DK: Exactly. I obviously tend to buy a lot of clothes, but they’re clothes that will stay in my wardrobe and I will wear and mix and match for hopefully a year or two, depending on my mood. I’m certainly not much of a trend-follower, and I think that’s men in general.

PN: I feel like London as a whole felt really strong this time, in a sense that the designers have become comfortable with what they do. It’s kind of settled into a great place a bit.
DK: Absolutely. It’s definitely setting the scene and obviously having the heavyweights like Tom Ford, Dolce and Gabbana and Burberry doing things, the eagle has landed definitely.

PN: It’s amazing that two years ago menswear was just a single day tagged onto the end of womenswear, and now it’s just unbelievable.
DK: It’s brilliant, and that’s what I love about it as well, and I love all the venues this year around the golden triangle [of venues in Covent Garden and Bloomsbury], just to see guys really putting the effort in – because I love observing people and passers-by. I sat in a little café and just watched the reaction of passers-by to the people heading towards the show and it was great because it actually made people smile.

PN: And I think the Topman pub helped!
DK: Ah, that was fantastic. I was there on Sunday morning half ten/eleven o’clock and normally it’s a bad sign. It’s a good sign of a good night, but it’s a bad sign generally. It was a great idea, a really nice touch.

PN: So looking to the future; will we be seeing more of you in London?
DK: Absolutely. The funny thing is that I tend to spend a lot of time in London but it tends to be really work dominated, like for the last six months I’ve been doing a series online with ITV. So, I’ve been over in London two or three days a week, but literally we work so back to back that I tend not to get out of the bed. But, that is going to change and I have an exciting project starting in the summer, which, can I talk about now?

PN: Just give us a hint…
D: I am going to be hosting a thing called ‘The Style Squad’ on This Morning, and that’s kicking off in mid-July. So I’m really excited about that.

PN: So, it’s festival season at the moment: what would be your festival essential piece of clothing for guys?
DK: I think my personal essential that I think can go into any wardrobe is a parka. But, get a fleece-lined parka and one that’s water-resistant because that way you can take the detachable fleece off if you want and slip in on when it’s cold. I just think, if all else fails and all your clothes get soaked and you find yourself stark-naked in the middle of a field, then at least you’ve got your trusty parka to rely on. Oh, and if you’re a little bit OCD, then take ziploc freezer bad and keep everything that you really don’t want to get wet individually packed.

Darren currently hosts Fashion Sense on ITV.com

- Interview: Seb Law

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