Interview: The Closest Man to Ted

Since 1988 Ted Baker has grown by word of mouth and has become a global brand, which produces men’s, women’s and children’s clothing as well as fragrances, eyewear and accessories — and has even featured in the 007 movie Casino Royale. Weekender sat with Ted Baker CEO Ray Kelvin to hear his views on the Japanese market, the mysterious ‘Ted’ and meeting Prince Charles.

Ted Baker is set to open its first store here in Tokyo this month, what are your expectations?

We are very excited to be opening our first store in Japan in Omotesando on March 16. This is a big opportunity for Ted and we are very proud of the bespoke store design which is designed to surprise and delight with lots of quirky Ted touches to be discovered along the way. We hope that Tokyo shoppers will be enchanted by both the store and the collections and walk away as loyal Ted Baker devotees.

Ted Baker is well known for producing unconventional, unique and often humorous clothes. Do you think Tokyo will take your designs?

The Ted Baker shopper is discerning and has a keen eye for unique design and quirky attention to detail for which the Ted collections are renowned for. They also have a desire to look different and not to slavishly follow trends so yes, we think the brand and collections will definitely appeal to the design conscious Japanese who like to develop an individual style and stand out from the crowd.

Is this shop going to be the first of many throughout the country?

We see Japan as a key market to drive our growth in Asia and we are continually looking for expansion opportunities, so watch this space.

What are your general impressions of Japan?

As a brand we love to give service and care, qualities that the Japanese are also extremely passionate about. Coupled with Japan’s love for precision and all things design there are many similarities between Japanese culture and the Ted Baker aesthetic which excites me and makes us feel at home.
Ted Baker
For those readers who don’t know much about Ted, can you tell us a bit about him?

Ted has always been something of an enigma, traveling the globe, setting rather than following fashion, mixing business and pleasure, wherever the fancy has taken him. A pioneering fashion icon (not to mention an intrepid aviator, all-round sportsman and consort of Princesses and Hollywood beauties), the life, loves and adventures of the debonair Mr Baker stand testimony to a man whose ambition is to experience everything.

Most of your success has been down to word of mouth, without a campaign. How have you managed that?

I started the business by trying to find alternative ways of marketing the brand and building awareness. At Ted we always like to do things differently including creative window displays which create a talking point, bespoke store designs, guerrilla tactics, experiential marketing activity and by having our own language and culture. I felt that not advertising was the right thing to do when I started out and I have stuck to that philosophy, preferring to grow the business through considered expansion of the collections and stores and clever marketing tactics. Our stores are our advertising–and the people in all of our locations around the world are our marketeers singing the tune of Ted.

You worked in a menswear store from the age of eleven, was is your dream to own your own fashion label back then?

Ever since I can remember I’ve been interested and involved in fashion in one way or another. From working in my grandfather’s menswear shop as a very young man, throughout my teenage years developing my own style and then of course my early professional career. It was always my dream to create something exciting and unique.

What inspires you to keep coming up with fresh, innovative ideas?

I get inspiration from a variety of sources and from my travels. I enjoy fabrics and textures and interior design; in fact I enjoy all areas of design, that’s what motivates and inspires me. I am fortunate to have a great design team to work with and be inspired by and I can actually get great ideas from almost anywhere but a lot of the best ideas have come whilst I have been surrounded by calm whilst fishing. I love it as it gives me time to think about everything I’m involved in and enables me to put various thoughts in order.

You were awarded the CBE last year, what was your initial reaction when you opened the letter from Her Majesty The Queen?

I was absolutely thrilled to be receiving the honor and am extremely proud of what has been achieved by the teams at Ted Baker over the years. Ted Baker has been, along with my family, my enduring passion and commercial focus since 1988. The honor felt like a fitting way to recognize the input of the many hundreds of different people over these last thirty years and the way that help has aided my career, its development and the success of the brand.

It must have been an incredibly proud moment picking up the honor from Prince Charles, did you give him any fashion advice?

It was one of the proudest moments of my life but what I said to Prince Charles on that special day will remain a secret!

Ted Baker’s first Japan store will open on March 16 in Omotesando.
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Interview by Matthew Hernon and Ray Pedersen

Photos courtesy of Ted Baker