In today's Thursday Styles, We learn that Critical Shopper Jon Caramanica is disenchanted with the endless cycle of brand revamping and repositioning that is gripping the fashion industry. He has visited British import Kent & Curwen's relatively new Madison Avenue boutique to discover that an apparently venerable brand known for upper class sport gear (cricket sweaters and the like) has been taken over by those who would impose trendy fashion upon it. He doesn't seem too pleased about it. This fall marks the first full collection by the brand's new creative director, Simon Spurr, the British born, formerly New York based designer whose business collapsed a couple of years ago as a result of overly ambitious brand diffusion, investor disputes and, to hear insiders tell it, poor fitting product. To our shopper, it is not an easy fit at Kent & Curwen either.
Mr. Spurr is attempting to navigate choppy waters: the British tension between flamboyance and rigor, and the ever-evolving needs of young men of taste. He wants to be luxe and also cool.
Maybe our shopper is simply not a fan of Simon Spurr. The Shophound can relate. We loved what Spurr's clothes looked like, but they were cut so narrowly that they could only be enjoyed by either the skeletal or those who look for shirts to cut them under the arms. It certainly made it frustrating for us to be a real fan. We don't know if our shopper tried on any of Spurr's latest work for Kent & Curwen, so we don't know if the same unforgiving fit model is in effect, but we have seen the collection and it looked great to us. In fact, it looked just like a Simon Spurr collection. We missed his particular style, and he has clearly taken control of the brand right down to the new, square label that evokes the look of, well, his old one. Aesthetically, we are happy to see him back, but our shopper seems to think he has corrupted a great brand known for more traditional fare. Of course, Kent & Curwen was hardly a household name, so it's hard for us to see it as the bastardization of a once great brand. Frankly, we wouldn't even be discussing Kent & Curwen at all if a group of investors including designer Tommy Hilfiger hadn't been planning to relaunch the label and introduce it in the U.S. And what was Spurr's most recent job? Designing Hilfiger's men's runway collections, so it's not like he fell into the job by accident. To us it's an opportunity to have Simon Spurr back making clothes that maybe we can wear if we break up with carbs forever, but to out shopper, it makes Kent & Curwen into a "house in tumult".
Critical Shopper: Kent & Curwen: Playing a Game With New Rules By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Kent & Curwen 816 Madison Avenue between 68th & 69th Streets, Upper East Side