With news of record profits announced this month, Ted Baker is one of Britain's most successful fashion stories. The reason? The brand doesn't do things like everyone else - we asked lifestyle writer Alice Olins to investigate its secret.
1. Fishing. That’s where Ted Baker was born.
Oh, and he isn’t a real man, he’s the stylish alter ego of entrepreneur Ray Kelvin. It was 1987, and Kelvin decided to set up a specialist shirt maker in Glasgow. That was the first Ted Baker store. Since then, 397 others have followed.
2. This season, Ted has 65 dress styles to choose from.
Which basically means you could wear a different one for every day of June and July and still have some to spare. This complete summer dress collection, which travels via tropical prints, through Art Nouveau nostalgia, into colourful blocks of lace, includes 13 knee length styles, 41 that will show off a bit of thigh, three modern midi’s and eight full-length super gowns. No summer wedding or garden party should be without one.
3. For Ted (read: Ray) the devil is in the detail.
‘From subtle embroidery and the use of the finest fabrics to amusing notes on the packaging and irreverent window schemes everything that bears the Ted Baker name offers absolute attention to detail, quality and that little bit more besides. Ours is a style that’s completely unique.’
4. Every single Ted Baker store is different.
On Robertson Avenue in Los Angeles, the shop is covered in a gigantic white paisley print. In Kent, Ted has its own village: Tedbury. The ‘store’ is divided into four different local shops, with some of the clothes being hung against old butcher’s tiles and others displayed at the café, The Teas Knees. Then, in Tokyo, there’s the triple height glass surround while next month Ted Baker launches its newest, and biggest, venture: a 6,000 sq ft concept store in Shoreditch.
5. For all its global successes, Ted Baker has never had an advertising campaign.
That’s no Ted Baker adverts on buses and no Ted Baker glossy images in magazines. Advertising is for wimps, or so Kelvin insinuated recently in the press. ‘If you look at the amount of effort we put into things and you look at other [brands who] just stick a girl in a bikini and it’s just shot on a beach and that’s it, it’s over, we’re trying that much harder, without over trying, to connect and create something that’s a little more intelligent.’
Instead Ted likes to run viral campaigns, his latest was two-week digital activation that played out on Instagram. It required followers to discover hidden clues and messages from the Pinch Me campaign. Some were fashion, others food; Kelvin wants to make holistic and emotional connections with his customers and that means focusing on more than just dresses and suits.
6. Tailored cycling shorts?
You’ve got to be kidding. Nope, Ted isn’t. Raising The Handlebars, a six-piece men’s micro collection, is all about upgrading your look when you’re peddalling. A neat pink polo shirt, chino shorts with an optional turn-up reflective hem and even drawstring jackets so you don’t get caught on passing wing mirrors. All you need now is the super-hip, Step-Through Electric Sparta.
7. Ray Kelvin never shows his face in public.
‘I’m an ugly b*****.’ The company’s head office is housed in The Ugly Brown Building, in London’s Kings Cross. A spokesperson could not confirm whether the two are connected.
8. If the clothes, the new pottery line and the quirky shops are not enough, then how about living an actual Ted Baker life?
Under a new deal, Ted Baker will provide an interior design service for fifteen new luxury apartments in Bournemouth. If the clothes are anything to go by, that’ll mean colourful wardrobe interiors, a sprinkling of printed soft furnishing and plenty of comic touches. Minimalists need not apply.
9. Today there are 18 Ted Baker stores in North America.
It’s a far cry from when the business wanted to launch Stateside two decades ago. Its first attempts at securing a retail space ended in confusion when the estate asked how big the ovens were. ‘Nobody had heard of us,’ recalled Kelvin. ‘They thought we were a baker.’
10. The final touch.
That’s the Ted Baker signature. ‘For men,’ says Kelvin, ‘finishing touches like ties, pocket squares bold socks are essential! Though I make sure they never match. And for the women,’ he continues, ‘a colour-pop or print handbag is the ultimate ladylike accessory, as well as Ted’s finest statement necklaces.’ For summer that means bold, triple flower necklaces and bow bracelets for the ladies, whilst gentlemen can enjoy cuff links inspired by Moorish tiles and floral print brogues.