BBG Presents: Darren Kennedy

10 July 2015

Darren Kennedy is the kind of guy you want to go to brunch with. Eggs on toast, a light rose with some white linen on the tables as you sit, him in his immaculate suit and clean trainers, you in your jumper and a floppy hat. Together you will laugh, cry and even get angry at whatever topic comes floating your way. He is a person who loves people, loves helping them and learning about them, encouraging them to grow with him. We have no doubt in our mind that if Darren Kennedy was our friend, he’d help us sort our life out in the 10 minutes it took for the avocado on toast to arrive, leaving you with ample time to talk about clothes and Instagram for the rest of the afternoon.

Photographed by Cecilie Harris and styled by the man himself, if one word was to come out of these images and interview, it would be passion. Darren is passionate about culture, his home land of Ireland and youth. He loves clothes, and the excitement he showed over the outfits he styled "for the boy who wants to look sophisticated, yet cool" was immense. He has words of encouragement for days, and seems to ooze a kindness that’s palpable when he walks in the room. In fact, since we had this chat with him, we’ve run into him once or twice and have been greeted as old friends - with a kiss on the cheek and exchanges of pleasantries. Yes, we'd take styling advise from Darren any day.

Darren, you are so multi-talented, how would you describe you in a nutshell?
How would I describe me in a nutshell...? Short attention span and always trying out new things! My world is varied and there’s lots of different facets to what I do, but really they all centre around people. I work in TV, and across print, online, digital and radio too. At the core of everything I do are people. Main stay is as TV presenter, and then the world of fashion collides with that.

Above left: Suit and Top by RICHARD JAMES, Shoes by JIMMY CHOO.
Above right: Suit by TIGER OF SWEDEN, Top by H&M.

What came first - presenting or fashion?
Presenting came first. I was in college and started working as a runner at a local TV station, and by the time I was 21 I had started doing live TV appearances. Then I reached a point where TV can be kind of fickle and frivolous and I wanted to develop something that I’ve always been interested in. In TV you’re kind of in a hamster wheel; you work in a job, it consumes your life and you might work 60/70 hours a week and then once that job ends you start another job and you’re starting again. I asked myself “what do I want to do”. I’ve always been into anything aesthetics like interior design, gardens, clothes. Obviously, clothes is something I wear everyday (thankfully haha), so that what I pursued and I went off to Central St. Martins and did a couple of courses there and set up a personal styling business. Then I started a blog which developed into an online magazine and the two worlds merged. TV is such a visual medium, and it’s kind of nice to have the two different aspects. Then about two years ago, I turned my hand to designing menswear, so I hooked up with Louis Coupeland. He’s Ireland’s most renowned tailor, and has dressed everyone from Bill Clinton to Brad Pitt and everyone inbetween.

How would you describe your personal style?
My personal style is a bit schizophrenic at times, but I’d describe it as always tailored with a bit of an urban edge. That could be wearing a nice tailored double-breasted blazer and a T-shirt with a pair of ripped up jeans and trainers. My shoe and trainer collection is out of control. I love colour, I love print, I love having a bit of fun with it. It really does depend on the day, and what I’m up to. I think it’s important not to over think it.

Above right: Coat by HENTSCH MAN, Jeans by H&M, T-shirt by EMPORIO ARMANI.

Do you often hear that you look a little like Robbie Williams?
I’ve never heard Robbie Williams! I get so many people, but Robbie Williams is a new one to add to the list. haha

We saw some pictures of you the other day and we all said you looked like Robbie Williams!
Chubby Robbie Williams or slim Robbie Williams?

No, handsome Robbie Williams.
Aw good, look at you. How did you get out of that one! I’m impressed.

It was a compliment for sure. Where did your fashion interest come from?
It started really young unbeknownst to me. I realized that as a 7/8 year old kid I was always interested in how things went together. I was very interested in colour and wearing colour, I remember being quite fussy. My parents were very keen on style and looking at their pictures on the wall you can tell they’re kids of the 70’s. My mum and dad would be decked out in all the gear. My dad used to go to London and pick up all his gear, and both my parents were hugely focused on how they dressed, so I guess by osmosis that’s in me. I developed a vocabulary and a point of view quite early on in terms of what I liked. I’d go shopping with my mother and I’d be giving my opinion and directions on what I liked as a little 7/8 year old child. Literally I remember being in the changing room and being ‘no mum, no I don’t like that’. I was dressing her as well. I also have an older brother who’s five years older than me and again he was very into clothes and what was hot and what wasn’t at that time so I was influenced by what he was wearing as well. Most of my friends when I was around 12 or 13 would be wearing tracksuits. I have this really clear memory of me rocking up one day wearing a paisley shirt, a pair of his Levi's 501 and a pair of boots or brogues, and all my friends kind of looking at me oddly.

Do you have a love for any particular brands?
I’m not very brand loyal in that sense at the, moment but I guess if I look in my wardrobe I do have things that I go back to time and time again. I have an amazing pair of YMC leapard print boots that I just love and I really like Whistles men too. It’s quite relaxed, easy wearing. I really like H&M, Tiger of Sweden and Acne, but at the same time you could ask me that question in six months and the list might be completely different. I do like Burberry and Belstaff and a little bit of maybe Dolce and Gabbana although not so hot on them at the moment, taking a stance on their recent comments.

Are there any emerging designers you are drawn to?
I really like Lou Dalton.

We just interviewed her for the last issue, she's fab!
I saw yeah! I think she’s cool. I think she’s really cool. I mean J.W. Anderson, fellow Irishman, doing amazing things and really pushing it out there. It’s been quite impressive to see how rapidly his star has risen. Jonathan Saunders, I picked up a really nice ombre bomber from him recently. I also like YMC and Oliver Spencer, so yeah, a whole mix of brands. Actually there’s a really cool Swedish brand, do you know Stutterheim? They did a collaboration with Whistles Men, and they do amazing rain gear.

I wanted to ask about your styling for today.
The idea for the styling today is really relaxed. I wanted to include things that had a good fit, quite classic, yet youthful. There are a few bold pops of colour, which I love. It’s a sunny day so I wanted to have a bit of fun with it, including a bit of the the classic black and white again. Tailoring doesn’t have to be stuffy, and if you’re a young guy it’s all about finding pieces that are fitted to you. I’m also a big fan of breaking up my suiting. I’ve got a three-piece suit, there is potential for six outfits in that. For summer occasions, if you’ve got a wedding or races or a really fancy barbeque, that’s how you can take your tailoring in lighter shades, which immediately makes it summery, and then you can dress it down with a T-shirt and a pair of trainers and you’re happy. And then some nice pieces from Jimmy Choo, because, why not.

How would you describe the style of the British young man?
Eclectic actually, young British men really are. It depends on the area you’re in; if you’re in Shoreditch style can be loud and fearless, which is great and I absolutely love it. Then you’ll find that these guys will transition, from the young guy to the slightly older guy, maybe in their 30’s around Shoreditch. He will still have that vibe, but it’s slightly more muted. It’s deconstructed tailoring, a lot of denim, a lot of texture, but it’s a little bit more refined. It matures as they mature. But then around west, if you go across the river to Chelsea, it’s going to have a different vibe. Again it’s going to have that tailored edge, but even more extreme, but still in a relaxed kind of way. Then the City is your suited and booted type, so it really does depend and I love that.

Above left: Shoes by JIMMY CHOO.
Above right: Jacket by RICHARD JAMES.

A lot of our readers is quite young, what kind of style tips would you give for boys being smart and cool at the same time?
The secret is to retain that personal aesthetic and go with your gut. When you’re young it’s your time to be fearless and to try new things, and yeah you might get it wrong, but it’s fashion, no one’s gonna die. Play around with things a little bit. I often think that sometimes it’s the things that you’re not instantly drawn to that you’re going to fall in love with. For a lot of young guys maybe the thought of tailoring is stuffy or only for a particular occasion, ut a double-breasted jacket worn open with your favorite skinny jeans, a T-shirt and a pair of trainers will look great, and can give you a little bit of edge. And then accessories, I think boys of today are not afraid to embrace accessories.

What are your favorite presenting jobs to do?
I’ve just finished a series called "The Unemployables", which is basically "Benefit Street" meets "The Undateables". It’s about dealing with young people who’ve never worked or had the opportunity to work for whatever reason. For some people it’s family scenarios. There’s never been an expectation they just kind of do their GCSE’s or A-Levels if they even do them, and then go straight onto benefits, because that’s what’s expected of them. For a lot of the people it’s just because we’re coming out of a really bad time economically and there’s a generation there that could be left behind. So we look at how to help them and bring in experts to assist in the fields where they really need help. Most importantly we try to help them stop looking at the negatives in their life and focus on the positive attributesthey have. Everyone has positives. Anyone that’s unemployed, whether you’re 18 or 38, every day that you are unemployed it slowly chips away at your confidence and wears you down until you reach a point where your self esteem and self of worth has diminished so much that you feel you have nothing to offer. Your CV obviously might have gaps or there’s nothing there at all, so it’s twisting that on its head and gaining experience, because you’d be amazed at what having direction in your life can do. And actually the most important thing for any young person dreaming of this career or life, who doesn’t know where to start, is just to start. Go out and do anything. You will never get that dream career if you don’t start. You might think how does cleaning cars relate to me you know, but you have to start somewhere. That’s one show I’ve just done that I’m very invested in, and I have another series called "Trending", which is all about pop culture, entertainment, clothes and what’s happening right now. It’s very fast paced, and it’s getting onto the streets and seeing what people are doing. It’s driven by the audience, which is very fun. And then I make a lot of documentaries, which tend to be the kind of things that I personally have a question about. I don’t believe in working on shows that I’m not personally curious about or invested in. One of the documentaries I made is called ‘Gay Daddy’, which was exploring, as a gay man, how I can have kids. It was in the context of Ireland and the Irish legislation and framework there, and obviously it’s very hot now that we were celebrating being the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage by vote.

Yes, how are you feeling about that?!
It’s really funny right, because I’ve never felt not equal, but actually I’ve grown up in a society where the legislation told me that I’m not equal. Homosexuality was decriminalized in Ireland in 1993. That’s like just over 20 years ago. So to see this little country of ours that has such a kind of rich, shall we say, religious history and strong Catholic links to state, to see a country that I’m proud to call home make this massive leap forward and now be at the forefront of social equality in the world, I’m just so proud of. The week of the referendum I was quite involved in campaigning and just speaking to my generation and people who are my audience, because it’s very important that they go out and vote. The week of the election something like 100,000 new people registered to vote who had never voted before. I think that during that whole campaign there was a cost to every single lesbian and gay and transgender person, because I think you visit a period in your life that for some was quite dark, so for that to be validated by the people of my country in such an overwhelming display of love is very emotional. It’s been such an emotional time. This was the people of Ireland saying yes, we embrace everyone, and I just think that’s such a powerful thing. Someone said it was like a Martin Luther King moment and it kinda was, especially for us. It also sends a message at a time when you have countries like Russia who are reining on laws and Africa where it’s really tough to be gay. I was in Dublin city center and it was just amazing. The feeling! And it wasn’t just gay people, but also straight people with their kids and families, and it was so powerful.

Yay Ireland.
No, yay people. You know?

Above Left: Jacket by H&M, T-shirt by HUGO BOSS, Jeans by CITZENS OF HUMANITY, Shoes by H&M.
Above right: Coat by HENTSCH MAN.

I was so happy as well. I have so many gay friends and I’m very passionate about that you should be able to love who you want to love.
And that’s it. The simple question being asked is not whether gay people should be able to get married. It’s, do you believe that everyone is equal and should have the same rights.

I’ve been reading up a lot on this generation due to my job. One of the things I want to express within Boys by Girls Magazine is looking at the positive in youth. A lot of the the time the assumption in the media can be that they don’t care about things. I want to paint a different picture, as I see a lot of passion with the boys we have come through the door.
Generation K now isn’t it? I definitely think they do care as well. Of course they care. I think in many respects it’s a generation that feels kind of powerless.

What do you think is the reason for that?
I think it’s a mix of things. I think generation K grew up and were raised in a time that was quite prosperous. In a world where it was easier to have things than it was when I grew up and so they were handed things maybe a little bit easier, so there’s a sense (and I say this lightly because I don’t want this to be a generalization) that some people can have a sense of entitlement. I know with "The Unemployables" we had people emailing in going ‘Hi, I want to be a presenter, I love what you do. Can you help me, thanks’. And there’s this underlying thing of ‘well I’ve done my part so now it’s gonna happen and he’s going to help make it work’. And it doesn’t quite work that way. That essence of real hard work and getting stuck in is maybe lost a little bit. But then again it’s coupled with this generation leaving school at a bleak time when there were the highest rates of unemployment since the great depression. where the economy was bleak and budgets were being rolled back. Everyone kind of looked into themselves and was in a bit survival mode and that, while being a great opportunity if you’ve got direction and got a real clear sense of where you’re going, can make someone end up feeling lost.

Above: Shoes by H&M.

Are there any other things you are really passionate about?
Clearly I’m very passionate about people and helping people be the best they can. Don’t get me wrong I’m not mother Teresa, like, you know, but I do believe in that whole thing. And I’m passionate about animals and wild life. Growing up I wanted to be a vet. Also just traveling the world and meeting people, I love getting insights into how people live. I’ve lived in France, I’ve lived in different countries and I love that, because you get a snapshot into different cultures and how people think.

What is your overall message that you want to leave people with?
You have one shot at life, live it to the best you can. That really is it. We can all dwell and it’s human nature to look at the negative, but just get out there and do it. The only thing holding you back is you. You don’t know what doors will open and where it will lead. There’s a saying ‘take a step and a bridge will appear’ and it’s so true. It’s quite a powerful thing actually if you put it into action.

Above left: Jacket by H&M, T-shirt by HUGO BOSS, Jeans by CITZENS OF HUMANITY, Shoes by H&M.
Above right: Suit and Shirt by RICHARD JAMES.


Interview by Cecilie Harris.
Words by India Opie Meres.

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