The Talented Mr. Kelvin
Choosing between sweaters that each cost less than $300 while sipping on tea doesn’t sound like the typical shopping experience in a designer boutique. But then again, Ted Baker isn’t your average designer brand. And, just between you and us, Ted Baker isn’t even a real person. The brains that dreamed up the hip yet affordable clothing line recently found a new home at 201 Newbury Street are CEO Ray Kelvin’s. When I visited the boutique the day after store’s opening to meet this elusive Mr. Baker– we mean, Kelvin–we expected a stereotypical big time CEO. You know the type: Seems like one of your Dad’s scotch-swilling buddies who talks to you like you’re twelve. But, boy were we wrong.
Wearing (very) skinny jeans, a vest, and thick black-framed glasses, Kelvin strolled through the doors of his new Boston boutique lamenting– and not so quietly– in his English accent that our fair city was in dire need of more porridge purveyors. (In Bostonian, that translates to be oatmeal). Instead of an awkward air kiss or two, Kelvin greeted us with a big bear hug.
And then we got to chatting:
Bostonista: Why’d you decide to open a store in Boston?
Ray Kelvin: We’ve been trying to get a shop here for a long, long while.
RK: Yup, three weeks. No, I’m kidding. But we have been looking and we never found one in the right position. And I think due to the recession and difficult times, we managed to find one.
B: And did you always want to be on Newbury Street?
RK: Yes. I have a friend in England, my best friend in fact, who’s the manager of a football team called Exeter City and Exeter Street is our corner. So that’s why we took it, not because it’s a good shop, but because we received a good omen.
B: Do you serve tea in all of the stores?
BM: It’s so cool that you partnered with nearby TeaLuxe to serve their Earl Grey in the store. Do all of your stores have a partnership with a local cafés?
RK: Yes, but there is a special emphasis on tea in the Boston store because of the Boston Tea Party.
B: Do all of the Ted Baker stores have a different theme?
RK: Yes, we draw on something local. In Boston it was either going to be the tea party or the Boston Strangler.
B: The tea party was a better choice. I’m just glad you didn’t do anything with baked beans!
RK: Are beans big here?
B: Yes! The traditional Boston recipe for baked beans is so popular that the city’s nickname is Beantown.
Ray: I didn’t know that, I’m gonna have to look into that, I love baked beans.
BM: How has your experience in Boston been so far?
Ray: I really, really like it. They get the English I think
B: And how does Boston compares to the other cities with Ted Baker stores?
RK: Well it’s different architecturally isn’t it? Boston is more European. The people are really friendly and they like our clothes – we had a big turnout at the opening party, everyone got Brahms and Liszt.
RK: Do you know what Brahms and Liszt is?
B: No, but I’m guessing it means to get drunk.
RK: Yes, drunk, pissed!
B: So what do you think will be your big seller in Boston?
RK: Everything with a Ted Baker label. No but, everything is doing well, men’s suits, the dresses. Because it’s all individual you know. When I design, the philosophy is that I try to do something that is unique, that has an independent feel and that is three times the product for a third of the price.
B: What do you mean by three times the product? Are you talking quality?
RK: We don’t spend money on advertising so all of the value goes into the clothing. So this is one of the top designed products that you buy that you’re not paying for all the jazz.
[Music starts and Ray gets up to dance]
B: I’m going to say that you danced like an old daddy.
RK: No! Don’t!
B: Yup, the title will be Daddy Dancer. – Abby Bielagus