From across the pond we caught up with Darren Kennedy, who, at 9pm in Dublin with his miniature terrier curled up in his lap, couldn’t have been more effervescent.
The TV presenter, stylist and writer fronts a string of top rating shows in Ireland and the UK, develops documentaries, is a regular contributor to major fashion publications including Telegraph Men and now adds fashion designer to his repertoire with his DK x LC collaboration.
It’s hard to believe the ‘Best Dressed’ man once had childhood dreams of being a vet. “I’ve always been intrigued and fascinated by animals of all sorts.”
Kennedy’s dreams were however dashed at 13 when he decided he wanted to become a vegetarian and was “terribly squeamish.” Too squeamish in fact, to become a vet after all.
In search of a new direction and with a desire to stray from the traditional communications route, Kennedy enrolled in an International Business course in French and Spanish which allowed him to live in France for 2 years. Whilst he admits, “travelling opens your mind up to different styles and outlooks,” and that he was partially influenced by a “classic Parisian style” during his time in the French capital, Kennedy maintains that his personal style influences are far closer to home.
“I’m a touch and textiles kind of person. I like the tactile nature of things,” a quality Kennedy credits to his Dublin upbringing. “In Ireland there’s a rich heritage of weaving – from tweeds to aran and linens.”
After all, it was back at home where he made his first foray into the showbiz industry. “I was working as a runner on a breakfast TV show and then in radio,” humble beginnings for someone who now proudly presents on ITV’s flagship breakfast show ‘This Morning’.
Like with all his sentiments, Kennedy doesn’t paint a particularly pompous picture about the start of his career.
“You take a step and suddenly the path appears, and the dots join…but the journey never really ends.”
It’s this strong work ethic and persona of perseverance that allows Kennedy to juggle his many hats, from TV presenter, to stylist and writer. “It’s important that I have those different roles…it’s about keeping yourself interested. There are ebbs and flows as well. I have times when I’m insanely busy, and others where parts of my life are winding down.”
We pinned Kennedy down during a particularly busy time in his life, having just designed his very own capsule collection, Darren Kennedy x Louie Copeland. The range, a mix of sophisticated suiting and outerwear, was received enthusiastically by the fashion industry, customers and tailoring fans alike and has meant plenty of creative input from the Man About Town. “I’m involved in the marketing, branding and creative direction…then there’s all the promotion.”
While it seems like there’s never a dull moment for Kennedy, it’s something he thrives on. “Variety is the spice of life,” he says with an endearing Irish laugh.
It’s all about variety for Kennedy, whether he’s in the studio filming, developing, strategising and planning for a new campaign or flying from London to Dublin and back, the jack of many trades still makes time for the important things in life, “I try to squeeze in the gym or walk my dog, Harry.”
With plenty on his plate, it’s a wonder Kennedy’s sense of style never falls by the wayside. “I dress for me, not anyone else. In terms of how you act, well, you just need to be weary that eyes are sometimes on you. But you can’t live your life overthinking everything.”
Cool, calm and collected in his day-to-day life, and in the face of a-list celebrities during interviews with the likes of Victoria Beckham, Emma Watson, Tommy Hilfiger, Ronaldo and Gerard Butler, Kennedy remains unruffled by judging eyes. Except for when he met Hillary Clinton, of course.
“The one person I was star struck by was Hillary. They say some people have an aura or a special quality. I’d never encountered it before and I’ve met lots of lovely people, but with Hillary, I was like ‘wow’.”
When he’s not interviewing major political figureheads and celebrities, Kennedy has been developing and hosting documentaries like ‘Gay Daddy’ and ‘Like a Virgin’, a process that he explains starts with a spark of curiosity. “It has to start with something that affects me or peaks my interest. It’s like doing a thesis – there has to be an overriding question that you’re setting out to investigate.”
There’s also his new TV show, RTE2’s ‘Unemployables’ that has been making waves across Ireland. The show follows a selection of under 30-year-olds that, since the global recession, are struggling to get a start in the workforce. “They’ve been somewhat disenchanted and left behind. We take them under our wing and give them a bit of a kick up the arse where they need it.”
Kennedy has been no stranger to ‘grafting’ throughout his life, but as far as his ‘Best Dressed’ status goes, he insists that there was no hard work behind earning the title. “I certainly wouldn’t have set out with that in mind. It’s so lovely that your peers would recognise you for that and it’s very complimentary, but it’s not something that was cultivated in any particular way.”
As a matter of fact, Kennedy says his style is largely influenced by his parents. “There’s these amazing pictures of them in the kitchen from the 70’s wearing all the gear and looking fantastic.” Beyond that, Steve McQueen and the iconic masculinity of the 1950’s inspires Kennedy’s dress sense. “I love men who dress as men.”
Kennedy’s wardrobe is a reflection of this eclectic, yet classic taste, with his most treasured pieces consisting of a pair of YMC calf hair leopard print desert boots and a double-breasted tweed dogstooth coat from his own DK x LC collection. Kennedy also includes a new Brüggler watch, worn above, as one of his must-haves.
“I wouldn’t spend a huge amount on clothes, though…I’d rather spend it on travel. It’s all about experience.”
So, what is the style guru’s one piece of fashion advice for men? “Focus on the fit of your clothes. From sleeve length to width of back, the seat of your pants and the folds. Fit and proportion can have a ginormous impact on your look.”
Refreshing, down-to-earth and switched on, it’s probably a good idea we take Darren Kennedy’s advice immediately.