Upon entering the new Ted Baker store at Vancouver’s Pacific Centre, shoppers leave behind the shiny white interiors of the mall and instead find themselves in a warm, richly decorated forest cabin. The space—Ted’s first expansion into Canada outside of Toronto—immediately invokes a sense of exploration and adventure, a promise of good things to come. And indeed, fashion gems abound at the menswear and womenswear store, designed to feel like a poorly prepared Englishman’s trip to Canada’s wild west. “A British man comes to Vancouver and brings an umbrella, when really, he should have brought an axe,” Mark Valerio, head of store design, explains of the concept. He says it’s supposed to feel “like a luxury cabin.”
The store’s outdoorsy feel is reflective of the brand’s founder and CEO Ray Kelvin, a charismatic and eccentric Londoner who, when in Vancouver, fancies himself a nice fishing trip. “I fished the Pitt River,” he says of one trip to B.C. When asked if he caught anything, he barely skips a beat before offering, “I caught the bank just before I fell in. And then the second time I went, I caught a cold.” An international man of mystery if there ever was one—he is notorious for hiding his face from the public—Kelvin is indeed the living spirit of Ted Baker (a fictional character): a sunny, poised, playful soul. “I saw a mountain lion,” he continues. “I was about 45 minutes from Vancouver, by the Fraser River. That’s where I was and a mountain lion went right past the car. I couldn’t believe it.” Even the wild animals, it seems, are drawn to his charm.
But Ted Baker has his own allure—one that Kelvin is sure will rub off on Vancouverites. “We’re doing very well in Canada,” he says of his Toronto stores. “Do you know why? Because Canadians have got taste.” With that, he whistles a cheery tune, a moment of cartoonish sing-song that is over as quickly as it began. Ted Baker is known for bright, playful prints and sharp tailoring, a collection of clothing quintessentially British but with international appeal. “We produce clothing that is a little bit different and a little more grown up with quality and detail that North America and Canada don’t actually have a lot of,” says Kelvin. Of choosing Vancouver for Ted’s next Canadian adventure, he says “it’s a good cosmopolitan city, lots of tourists, a positive attitude.”
Ted Baker began as a menswear brand, opening its first store in Glasgow in 1988, and has since mushroomed into a global fashion staple for both men and women. “I started the business from my front room, my kitchen in my house,” Kelvin says. “Now we’ve got a business that’s worth over $2 billion American. That’s my biggest surprise. I never intended for it to be that big. One of the challenges we’ve had is to keep it with a small feel, which we’ve managed to do. As much as it’s become big, we’ve never become a chain.” This is evident in the brand’s philosophy to keep everything designed in-house—“We’re not lazy. We own everything,” he says—and to make sure every storefront is a unique and storied representation of the city in which it lives. “We don’t ever produce two stores alike,” Kelvin says. “I know we will do extremely well with what we do because we don’t replicate anything.” A testament to this, the Vancouver store is as whimsical as it is practical—a fashion force of nature.
Photos by Desy Cheng.