Will the real Ted Baker please stand up?

An interview with the inimitable Ray Kelvin, CEO of the British brand.

Neil Churchill August 2, 2015

Who is Ted Baker?
I didn’t want to use my real name because I never thought it would work. I didn’t want to be Ray the Bankrupt, so I hid behind the name of Ted Baker. A friend of mine who is an artist went to America and using his name Richard he didn’t do very well. But he changed his name to Ted Baker and his fortunes seemed to turn for the better. So I adopted that name. But the real reason is I didn’t want to use my own name.

You used to be able to go to different countries and buy different things that you couldn’t get anywhere else. Now everything is the same all over the world, which is a shame, but a positive thing for our business. Now it’s one world, one shop. We do extremely well outside of the UK, we outperform and we’ve got a great following for our products. 

Forward thinking
We’ve never taken a conventional approach to advertising – we’ve never placed an advert in a newspaper. In the early days I couldn’t afford it. I wanted to find interesting ways of actually developing the personality of the brand, so I got under the skin of the products and of the consumers, and found other ways to develop through viral and guerrilla marketing. Now there’s digital and social media that really extends the way we think. We’re very forward thinking. We’ve not been traditionalists in anything we do, but it’s worked out well for us, very well.

Success stories
We have made quite a lot of millionaires within Ted Baker. It started in my front room and it’s now quite a large business [publically valued on the FTSE 250 at GBP 1.3 billion] but the last thing we think about is money; the first thing we think about is making better products and making better people. 

ted baker summer 2015.jpg Ted Baker's Summer 2015 line has some snappy formal wear.

Proper person
I’m quite surprised when you come across somebody who’s a gentleman. In terms of dress, the men of today have started to discover formalwear and the traditions that go with formalwear: how far your cuffs should show, unbutton your jacket when you sit down, button it when you stand up, and so on. I think people are trying pretty hard. But the most important thing is to be a gentleman with the ladies, to be a PP – a proper person.

Classic products
I’m a man of simple tastes, but then I enjoy quality – so certain things can be expensive. I’m not really interested in luxury – I like democratic products, I like things that everybody can buy. I like classic ageless products – I collect old cars. I’d rather have a classic car than a modern luxury one.

Slowing down
I won’t retire, but I slowed down 20 years ago. You work differently. I work through people, I like working through teams, I like being part of a team; it’s not all about me, it’s about the brand. I am what I am and I behave in business as I would at home. Generally speaking I’ve got the same board of directors as day one, I love them to bits and we get on really well. It’s one big family and that’s how we’ve managed to build such a great business.

Fact check
5 things you (probably) didn’t know about Ray Kelvin

– He refuses to show his whole face in photos
– His hobbies are fly-fishing and tennis
– Despite being a Londoner, Ted Baker started as a men’s shirt store in Glasgow
– Ted Baker's Dubai Mall store is the most profitable in the company’s 400 global outlets
– Ray's motto is: “Don’t look back, march on.” 

Visit tedbaker.com