My lunch date with Ray Kelvin, the elusive, press-shy CEO of Brit brand Ted Baker, is set at a restaurant in Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre—the site of his first Canadian stand-alone store, which opened last fall. Right before we’re due to meet, I get a call explaining that Kelvin would prefer I come straight to the store. I hurry over and am greeted at the front by Kelvin himself, charming and eccentric as only an Englishman can be. Out comes a fully-stocked picnic basket (conveniently, it’s part of the store’s Canadian-Brittania decor), from which we munch ham and cheese sandwiches in an over-sized dressing room. “These are vintage,” he says of the flowered china plates. “It’s [like] an English picnic somewhere in British Columbia.”
While Kelvin hardly ever does press and avoids being photographed—”It’s sexier to conceal than reveal”—a quality image is extremely important to him. “I am fanatical about great design and products,” he tells me, as he simultaneously admires customers trying on his clohtes. “I’m Ted Baker, the owner of the store,” he tells one gaping patron.) Kelvin began Ted Baker as a line of men’s shirts, and has since expanding into a full lifestyle brand. “When I started, I thought for sure I was going to go bankrupt, so I chose to work with Ted Baker because I didn’t want to be Ray, The Bankrupt. Now it’s doing very nicely [and] I don’t want to be…famous.”
In his anonymity, Kelvin is free to indulge in a range of interests, including collecting just about everything. “Fishing tackle, art, fabric, books, crockery, romantic novels, things for my caravan.” Besides running his company, fishing is his pastime of choice. Brimming with advice—he’s the father of two teenage sons—he ushers me out of the store after our meal. “Live every day to its fullest and have lots of fun and don’t upset people and hug them.” Taking his own advice, he hugs me goodbye and I thank him for the picnic.