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Prestige | Runway | SIMON SPURR | Spring/Summer 2015
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With Simon Spurr, an Englishman in New York, at the helm, British brand Rent & Curwen is flourishing for a new generation. He talks with ALISON CATCHPOLE in London.

MEETING AN ENERGISED Simon Spurr at the spring/summer 2015 Kent & Curwen catwalk show, it's obvious he's delighted with the opportunity to inject a modern, elegant spirit into the traditional British company.


Since graduating from London's Middlesex University in 1996, Spurr — elegant, softly spoken and so English he loves pubs as much as clothes — has enjoyed a rapid rise, working under Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent and in senior creative positions at Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger.


“It's all about preserving the heritage but moving on,” he says. “There are other elements in the collection for an older gentleman, but I want to capture an audience so we can work together and there’s real longevity to the brand. London is a young city; I like to respect the places where I show clothes."


The catwalk was in a large white space in central London as part of London Collections: Men. With a blend of tailored and more casual pieces, the new Rent & Curwen direction was clearly steeped in the company's rich history as purveyors of cricket. rowing and polo chic.


With legendary goal scorer Michael Owen as brand ambassador, the label's link with sporting style is as integral as ever. “The V is the new branding this year,“ explains Spurr of the pattern visible on a number of sweaters from the collection. “Where the handle of the cricket bat meets the actual bat itself, there is a V. What I wanted to do was to pay homage to the brands DNA but to make the branding really subtle in a way that’s not really identifiable with cricket. It’s a modern, unisex piece of branding on sport- influenced clothing. Stripes are an important part of that."


Spurr is as passionate about his work as he is about sports. “I think I design from the heart," he says. “I stick to my beliefs and I care about the guy who's wearing it. I/Vhen I was working for Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent, he introduced me to that whole androgyny thing and the idea you can play with proportion, disregarding the trends and doing what you believe in. Calvin Klein is very much about minimalism, about taking away, and a purity of product."


Based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with his paediatrician wife Justine, Spurr prefers a low- key approach. “I don't run a stressful team. It's very collaborative, and we still sketch by hand at work. The studio back in New York is almost Zen—like. It’s like the movie Gattaca, all white. I admit I don't like distractions or too much clutter. It's all very organised." In that vein, he adds proudly, “We were actually styled ready for the catwalk three days before the models turned up!”


Clearly, this notion of purity means a lot to Spurr. as he takes it further: “I can actually go on holiday with a holdall. My uniform is jeans and T—shirt. It's about picking garments that are versatile, that can interchange. You have a jean, you have a shoe, you have a boot, a leather jacket, a tailored jacket, some T—shirts and a shirt. You can match from day to evening and you can never go wrong with the classics."


As with so many designers, his influences include music — the collection was directly inspired by the idea of a band’s front man — and his New York lifestyle. “I go to the Met, the Guggenheim, MOMA," he says. "I'm influenced by films. Sometimes on the subwayl see something and I juxtapose what I'm listening to on my headphones — and that can trigger an idea."


Intriguingly, like women designers who often use their own shape to model their clothes. Spurr has used the same approach. Twice- weekly tennis lessons help him to relax and stay in shape. “When I was at university and I had to do my final collection, I definitely had a conscious thought, ‘Well, why not wear it?’ That’s why I chose menswear over womenswear. I actually do quite a lot of the fittings on me."


And what does he miss about London? "I miss the football. I miss the pubs. I miss the banter: it’s dry and sharp over here. Butl love New York, too. And I love what we do. I'm lucky that I'm in a position where I can create — the owners have allowed me to build a new vision for the Rent & Curwen brand. I hope it's one that's going to be successful for decades."

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