5 Minutes With James Kingston; The Founder of Benedict RavenThe Journal
18th September 2019
How did Benedict Raven begin?
After spending years of trying to find a wardrobe that truly represented the modern man piecing together the best garments from a variety of brands, I took it upon myself to create a brand inspiring the man of today. Travelling the world, I sourced the finest fabrics, partnered with master craftsman and created our first collection Timeless. Each garment is designed to appeal to those who share a passion for style paired with luxury and usability.
I also work as Managing Director of Kingston Barnes, a leading recruitment consultancy that specialise in talent acquisition within the construction and engineering markets. Having been in recruitment for nearly 20 years I setup my own practice as I wanted to raise the benchmark of standards within the industry and be seen as a market leader within my field. In nearly 7 years, my company has won countless awards, now a multi-award winning, multi-million-pound business employing 25 people and is on track to become the best company to work with and work for in the future.
I’ve now set my eye on doing a similar thing within menswear. I’ve spent 18 months planning, researching and travelling the world employing a team of fashion experts to help create the perfect modern man’s capsule wardrobe. In October 2018 Benedict Raven was launched initially as an e-commerce business enabling customers to enjoy bespoke garments, luxuriously packaged and delivered right to their door. Having been a customer of so many leading brands for so long I have really noticed a change of direction towards fast fashion trends, quick sales and the process has lost its personal touch with the consumer. I want to change that. It’s not good for the environment or customer journey.
Have you always been interested in fashion?
Fashion and style have been a part of my life since I first started school. Back then it was baggy jeans, t-shirts and being a teenager wanting to stand out for all the right reasons I was keen to be sporting the latest trends. Having started quite young in recruitment at the age of 20 among many peers over the age of 30 I was keen to be taken seriously and make a good impression. So, a 3-piece bespoke suit and donning a tie was the attire of a “professional career”. As my career started to flourish so did my wardrobe; when I founded my own company, I decided to make my own rules and fashion really started to play a part in my daily routine. Fashion for me comes from a desire to want to look and feel good and that feeling has always been enhanced when wearing great clothing.
What have been the highest and lowest points on your journey so far?
Running two businesses and having a young family really does push you to your limits. Starting a new fashion business with nothing but passion and an idea was difficult, there were many barriers to jump. However, I have also been a believer that true happiness comes from fulfilling your potential and that is the very essence of Benedict Raven, aim high, flying higher. That’s what our feather logo stands for and that’s what keeps driving us to achieve our goal of becoming a leading luxury Menswear brand.
What are the morals you run your brand by?
Benedict Raven was built on a foundation of key values.
- Timeless Style
- Exceptional Quality
- Sophistication and Inner Confidence (Our clothing is never loud – rather understated)
- Inspiring Men
- Proud of our British heritage
What was the inspiration behind your latest collection?
We wanted to create a collection for the modern gentleman’s lifestyle that is timeless. Garments that can be used all year round in muted tones that work in any outfit. Quality is important and creating garments made so well you’ll want to wear them year after year. Merino wool knitwear that breaths in the summer yet insulates in the winter. A luxury Italian blended blazer of wool & cashmere that could accompany a shirt and V-neck or throw on top of a white t-shirt with jeans for a more casual, relaxed, entrepreneurial look. Easy slim-fit denim that is good to go all day every day. And our Egyptian cotton polos that look great with anything!
How would you describe your customer base?
Our customer is anyone who appreciates quality, style and sophistication. The very essence of Benedict Raven is the feeling you get every time you wear our garments. Every man can feel that way.
Do you ever struggle to stay inspired?
Never. Inspiration is a mindset. When you love what you do and you have so much passion for it you never struggle to be inspired, especially when surrounded with like-minded people.
Is there anyone you would love to see wearing your designs?
Now that is a question! It’s a great feeling when I see how happy a customer is wearing Benedict Raven no matter who he is! Knowing that they love what they are wearing and it has raised their confidence and made them feel good is why I launched the business in the first place. Having had Teo Van den Broeke (Style Director at GQ) already wearing and sharing our Clifton slim fit jeans was a huge moment for us, he truly is one of the experts in the industry. I have a long list of people I’d love to see wearing Benedict Raven! To name a few Daniel Craig, Tom Middleton, Richard Madden, Taron Edgerton, Tom Hardy and Damien Lewis are in our top ten!
Do you have a mentor?
Several. I have always believed learning from those who have achieved what you want is vital if you really want to succeed. I love sharing my experiences with those who want to develop themselves. At present I am lucky enough to be working with a great team of people and three mentors with other leading brands that are helping us really shape Benedict Raven into the next leading luxury Menswear brand.
If you could only wear one piece from your collection, what would it be and why?
My favourite piece has to be our Soho roll neck made from 100% Merino wool. I absolutely love it. Inspired by James Bond himself and worn by many around the world, it’s a staple piece that works fantastically well on its own or layered underneath a nice blazer.
Is there another designer whose work you particularly admire?
Too many to name! I love an underdog story and seeing brands emerging in difficult sectors is a real inspiration for me. I have always respected the brands who honour tradition and are proud of their British heritage. Brands that I really admire include: Hackett, Orlebar Brown, Bennett Winch, and Bremont.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. If you want something you find a way to get it. Don’t ever give up until you have what you want.
Where do you see the brand in 5 years?
We have really big ambitions for Benedict Raven. In 5 years, we aim to have a presence worldwide. Our first shop opens in November in Bath with a truly enjoyable customer experience in Benedict’s lounge. We plan to release further timeless collections and take the modern man from the workday to weekend, holiday to red carpet and beyond! We want to be there for every step of the modern man’s journey.