Banana Republic creative director receives honorary KU Doctorate

KU grad and Banana Republic’s creative designer Simon Kneen thanks the University for his success.

Harriet Osborne
The creative director of high street fashion brand Banana Republic has praised Kingston University for providing him with “crucial” training after he was awarded for his contribution to the fashion industry.
KU fashion graduate Simon Kneen accepted an honorary Doctorate of Arts award at a graduation ceremony with hundreds of other students at the Rose Theatre on April 8 2013.
Mr Kneen, who is also vice president of the household fashion brand, explained that graduates today were entering into an industry that is worlds apart from when he began in the 1980s.
Electricity in the air
He said: “When I graduated there were many more exciting possibilities for a young British designer in Europe and I was kind of on my own. I’m not saying it was easy, but a lot of doors opened to at least show my book.
“Today is not just about the creative thought process. It’s about understanding what’s good and bad for business and that’s where my Kingston training has been crucial.
“The fashion course was just as rigorous then as it is today. We worked extremely hard. It was always challenging and it really stretched us. There was always electricity in the air.”
Forefront of Global design team
After being in the industry for 30 years, Mr Kneen has been at the forefront of Banana Republic’s global design team since 2008.
He previously served as creative director of exclusive Italian couture label Maska before working as creative design director for the Retail Brand Alliance.  That is where Kneen was the first to design a fashion collection for men and women at Brooks Brothers.
Good ol’ days
Mr Kneen still looks back at his Kingston years as some of the happiest of his life. 
One memorable moment was when he was selected to work at an Yves Saint Laurent boutique on London’s Bond Street, together with Lady Clare Rendlesham.
“Lady Clare really encouraged me. She was an extraordinary woman and very inspiring.  It was the best summer ever. She even wrote a letter to me afterwards and my parents have kept it to this day.”

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