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Kit Neale Adds a Splash of Coca-Cola to His New Collection

By:  Amy Goldwasser Jul 2, 2014
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Kit Neale Collection SS15

Conjure an image of tailored British menswear — suiting in particular. Now add a pattern to this. Following classic English style, you may choose a distinguished pinstripe, a fine herringbone or a subtle but dashing windowpane. It's doubtful that you've dressed your imaginary gentleman in giraffes, hot dogs, cactuses, cowboy hats and pogo sticks. But that's exactly what Kit Neale has done.

Bursting With Color

Kit Neale Collection SS15

This young South Londoner and fashion designer has a uniquely exuberant, illustration-driven vision of colorful, playful prints for men. The look is mischievously far more Opening Ceremony, than opening at the National Portrait Gallery. “It’s a really fun time for men’s fashion,” says Neale. “We’re starting to be more adventurous in style.” He and his business partner, Caspar Hodgson, debuted the label at London Fashion Week, February 2012.

Neale recently presented his latest adventure in a Spring/Summer 2015 collection that, he explains, takes “a nostalgic trip on the quintessential British holiday.” To fully realize — and tap into the collective memory and celebration of — such travels, the designer says, “We just had to collaborate with Coca-Cola, as our fondest memories of drinking Coke are on a beach, in the sun with a bottle in hand. For us, there is nothing better.”

In Neale’s hands, this sun-kissed vision marries vintage Coca-Cola imagery with modern, street-inspired menswear. The collaboration features Coke-themed pieces as part of a bigger collection — that will begin hitting stores in December 2014 — from placemat-printed T-shirts to embroidered sweaters instilled with a rare charm and quality of craft. The infusion of character (and characters) is quite literal, with Neale pulling inspiration from kitschy 1960s-70s Coca-Cola summer fun graphics.

Marsha Schroeder, Global Licensing Manager for Europe, notes, “Youth culture is always evolving, and Kit Neale is one of the freshest voices in young men’s fashion today.  Kit has a distinct vision and is best known for his bold use of prints and color – it was exciting to see him reimagine our brand in such a fun, modern way." 

Coca-Cola's unmistakable identity comes through, though of course the designer incorporates his own take every step of the way, sometimes presenting it in black-and-white, sometimes, even, in turquoise-in-white, with contrasting graphic diamonds and gingham checked sleeves.

Kit Neale With Frenchie

Translating What's Around Him

“We’re surrounded every day by patterns and imagery where we see the potential to be a print. We seek inspiration in everything,” says Neale, who created and applied repeat Coca-Cola prints in pieces as diverse and unexpected as bomber jackets, shorts suits and overalls. “We saw the exciting potential in the iconic Coke imagery to be used in interesting new ways in print for clothing.” He translated it to accessories as well: On the runway, the looks were shown with models wearing Coca-Cola bottle-cap earrings.

Perhaps no one is better suited to speak to youth culture today than Neale, with his pop art-informed style that’s as fresh and about the future as it is taken with the past.

“The theme of his collection, ‘Kit Neale goes on holiday,’ is perfectly paired with Coca-Cola – what’s better on holiday than an ice-cold Coca-Cola?” says Schroeder.

He started working in fashion at age 16, assisting renowned fashion editors in London and New York as a stylist. Also on his impressive teen résumé: working with intriguing avant-garde designer Gareth Pugh and the National Theater.

Neale left styling to study menswear in college and soon after launched his career creating eye-catching prints and patterns. In a short amount of time, he and his small team — who are based in East London — have created a strong brand that sells in boutiques and department stores all over the world. His designs have been seen on image-makers including Daniel Radcliffe and have led to international acclaim, demand and collaborations with the likes of Opening Ceremony, Harvey Nichols, Topman and the British Fashion Council.

And while his focus is still on menswear, he suggests there may be a move into women's clothing as well. "We have a lot of girl fans for our menswear, which we are really flattered by," says Neale. "And girls can obviously wear the T-shirts and jumpers but not all our pieces. We want everyone to enjoy our garms, so there may be room for a womenswear line soon."

Kit Neale Collection SS15

Local Inspiration on a Global Stage

As audiences and appetites for fashion grow increasingly global, Kit Neale — the label and the person — offers an aesthetic that speaks to the street, whether that street is close to home or on the other side of the world. It’s about the universal desire for fun, color and personal expression — wherever that happens to land. “I think British fashion is more rebellious and experimental,” says the designer. “French style is very ‘chic’ and American is more ‘preppy,’ with strong references from school, baseball and sportswear.”

Yet he’s as reluctant to overgeneralize or appear typical. He notes that the style identities of different countries are “all great and unique in their own way.” The same can be said of the pieces in his new collection, which feature quintessential British holidays and moments drinking a Coke under the sun. We’re sensing a pattern here — a Kit Neale pattern.