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Catching Up with Kem

Kem Cetinay’s Primark collections are amongst some of our most popular menswear ranges. For the third time running, Kem has returned with fresh, new, affordable must-haves arriving just in time for summer. Our last chat with Kem was before lockdown hit, ahead of the launch of his second collection, so read on to find out what Kem has been up to over the past twelve months and what to expect from him in the next.

Tamera author
Tamera Heron

When looking forward it’s only natural to look back too, so when asked what the key differences are between his previous range and his latest one, Kem said that every year it has developed with him. ‘Last year I bought a business and a lot of my career has changed so my dress sense has changed with it. I think the good thing is that the range is evolving with me.’ On what to expect he said that he 'focused on natural colours and a mixture of sophisticated and casual clothing.'

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‘Every year we always push the boundaries a little bit more. In the first year I remember I wanted to make the shorts really short and everyone on the team was nervous because Primark had never done it before, but we did it and it worked! The next year we took the joggers tighter around the ankle for a tailored fit.’ Kem highlighted that he felt it was important to give the customers the opportunity to try different styles, claiming that he's not a style icon and rather that he’s constantly being educated on fashion, ‘I’m always learning about what’s new and what works well too.’

Admitting that his mum plays a large role in his outfit choices, ‘She's great. My mum has been by my side across all three Primark collections that I've done and the team love her. She knows my dress sense better than I do and she’s really good at guiding me. I think that’s why we always have so much success, just by looking at the range you can see it’s true to me.’

Now one thing you can always expect from a Kem collection is a co-ord, but what is it about a two-piece that Kem loves so much? ‘I love co-ords! You don’t have to worry about planning outfits, it’s good value for money and people seem to love them as much as I do! I live in co-ords every day, it just makes my life a lot easier, especially in lockdown!’ We couldn’t help but wonder if his glamourous mum Figen is diving into the world of trackies too, and Kem chuckles before telling us that, ‘She doesn’t wear my tracksuit, that will never happen, hers need to fit perfectly. I’d never seen her in tracksuit bottoms until the pandemic hit to be honest!’

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When we last spoke to Kem it was pre-pandemic so we were interested to hear what it was like creating a collection virtually, especially for a bubbly people person like Kem. ‘The good thing is that we just missed the lockdown, so we got to meet together and do the hardest bit at the beginning – the designing. After that it was all via Zoom. I was a little bit worried when the samples were getting sent, it was weird not sitting across from it in person and just seeing items via photos. But the team were great, they put even more work in, constantly checking things with me and vice versa. We’ve created a good balance over the past three years, it just works! When I saw the final items, I got that buzz like I normally do.’

When the final range arrived at his door was there one outfit in particular that caught his attention? ‘The new grey tracksuit just defines the last year for me. I’ve lived in smart trackies every single day. I don’t think I’ve put a pair of jeans on for a year. But then there’s a really smart jacket to match that looks so expensive, it’s amazing. At same time the oversized jumper has probably become one of my favourite items. Oversized has become so big this year, it’s so comfy and hopefully the customers love it as well.’ It’s safe to say he couldn’t choose just one!

Kem was enthusiastic about the thought of women buying and wearing his new range too, mentioning that huge amounts of his last collection were bought by both girls and women, ‘it can be a unisex collection really.’

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Kem has clearly been super busy this past year, so how has he kept in check of his mental wellbeing. He shared that the boxing bag is still hanging in his garden, but throughout winter like the rest of us he attempted at-home workouts all while dodging the dog lounging in the house.

Other than exercise, Kem mentioned that he has taken up reading as a new hobby. ‘In the last month, I’ve really got into a book. My brain works at 100 miles per hour 24/7 that’s just how I am. I need something to calm me down and lately it’s become reading.’ So of course we had to know what book he had his nose in, 'it’s called Happy Sexy Millionaire by Steven Bartlett,’ he tells us to bear with the name and that the book isn’t has arrogant as it sounds, ‘it’s basically about social medias effect on our mental health. It just puts things into perspective, especially for me coming from a social media fame background.’ He shared that sometimes all it takes is one negative comment out of a sea of positive ones to upset him.

Curious to know if Kem had ever taken a social media break, he said that while he would love to take more time away from the apps, his main reason for being active on social media is because of all the amazing people who have supported him throughout the years, ‘I just want to keep them up to date. I'm still trying to find my balance with social media. I'll be honest I haven't found my comfort zone yet.’

With life hopefully returning to some sort of new normal later in the year, we wanted to know if there’s one place or occasion Kem can’t wait to show off his new range. Just like the rest of us, he is daydreaming about holidays too, excitedly sharing that he loves the buzz of picking out airport outfits! ‘I love smart casual clothing and that’s the perfect place for me, even though there’s nothing going on there,’ he laughs and says, ‘maybe I’ll get a couple photos while I wait to get on the plane next time,’ well Kem we can’t wait to use the airport to host personal fashion shows too – there is a runway after all!

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In addition to his fabulous new collection, Kem’s new restaurant Array is (fingers crossed) set to open in May. A restaurant true to its name, Array, Kem tells us, is set to feature mixed cuisine and décor to create a truly exciting and eclectic experience. With so much going on in a year that was already hectic how has he balanced all of his projects and kept the momentum going?

He admitted that it’s been very hard, ‘I've had a lot of moments where I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I'm the type of person who would rather be very busy than have too much time on my hands. So, it's been good for me to knuckle down this last year. Lockdown taught me a lot as well. All the pressure allowed me to learn a lot about myself and how to handle things better, it's been good. I've done the biggest project of my life so far during this pandemic and I don't give myself a pat on the back enough. It's been really tough, but we're getting there.’

With a restaurant due to open in May and his third Primark collection en route, alongside several secret projects, Kem has another action-packed year ahead of him. We’re as excited as he is to see what’s next and for everyone to try his latest Primark range. Much like Kem, his ranges continue to mature while staying true to his fun and outgoing personality – we love!

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Press play to get a behind the scenes peek at the making of Kem’s third collection.