The Interview: Kevin Charles, Director of Clothing, Triumph

Kevin Charles, Triumph
Kevin Charles, Triumph

Famous British motorcycle manufacturer Triumph, which also makes fully CE certified protective clothing for riders, launched a brand-new lifestyle collection in the spring – just as we went in to lockdown due to coronavirus. But, despite the timing not being ideal, Triumph Director of Clothing, Kevin Charles, who’s background includes varying roles at brands such as Converse, Wolverine and Vans, believes it’s very much got what it takes to become a global success.

Why did Triumph decide to launch a lifestyle collection in April of this year – during lockdown?

We launched with independent retailers at retail in February, and our brand-new e-commerce website was launched in April. Obviously, no one foresaw lockdown when the initial concept creation stage started 18 months ago. We actually launched our SS20 wholesale collection at Selvedge Run in Berlin in 2019, where we picked up 30 of our 50 independent retailers.

What experience do you have to turn this iconic British motorcycle brand into a lifestyle brand?

Working at Vans, we took a skate shoe that was positioned and sold through core skate retailers only, and turned it into a multi-million dollar brand. That was by understanding our core consumer, but also by selling the aspirational skater the vision of a world that they aspired to live in. Product segmentation, the right distribution, focusing on core action sports and understanding the needs of the target consumer helped to drive our vision into a reality. At Triumph Lifestyle, we have a premium British heritage brand with a clear mission to grow and inspire motorcycle culture. This is aligned with our vision to be the leading premium motorcycle inspired clothing brand of choice. We will drive clear product segmentation from motorcycle to lifestyle, and  focus on premium independent fashion ‘moto’ boutique distribution channels. We will produce heritage motorcycle inspired product, but also give it a premium contemporary fashion twist. On top of this new lifestyle offer, our certified motorcycle clothing line already sells through 600 Triumph motorcycle dealers globally.

What’s the wholesale plan for the new lifestyle offer?

Triumph Lifestyle has initially launched into the European market with 50 independent moto boutique retailers, including the Urban Rider boutique motorcycle store in London. They are all premium independent retailers focussing on fashion-led moto inspired brands such as Deus Ex Machina, Belstaff, Barbour and El Solitario. We plan to launch into the USA in 2021 and the rest of the world in 2022. We also have a collaboration calendar and will be looking to drop our first collaborations for AW21, but we can’t disclose what they will be just yet. Our motorcycle line is sold through 600 Triumph Motorcycle dealers globally.

Triumph

Are there also plans to wholesale the collection to other fashion retailers?

Our initial priority is to land in independent moto influenced boutiques in key cities, rather than traditional independent fashion retailers. The moto boutique retailer is aligned with our target consumer, who is inspired by the growing custom bike lifestyle scene.

Who is the real target market with this more focused clothing line?

The target audience is the 25-35 year-old moto inspired consumer, who may or may not ride, but is drawn to the timeless contemporary styles of motorcycling. Whether that be the timeless ‘flat tracker’ look, or a camo version of a traditional field jacket. They want the credibility that comes from a real motorcycle brand designed and styled by riders. This consumer appreciates the detail on a Triumph Lifestyle jacket in the same way he appreciates the lines of a customised ‘Bonneville’ motorcycle.

What are the real key pieces and what are the retail price points?

As a moto inspired brand the range is built around premium timeless wardrobe staples, then refreshed with seasonal updates. The collection drives a seasonless approach, however jackets are a key feature. From our “Harlow” shearling leather jacket, to our “Deacon D-Pocket” wax jacket, all our pieces have a moto inspired theme. The “Avenham” quilted check wool jacket takes its inspiration from the early 1950’s moto blouson sports jackets, and the “Clayton” is an all-purpose vest inspired by a mechanic’s workwear vest, with a borg-fleece liner that adds an extra layer of warmth without the bulk. We also have a dropped back hem on our Tees, a reflection of that slightly lent forward angle a rider sits at on the bike. Also, our angled jacket pockets allow easy access while holding one hand still on the motorcycle bar. Price points start at £25 for a trucker cap and go up to £550 for the “Harlow” shearling leather jacket. There’s also the “Garstang” waxed camo jacket sitting not far behind that at £500.

Are you planning a big social media campaign to really get the word out?

We’re planning to highlight our AW20 campaign, which was shot on a bucket list route for any rider, the Honister Pass in the Lake District. We launched our @TriumphMotorcyclesLifestyle Instagram back in the height of lockdown on 2 April, 2020, and we are currently focusing on moto lifestyle influencers to create organic content for our social media. It’s important to us that we reach out to people who have an interest in the brand and our 100-plus year-old heritage

Are you planning on using specific influencers?

We have a target list of influencers who are all relevant within the moto world, from bike customisation experts to influential riders and riding groups. We aim to keep moto at the core of every decision we make and to use this collection to grow and inspire the moto culture.

Triumph

How would you sum up the overall feel of the new Triumph Lifestyle offer?

The Triumph Lifestyle brand reflects our motorcycles in its quality, craftmanship, aspirational styling and iconic feel. The brand blends industrial staples with motorcycle staples, but all with their own contemporary twist. We take our knowledge, skill and premium quality from our protective motorcycle clothing collection to offer a credible moto inspired collection from a company that is steeped in motorcycle history, as Triumph Engineering was originally founded in 1902.

Who owns Triumph these days and does the company still have British roots?

Triumph Motorcycles is British-owned by Bloor Holdings Limited. Triumph Engineering went into receivership in 1983, and John Bloor bought the name and manufacturing rights from the Official Receiver, relaunching the brand and its famous motorcycles later in the 1980’s. All Triumph’s models are conceived, designed, developed and tested by our dedicated team in the UK. We are a global manufacturing company that sells motorcycles into over 60 countries around the world, with production facilities in the UK, Thailand, Brazil and India.

What motorcycles does Triumph make these days?

Triumph Motorcycles manufactures three categories of motorcycles; “Roadster”, “Adventure” and “Modern Classics”. Our lifestyle clothing collection lines up perfectly with the “Modern Classics” collection, which can be seen through the bikes selected for our shoots including custom “Bobber”, “Thruxton” and “Speed Twin” models. In future collections we are focusing on more intricate custom models.

Does the brand have its own retail space at its UK factory?

Yes, at the factory in Hinckley, Leicestershire, is the Triumph Factory Visitor Experience, which has its own flagship store. It’s the only store in the world that stocks the complete collection. Also, the museum recently opened its doors again on 10 Oct, 2020, showcasing some of the best motorcycles from Triumph’s heritage, as well as limited edition bikes and film bikes – including the recent one for the latest James Bond film.

So, what is Triumph’s connection with the new, as yet still unreleased, James Bond film?

Triumph Motorcycles is proudly the official motorcycle partner for the new unreleased James Bond film “No Time to Die”, with Daniel Craig as 007 riding a Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE – being chased by multiple Triumph Scrambler 900’s. Our lifestyle collection was seen on set during that shoot, and was greatly received by the cast and team on set. Triumph Motorcycles also launched a limited-edition Bond Scrambler 1200, each individually numbered, which has already sold out globally.

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