In 2019, our founders Chris Modoo and Richard Wheat were profiled by The Rake as part of their Rakes Of The Year. The Rake honours those who personify their definition of Rakehood with their elegance, charm and kindness — and, most importantly, their strength of character. Read the article below for more insight on the origins of Kit Blake, originally published in The Rake Issue 67.
For a couple of dapper gents about town, the circumstance in which Chris Modoo met Richard Wheat was a little incongruous. “It was at Hampton Court train station,” Wheat tells The Rake. “We were going to the football — an Arsenal game.” They were part of a wider group of acquaintances that day, but another of their abiding passions — men’s style — soon helped them establish a close friendship. “I seem to remember Chris wanting to show me the jacket he was wearing,” Wheat says, chuckling. “It had a bespoke pocket made specially to fit the dimensions of an Arsenal matchday programme.” Does that tally with what we know of Modoo’s love of tailoring and exquisite attention to detail? Rhetorical question.
Fifteen years later, Modoo (the Arsenal fan) and Wheat (Everton) are literally on the same team, the Creative Director and Director, respectively, of Kit Blake, the innovative ready-to-wear luxury label that does not, as a matter of principle, sell suits. No, what Modoo and Wheat have pulled off is nothing less than dazzlingly subversive: they’ve broken down the old two-piece lounge suit, seized on the humble trouser (flannel; four-pleat) as a neglected hero, re-engineered it with relevance and potency, and added a capsule collection of complimentary pieces that plays into the modern man’s desire for versatility and inventiveness as well as elegance. In other words, they’ve become the masters of separatism, which is hereby coined as a new art form. Oh, and Kit Blake has been going for all of one year. As debuts go, it’s been decent.
Wheat, who also works in public relations in the City of London, says they found a sweet spot in the market for Kit Blake, and Modoo acknowledges the magical combination of concept and circumstance that has allowed them to flourish. “We couldn’t have done this 10, 20 years ago,” he says. “How could a small start-up survive or thrive without social media? And the industry was so much more territorial back then. And more competitive. But we’ve been received so well by so many people, which has been so gratifying. There is a new spirit of co-operation [in menswear].”
Still, fair warning: neither of them are about to rest on their laurels. Having launched the brand almost exclusively on The Rake’s digital atelier last year, they’re aiming to create an e-commerce platform on the Kit Blake website in 2020. And they’ll continue to exploit the label’s strength. “We’re a small operation,” Richard says, “but it means we’re nimble, too.” Chris adds: “I’ve worked on the corporate side of menswear — there are different pressures, and you can’t move quickly. With Kit Blake, if I see something I like, we can bring it to market in six weeks.
Modoo once famously — iconoclastically? — proclaimed that “the suit is dead!”, which might’ve been an ill-considered remark if he’d wanted a quiet life. But that’s not Chris Modoo. “No, I don’t regret it,” he says. And why would he? He and Wheat are busy turning it into a self-fulfilling prophecy.