With the sun daring to come out from behind a cloud, we meet Darren Skey in a bustling Wandsworth Common, filled with dog walkers, joggers and children playing football with their parents.
The former Head of Menswear at Harvey Nichols, Darren also used to play Academy football at Fulham. We met up with him for a coffee to talk about his career in fashion so far, his exciting new retail consultancy and, of course, his passion for the Beautiful Game.
Corinthian: So how would you describe your role today?
Darren Skey: I run a 360-degree retail consultancy, working with both retailers and brands. With my 20+ years in retail I help with product creating and assortment, retailer strategy, in-store visuals and presentation, sourcing of new brands, competitor analysis, amongst other things. Most recently I worked as Head of Menswear for Harvey Nichols.
C: And is it right that you played Academy football at Fulham? What was that like?
DS: That is correct. I was scouted whilst playing for a very successful local team and started playing for the School of Excellency. Eventually, I was invited to train with the First team during the school summer holidays. It was a dream come true for me as I lived and breathed football as a child. The reality of it all was slightly different. It involved a lot of travel and pressure on my parents to get me places. When training with the First team it involved a 3-hour round trip to the training ground. It was a lot of fun for me but a huge pull on others. I played there for a few seasons and then went to Charlton, which only lasted 1 season. They tried to play me right back when I was a striker!!!!
C: Did you dare to dream about being a professional? How hard was it for those dreams not to have come to pass?
DS: Of course you dream about making it but I was also a realist. I knew that sometimes luck was just as important as talent. I do look back with regret but I also suffered severe knee injuries throughout my semi-professional career, so in hindsight it may have been a short lived career.
C: Having played for Fulham, are they the team you support?
DS: No - I've supported West Ham for most of my life. My Dad brought me up supporting Tottenham, until I was old enough to know any different. My family are all split between West Ham, Tottenham and Millwall, so you can imagine the rivalry!!!!
C: Who was your hero when you were growing up?
DS: Wow, what a question! I had so many... To name them all would take a while but some of them include Ossie Ardiles, Tony Cottee, Maradona, Gasgoigne and Julian Dicks. Quite an array of people but all of them for different reasons. Ardiles for his "Ardiles Flick" in Escape to Victory, Cottee for his goal scoring abilities, Maradona for his unbelievable skill, balance and perm, Gasgoigne for his love of the game and his skill and Dicks for his passion. I never really idolised just one player.
C: So how did you go from that very different world to the world of fashion?
DS: I was always interested in fashion from an early age. I was always the one in the dressing room getting ribbed for wearing something slightly different to the rest of the team. All my spare cash was spent on clothing, when all my friends were going out getting drunk (sad but true). I started taking my fashion interest seriously at university where I studied Business, majoring in Marketing. I worked on a lot of fashion projects within the course. My first job in fashion was at River Island and it was there that my love for the industry started.
C: There seem to be quite a few guys in the fashion world that are also big football fans...
DS: There are a number of football guys in the industry and throughout my career I have played in a number of retail competitions. As you can imagine these get rather competitive but everyone comes off shaking hands and Buyers who took part walk off comparing fabric compositions of the kits. I've also been fortunate with my career to be invited to some amazing football arenas such as the Nou Camp, Emirates, Old and New Wembley and of course Upton Park....
C: Football and Fashion have always had an interesting relationship haven’t they...
DS: The relationship between fashion and football has always been strong; from the Football Casuals of the 70's/80's with their penchant for Fred Perry, Adidas Spezials and Sergio Tacchini to the Terrace Boys of the 90's with their love for Stone Island and Burberry. Most recently the love for football and fashion has been revived with a number of cultural football brands collaborating with streetwear brands such as Palace x Umbro, Patta x Nike, and Vetements and Gosha referencing football in their collections. And, of course - very excitingly - Corinthian.
C: We obviously champion playing with Corinthian Spirit. Is that an ethos you aspire to? Were you a clean player?
DS: I absolutely upheld the Corinthian spirit. I played hard but fair during my whole career. I was pretty quick and skillfull when I was younger and as a result was on the receiving end of some hefty challenges, most of them unfair. You have to get up, smile and beat the player again. As soon as you lose your cool you lose your concentration and the oppositions beaten you. At the end of the day, football should be enjoyed.
C: And we believe the Corinthian Spirit is a set of values as important off the pitch as they are on it. Would you agree?
DS: I completely agree. Unfortunately a lot of the Corinthian Spirit has been lost in today's age, whether it be those watching the game, greed in the game, or corruption by those who run the game.
C: Do you play any other sports these days?
DS: Due to my dodgy knees I don't play competitively anymore. I go to the gym regularly and ski occasionally. In my younger years I played every sport. I played cricket for Kent and football for London. I also played rugby, ping pong, basketball, tennis, badminton, athletics....basically anything I could.
C: And do you get to play the occasional game of football?
DS: The only game I've played in recently was an Adidas Retail competition in New York. I played for a friend's brand called 424. It was the first time I'd played in about 5 years and I felt it. First game I thought I was going to die but by the second I was back into my stride...!
For consultancy, you can contact Darren here | Follow Darren on Instagram @darrenskey75.