I can’t think of a better way to brighten up a dull day than to sit drinking coffee with the gorgeous Darren Kennedy. I had the pleasure of meeting Darren last week in Dublin and was pleasantly surprised to find someone who talks even more than I do!
Darren is a man of many talents and is known to us, not only for his keen fashion sense, but as a presenter, producer and broadcaster. As we make ourselves comfortable in the little city centre café, I ask him which of these titles he prefers.
“I suppose primarily, I’d consider myself a broadcaster/presenter,” he says. “But, as you say, people will know me from other stuff too and that’s fine by me. I’m very passionate about fashion and have been since I was a kid. And you’ll sometimes see me on shows such as This Morning on ITV doing a slot about gadgets – I’m a bit of a geeky boy like that!”
Well geek is certainly not the word that springs to mind when I look at Darren in Diesel jeans, Comme des Garcon tee and River Island tweed jacket. I want to know a bit more about how he got into fashion.
“Well I’d probably have to give a lot of the credit to my mam,” he smiles. “She loves fashion and was always dragging me around the shops when I was little. But unlike most kids, I actually loved it. I found I had a great eye for it and she’d try things on and ask me how they looked. I have an older brother too and I was always robbing his stuff. When he started working, he had money to buy nice clothes and I was always ready to nick them! I was the best dressed thirteen year old in the area, wearing expensive paisley shirts and Levis, as well as smelling of Dior Fahrenheit!”
So, other than his big brother, who are his fashion icons or influences? “Dolce & Gabbana are one of my absolute favourite labels,” he enthuses. “But in terms of who I’d love to work with, it would have to be Tom Ford. I think he’s amazing. He eats, drinks and sleeps style, from his clothes to his fragrances. He’s a really hard worker too. Not only is he a professional, but he’s a perfectionist. There’s a little bit of that in me and I’d love to get an insight into how he works.”
Darren’s own style certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed as he’s just been nominated, along with some of Ireland’s finest, as Most Stylish Man in the VIP Awards 2012. “I was really surprised and delighted to be nominated,” he says. “I don’t know whether I’ll win or not but I think my biggest competition is probably Nicky Byrne from Westlife as he has such a huge following.” Well, in my opinion, Darren definitely deserves a shot at winning so if you’d like to help him along, you can vote here.
His love of fashion also spurred him on to create a fantastic online magazine called helpmystyle.ie. “I like style in general,” he says. “I love to be in places that inspire me and that please me aesthetically and that carries through to what I wear. So helpmystyle.ie is all about stylish living, as well as fashion for men and women. We get more than 60,000 hits a month and growing. I’ also working on a revamp at the moment which will be launching in the next few weeks.”
At only thirty-one, Darren has already achieved so much in his career. With a degree in international business and languages under his belt, his first taste of the media was when he had a job as a runner on TV3. “I knew at that point what I wanted to do with my life,” he says. “I went on to do various other jobs here in Ireland, such as reporting on the Gerry Ryan radio show and the Mooney Show. I also worked on the first three series of Operation Transformation on RTE1 and I was the one who built their website. It’s been the most successful RTE website to date and that makes me feel really proud.”
Darren’s face is a regular one on television in the UK these days. So how did he get his big break there? “I started putting feelers out in the UK and two years ago I got a call to audition for a new BBC show called Project Parent. It was a fun show where children took control of their single parents’ lives. I got the job along with Angellica Bell and it was a brilliant experience. I got myself a UK agent at that stage and now I’m doing Holiday Heaven on Earth for Channel 5.”
I can feel Darren’s excitement when he mentions the holiday show he enjoys so much so I just sit back and let him tell me about it. “It’s an amazing job,” he smiles. “I get to visit the most brilliant places and call it work! Don’t get me wrong, it can be hard work and with all the travelling, it can be tiring, but it’s so worth it. I’m just back from California, where we surfed and saw elf seals, went to Hearst Castle and visited vineyards. It was incredible.”
So was California his favourite out of the places he visited with the show? “It’s hard to say what my absolute favourite has been. Everyone has their own idea of heaven but definitely one of my very favourite places was Hong Kong. I felt a real affinity with the place. It’s quite like New York in ways but because of where it’s situated, the skyline and the views are amazing. I love the simple things too and one of the best things I did was to visit a local tea house. When you go in, there are five floors and people of every age are having tea and sharing tables. They bring around trays of food called dim sum and shout out what’s on them. You can grab anything and they put it on your list. I was the only westerner in there and I adored it. I ate my own body weight in food and it only came to about seven euro!”
With his hectic schedule, I wondered if Darren has any time at all to just kick back and enjoy some quiet time with his family and friends. “All my family are here in Ireland and they’re really important to me so I try to get back to them as often as possible. My partner, Aidan, is also here in Dublin. We have a fantastic relationship and we must be doing something right because we’ve been together almost ten years now. I think the key to managing busy lives is planning. Aidan is a playwright and travels a lot too so we regularly look at our diaries and see where we’re going to be and make sure that not too much time goes by without seeing each other.”
Before I met Darren, I got to know him on twitter. Does he think the social network plays an important role in today’s world? “I quite like twitter,” he says, “and definitely for a business, it’s a fantastic tool. From the point of view of helpmystyle.ie, it helps me connect with an audience. But from a personal point of view, I find it brilliant to help me stay in touch. When I’m away, I can keep abreast of what’s happening. I also get to meet a lot of people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I do think it can be addictive though and it’s important to switch off and keep a balance.”
Darren’s tight schedule doesn’t leave much time for anything else but one of the things he speaks passionately about is his involvement with a group called Belong To. “Belong To is an Irish charitable organisation which supports gay and lesbian kids. It helps them to come out and supports them along the way. I’m delighted to be an ambassador for them.”
So where does Darren see himself in twelve months time? What’s next on the horizon? “Oh there’s still so much I want to do and achieve,” he laughs. “I’d definitely love to have another series of the travel show under my belt and see more of the world. I’d also love to do something that combines my passion for style with travel. Wouldn’t it be amazing to travel the world and look at different styles? I’m always pitching new ideas. I believe people who are successful work hard and don’t get to the top by resting on their laurels! Basically, I just want to build on the foundations I’ve already laid.”
Well there’s little chance of Darren resting on his laurels with his drive and ambition and I have no doubt he’ll do well no matter what he turns his hand to. What a pleasure it was to chat to him and I was sorry to have to go. If you’d like a glimpse of Darren at work, take a look at this and you can tune into Holiday Heaven on Earth every Thursday on Channel 5 at 7pm.