Simon Kneen

Honorary: Doctorate
Position: Creative Director & Executive Vice President, Banana Republic

About

Mr Kneen first made his mark in the industry specialising in womenswear and childrenswear in Italy, before setting up his own studio and label and serving as a design consultant for top Italian brands. He has been at the forefront of Banana Republic's global design team since 2008 after holding senior posts at the Retail Brand Alliance in the United States, where his numerous achievements included being the first person to design a collection for both men and women at Brooks Brothers. Mr Kneen's extensive curriculum vitae also includes two years as creative director for Italian label Maska, known for its exclusive couture and fashionable ready-to-wear ranges, and a period as a head designer for Maison Balmain.

His passion for the industry dates back to his time at Kingston University's predecessor Kingston Polytechnic, where he studied under renowned fashion educator Professor Daphne Brooker. He looks back on his years at Kingston as some of the happiest in his life. "Learning from Daphne Brooker was extraordinary - there was always an electricity in the air," he said. "The fashion course at Kingston was just as rigorous then as it is today. We worked extremely hard, it was always challenging and it really stretched us. I don't think I've ever been as tested."

One of the highlights of his student days came during the summer of 1980 when Professor Brooker sent a young Mr Kneen to work with Lady Clare Rendlesham at her Yves Saint Laurent boutique in London's Bond Street. "Lady Clare had a formidable reputation as a fashion editor in the 1960s, but she really encouraged me," he recalled. "It was the best summer ever. She even wrote a letter to me afterwards and my parents have kept it to this day. She was an extraordinary woman and very inspiring."