Glenn Kitson: True to self

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Words: Jamie Neville
Photography: Alex Synamatix

With jobs in the creative industries being harder to come by these days, new successors are shining through. Their multifunctional methods challenge the classic perception of a career, deal in originality, and support only the finest of styles. We had the pleasure of sitting down with stylist, editor of The Rig Out and self-made fashion professional Glenn Kitson. We probed Glenn for his life story and his fashion and business mindset, focusing on the topics “What is this man’s focus? Why is he capable of producing such refreshing work? And what inspires him?”. In what was an inspiring interview with Glenn and what motivates him, he’s provided us with an insight into humility, honesty and most importantly, integrity.

Glenn works with complete creative control and a group of close friends on hand to help. It may not be too dissimilar a story to many professional’s careers in the industry, but if we take a look at how he’s done it, there are valuable lessons to be learned. The French Philosopher Paul Valery said “A businessman is a hybrid of a dancer and a calculator” … Glenn is proof that those who dance to their own beats have all the fun, regardless of wether they’re thought insane by those who can’t hear the music.

Glenn started his career as a vintage clothes salesmen, then, using his keen eye for clothes and sneakers, he spent a number of years hunting out vintage items for a major sportswear brand. He would bring forgotten silhouettes and colourways back from all over Europe, and they’d be added to the brand’s archive, often to re-issue them in years to come. It’s this passion that he had in clothing from a young age, still very much alive today, that is the crux of Glenn’s dedication to his career. It’s a job that he enjoyed, but unfortunately knew couldn’t be sustained forever:

“There was never a pension in it. There was not much future in it. Resources were getting rarer; trainers and sportswear drying up. So I went to university.”

Once at university, Glenn studied Fashion Communication and started to develop a network of likeminded souls, from retailers to designers; contacts that would become both friends and work companions in the future. Decisively, it was here that Glenn met the Manchester store owners of Oi Polloi, who had dreams of producing a magazine. Spotting an opportunity to further an area of personal interest, Glenn jumped at it:

“The way the industry works is, you get editorial work, then you get commercial work, so I just thought “I’ll make my own magazine. I’ll do my own editorial and do what I want.” So that’s what I did.”

Glenn’s vision of a career path seems to be an abnormal combination of being almost unaware that the normal ‘climbing the ladder’ route to becoming a magazine editor even applied to him, combined with complete and utter faith in his vision and skills. It’s something that is common amongst entrepreneurs and becoming more and more useful in today’s world. Why waste time making people tea, when you could jump in at the deep end and prove you can swim straight away?

The main result of this ambitious attitude is The Rig Out; a series of videos and printed magazines, with Glenn as co-founder and fashion editor, alongside photographer Antony Crook, and Art Director Andy Bird. If you’ve never seen an edition of The Rig Out, it is something I strongly advise you keep an eye out for. It’s become a pioneering publication in everything honest and interesting in Menswear fashion, both in the UK and globally. The beautifully artistic A3 editorial of the third edition is in front of me right now, and it demands respect, showcasing full two-sided photography with tiny print descriptions, as well as articles backed by huge text-overlaid, inky, high definition images. The Rig Out issue 4 was an inspired collaboration with fashion label Woolen Woolrich Mills and Menswear store Oi Polloi, created to the backdrop of the Norwegian countryside and featuring photographs of the world-record breaking cyclist James Bowthorpe. A short film called ‘Thirty Century Man’ was filmed with Glenn as the stylist to accompany the magazine, and it deals with the notion of one man’s existence in the realms of seclusion and isolation. It documents the modern man’s return to nature with an enlightened understanding of his surroundings, armed with practical style and high performance fabrics (something that Glenn is very fond of). The clothing is a fusion between style and practicality, something that seems to be at the core of Glenn’s styling, and it creates an image of cohesion between James Bowthorpe’s physical capabilities and his desire. In the words of photographer and the film’s director Antony Crook, “It’s a film about never giving up”. We strongly advise you take the time to watch it yourself.

Clearly, The Rig Out is designed to push the boundaries of fashion editorial. As we spoke to Glenn, it became increasingly more clear how personal the inspiration behind the magazine and it’s unique approach is:

“The Rig Out gives us a chance to achieve our ambitions. It’s so visual, and we don’t like spoon fed, corporate, clean spaces. We want it to be difficult to read – we want it to be a handful; that’s the whole idea about The Rig Out. Loads of design at the moment is all about just feeding it to people. With The Rig Out, we don’t wanna make it easy for people to read on the toilet. We don’t want it to be easy for them to read on a tube. We want people to put an effort into reading our magazine and to look at it, and that’s the whole idea behind it.”

This anti-throw-away culture is challenging the reader; not something usually attempted. Does this add an element of fearlessness into the mix? The editorial is certainly extreme reading, and it’s extreme work to create. Glenn described scenes from places as far afield as the desert landscapes of The Arab Springs, to changing models hanging on a glacier 100 miles within the Arctic circle:

“It’s fun, you know what I mean? It was the whole “What can we achieve? Where can we go? Where can we push it?”.

Alongside The Rig Out, Glenn works as a Menswear consultant, leaning on the side of sports performance, for brands like UVU and Rohan. It seems that the whole idea behind Glenn’s philosophy on fashion is that he’s interested in ‘integrity’. He appreciates brands that have their styles secured in a form of practicality or function, as opposed to bound up in the ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ style often found in the fashion market. This accounts for his interest in using sports performance technology in Menswear. As with most things for Glenn, his inspiration goes much deeper than surface values, and is fondly rooted in his past and his own personality:

“Where I come from in the north, we’ve always been into functional garments. When we were kids we all used to rock Berghaus, we used to rock Spraywear, we used to rock all these outdoor brands because we were outside a lot [laughs]; it’s cold up north! That’s how it is. You look at Oasis and a lot of them bands with all of their jackets with the hoods up; it’s not fashion, it’s growing up up there. It’s what we do, we like technical outerwear. When I was a kid, people would much rather wear a top of the range GoreTex than a Stone Island jacket. It was about looking like a mountaineer [laughs]. So it’s funny when this heritage thing has come through and everyone has started looking like that; ask the lads at Oi Polloi, and the lads back home, that’s what we’ve always been into anyway. It’s good product; good denim, good footwear, good outerwear, nice shirt – that’s Menswear.”

Glenn’s approach to working in fashion is one of self-building. He has carved his own path in his career through co-operation, inspiration and self-drive. It’s an inspiring story. When we asked if he had any advice, he gladly offered a couple pearls of wisdom; firstly, Don’t take yourself too seriously. I suppose that way you have a serious chance of getting some good work done. And secondly, listen to and take on board the advice of those that have been there before you, and you will go far.

Glenn was eager to stress this last point, vigorously listing people who had given him advice and helped him along the way. It’s clear that this sense of recognition for those that have helped him in the past is important to Glenn, and it’s something that other people rarely mention when talking about themselves. It is passion and humility that gets good results out of teams of people, and individuals, and Glenn seems to hold these values highly.

Be sure to pick up the issue 5 of The Rig Out when it drops in February.