Celebrating his latest Primark collection, Kem Cetinay talks his style evolution, creating the perfect T-shirt and more.

From TV personality to fashion tastemaker, Kem Cetinay is refusing to be boxed in. Since leaving Love Island and its sun-kissed lifestyle, he’s evolved from his role as Britain’s beloved cheeky chappy into a respected multi-hyphenate; anything that the 27-year-old touches turns to gold. During our conversation, his charm still shines through, but questions are answered with such sagacity that you realise this isn’t the same star looking for love all those years ago.  


We’ve hopped on a Zoom call to talk all things Kem X Primark Man: The incredibly successful clothing line he launched in 2019. Starting as a capsule of 16 day-to-night holiday looks, the collaboration has since blossomed into an annual rotation of five seasonal ranges. The collections have evolved with his own style but they’re by no means defined by it. Inspired by people’s everyday needs and their propensity to look sharp in premium gear, the smart casual essentials are a must for any man’s wardrobe. 


Kem’s Autumn collection is made with cooler temps and shorter nights in mind. Combining comfort and style, the range of light outerwear essentials and cosy tapered tracksuits aim to upgrade everyday fits and pack out your leisurewear drawers. What’s Kem’s favourite piece from the collection, you may ask? “It’s got to be the box T-shirts” he answers enthusiastically.  

Oversized tees are certainly back. Taking inspiration from ‘90s skateboarders, the baggy fit has become a favourite among celebrities as disparate as Post Malone and Seth Rogan. They’re also the choice style among Essex’s ‘in’ crowd, thanks to Kem and his entourage of on-trend friends. This season, he’s out to create the ultimate box T-shirt. After conquering the crew neck game, which at its peak sold an item a minute globally, the budding entrepreneur believes they will take his range to the next level.  


Kem has his mum to thank for his early forays into fashion. Studying the subject at university, and working in the industry afterwards, she understood her son’s style even before he did. Working with Primark has allowed the TV star to tread a familiar path. Although he’s inspired by her fashion know-how, Kem has a unique perspective on design that’s intrinsic to him.


Off-duty tracksuits, smart-casual co-ords and layered fits define this season’s edit, which he’s eager to break new ground with. And rest assured, plans are already in motion for future seasons as the presenter keeps us on top of trends and adds his unique spark to Primark’s stores.  

What were your experiences of fashion growing up? Can you remember the first item of clothing that you saved up for? 

Growing up, fashion has always been a big part of my family. My mum studied fashion at university and has worked in the industry all her life. I was always her guinea pig at home as she tried new styles on me and picked my clothes. I was always into dressing up but I never thought I’d be where I am now, making these clothes. 

What have been the main signifiers of progress with the line, since it started?

When I first signed with Primark 2019, the clothes were very ‘me’ back then. The collections were filled with lairy shirts and shorts that were so short they literally looked like hot pants. To see where it is now, and how premium it is, it’s mad. It’s all happening too fast to take in but it’s a really proud moment for me.


We’ve worked extensively with different fabrics and suppliers and have our own label within the store now which is more premium. People are happy to spend the money knowing that what they get is great value.

What does personal style mean to you? 

It’s always been about expressing myself. An outfit can show how you’re feeling. When I used to wear lairy shirts, I always used to say it was because I felt like a cheeky chap. Now I’m starting to dress more smart, it shows signs of maturing. When you wear something and you feel good, you want to go out and show it off. It makes me feel so good when I see people getting gassed wearing my clothes.

And nowadays, what do you look for in an outfit? As a modern-day tastemaker, how do you ensure that you stay on trend? 

When I first started working with Primark, it was always about implementing my dress sense into the collections. I’ve started to realise that the clothes need to be versatile and we need to think more outside the box. I’ve taken myself out of it and have started to think about what the consumer would wear and I want the collections to have something in there that can cater to everyone. There’s an element of risk because you’d naturally want to generate clothes that fit your own taste but there aren’t a million Kems in the world so that wouldn’t make sense.

How have you looked to implement that into your own collections with Primark?

My outfit is normally based around a T-shirt. Whatever I’m wearing, I always want to combine it with a classic T-shirt. Before working with Primark, I struggled to find the perfect affordable T-shirt. We started working on that a couple of years ago and went through so many suppliers because I knew how I wanted them to feel. Honestly, we now have a cult T-shirt following.


Every day I walk down the street and it blows my mind to see how many people are wearing them. The amount of people who message me on Instagram asking for boxes of them is nuts. I saw a stat the other day that we sell a T-shirt a minute globally. Sometimes you don’t have to overcomplicate the clothes and design.

Being from Essex, what would you say is the ‘typical’ Essex look, at the moment? What are people wearing in the county? 

Essex is quite forward-thinking with fashion. I get a lot of ideas from my friends, who dress really well. Sometimes I’ll take a photo of them or write an idea down on my phone. I had one mate who was wearing box T-shirts before I noticed anyone else wearing them and I used to say, “Come on mate, you need to get a smaller size”. I never used to understand it! Then, the more I saw them, the more I thought they looked sick. I like people who take risks with how they dress, it’s so easy to play it safe nowadays.

What’s your favourite piece from this collection?

It’s got to be the new box T-shirts because we’ve spent so much time on them. You can wear them in any way that you want. It’s nice that Primark trusts me to try new things. They’re so open to it and I think these new box Ts are going to be even more popular than our original shape that flies out the door every day.

And do you have ideas for future collections?

We’ve signed for another two years, which is crazy. Next year, I want to smash the accessory and trainer market. I’m such a trainer geek. I have all of mine lined up with toothbrushes next to them; I think it’s borderline OCD. I want to create two or three pairs of trainers that are easy to wear and that anyone can grab. Trainers make an outfit.

Since coming out of the villa, you’ve built a career as one of England’s much-loved reality TV stars. Is being in the spotlight something you’ve always wanted?

Not really, to be honest. When I was a barber I used to regularly cut this guy’s hair, he’s one of my best mates now, and because I used to banter with everyone, he said that I’d be really good on TV. I didn’t really believe him but he applied for me to go on Love Island, without me knowing.


He helped me throughout the process. I was so nervous, I didn’t know what I was going to wear! I had to ask my parents for some money, and an advance from my boss, just so I could get some new garms. He was the one who pushed me into it and always gave me the confidence that I’d be good. Since then, life’s changed a lot.

Do you still try to find the time to cut people’s hair?

Still to this day, I love cutting hair. I’ve got one regular client that I can’t shift, which is my dad. When he calls me and says, “You’re cutting my hair tonight”, it doesn’t matter what I’ve got planned, I have to cut his hair. I cut my friends if they need it but they probably think I’m a bit rusty, which I am. I’m never going to be as good as I used to be.

What are some of the highlight experiences you’ve had this year? 

As much as I love Primark, I’d have to say Soccer Aid. My mates take the piss because they say I’m dining off this moment, but for someone who’s grown up playing football all their life, to play in front of 70,000 people with players I usually play with on a computer game is honestly so mad.

What’s next for Kem? Beyond your TV presenting and Primark collections, is there anything else you’d like to try out in 2023? 

The Primark line has become a huge passion of mine and a lot of people don’t realise how involved I want to be. But you can see that in the results of the collections because they are completely different to Primark’s normal wear. We’re working hard and pushing towards making the project bigger and more successful and the plans we have for the next two years are absolutely mad! 

Kem X Primark MAN’s Autumn range is available in-store and online now.

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