IN COLLABORATION WITH PRADA
The Chelsea and England defender is one of the Premier League’s most exciting talents and a cornerstone of England’s next generation of stars.
Off the pitch, he’s a free-thinking trailblazer who isn’t afraid to express himself when it comes to fashion.
In a world-exclusive collaboration, Ben joined SWM and renowned Italian fashion house PRADA to showcase the upcoming Spring Summer collection. We spent the evening at PRADA’s London store on Old Bond Street, one of the most famous shopping destinations in the world. Ben’s long been a fan of PRADA and their Italian traditions of discreet elegance and fine craftsmanship and admitted it was a dream come true to work together.
“The shoot with SWM and PRADA was an amazing experience,” says Ben.
“I must admit when I walked into the store I was a little nervous because there were so many people there. I didn’t think I would be, but as time went on it was really comfortable. Everyone was cool and I really enjoyed the whole experience in the end. Some of the outfits were pieces that I would’ve never usually worn but when I tried it on I actually really liked it and thought it was a good look for me. I’ve always worn their stuff and tagged them on Instagram, so when I found out I was going to be doing the shoot with PRADA it was even more exciting. Usually if I’m going out I’ll wear baggy jeans, some beat-up Nike Air Forces and a baggy t-shirt with a cap on, so I tend to like simple streetwear. I think that’s why this shoot was so much fun because it was focused more on smarter outfits and formal wear that I wouldn’t usually go for day-to-day. It’s the kind of stuff that I’d wear for a nice dinner or night out, so it was nice to try a different style – I could definitely see myself wearing it more.”
Founded in the fashion capital of Milan in 1913 by Mario PRADA, the brand originally focused on luxury leather goods but rose to prominence in the late ‘70s under the guidance of Mario’s granddaughter Miuccia Prada. Miuccia and her husband Patrizio Bertelli have overseen the brand ever since, introducing the iconic triangular silver label and establishing PRADA as one of the best-known luxury brands in the world today. For years the brand has been associated with footballers and sports brands, most recently collaborating with Adidas on a special edition of their most iconic ‘Predator’ silhouette. Unsurprisingly, football is a particularly powerful medium for luxury brands, and the top fashion houses are becoming increasingly aware of the influence that the game’s top stars have on pop culture. PRADA recently launched their much-anticipated Spring Summer ‘22 collection starring Tom Holland, so the timing of this collaboration couldn’t be better as the brand looks to ramp up its celebrity influence.
“Prada is a brand that I’ve been wanting to work with for a while because I love everything that they’ve brought out,” says Ben. “The way the clothes are designed and branded has always made it one of the cooler brands. As I mentioned, I usually just wear streetwear and colourful clothing so it was nice to do the shoot with PRADA who has a very clean, minimalistic style. Obviously they have some bold stuff as well, but I feel like most of it is pretty minimalistic. You can always tell it’s a PRADA outfit because it’s a very clean look and that’s something a bit different for me. I’ve always liked the stuff that is a bit more out there but PRADA doesn’t try to show anything off. They know what their brand is about and don’t need to make anything crazy and smash their label over it. They know what they’re about and I like that.”
PRADA wasn’t the only luxury brand to make an appearance on the night. Audemars Piguet were on hand to provide Ben with a few watches from their collection exclusively for the photoshoot. As a world-leading watchmaking institution, Audemars Piguet has its roots planted firmly in London with showrooms in Knightsbridge, Kensington and a private boutique hidden in the heart of the city.
“I have a good relationship with the team at AP,” says Ben. “When I was chatting to the team they did say that they’d bring two or three watches down to the shoot to wear and they brought three unbelievable pieces, so it was cool to pair them with the outfits. The watch game is crazy at the moment. I know a lot of people that buy them to put them in a safe to sell in 10 years’ time, but they’ll always appreciate in value so I’ve always thought you might as well wear them. If you’re going to buy a nice watch, especially an AP or Patek Philippe, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to wear it.”
On the night they arrived with three versions of the iconic Royal Oak series; the Selfwinding Chronograph in Pink Gold and Frosted Gold, and the Double Balance Wheel Openworked in White Gold. The Royal Oak is one of the most sought-after watch models in the world and holds a particularly high resale value, not dissimilar to the Patek Philippe Nautilus and the Rolex Daytona. Watches like these pose a lucrative investment opportunity for footballers especially when they’re bought at retail, so it’s no surprise players turn to investments like watches when they come to retire. Ben, on the other hand, has his sights set on something a little different when his playing days come to an end. Given the obvious routes of football management or the media, modern-day footballers are continuing to build their profiles off the pitch to open as many doors as possible in retirement. It’s no secret that footballers earn huge amounts of money during their careers, but with an average retirement age of just 35, it’s important to have something to focus on when that time does come. For Ben, it’s all about fashion. Conversations are already ongoing about possible routes into the industry, but for the time being Ben has a tunnel-vision approach to his football career.
“I’ve spoken to my agent a lot about going into fashion,” says Ben. “It’s something that I’ve always been interested in but especially over the last six or seven years. I’ve always enjoyed clothing and trainers so it’s definitely something that I really want to do. Football has always been the priority but it’s something that I feel I can start to get into now so that when I do come to retire I’ve got another hobby to pursue. I get asked what I want to do when I retire quite a lot but I’m not too sure at the moment. I know that I like fashion, but to be honest I have considered a few different things. The logical thing is to become an agent or move into the media and punditry, but I’m trying not to think about it too much. I’m enjoying playing while I can and fashion is my thing away from football that I’m passionate about, so they’re the two main areas of interest that I’d like to explore when I finish.”
“Fashion is my thing away from football.”
Ben started his career in Leicester City’s academy at the age of 12 having played in Rushden & Diamonds’ centre of excellence. He quickly rose through the ranks at the club featuring in Claudio Ranieri’s squad during the pre-season schedule ahead of the 2015-16 season. After a brief loan spell at Championship side Huddersfield Town, Ben finally made his breakthrough in December 2016, making his debut at home against Everton. He narrowly missed out on a Premier League winner’s medal that year but would go on to become one of the club’s most important players under Ranieri. His performances earned him a call up to the national side in 2018 and a dream move to Chelsea two years later for a fee reported to be £45 million.
“I was at Leicester from around 12 years old so I just worked my way up through the age groups at the club and got my scholarship at 16,” says Ben. “I signed my first professional contract at 17 and it moved quickly for me from there. I started training with the first team at around 18 and then went on loan to Huddersfield. When I came back to the club I was pretty involved with the first team and within a year I was playing regularly in the Premier League. So it happened pretty quickly for me from signing my first professional contract at 17 to playing in the Premier League – it was a quick transition from academy to the first team. The year they won the Premier League I was on the bench for 20 games, but Christian Fuchs was having a really strong season so I didn’t get much of a chance. The season after I played around 24 games in the league and the season after that around 36, so I stayed in after that and established my place in the team.”
For Ben, the move to Chelsea was a dream come true.
The Blues are one of the most successful football clubs of the Premier League era and provided the perfect platform for Ben to take his career to the next level. Despite the obvious attraction of Champions League football and Premier League contention, the decision was a tough one for Ben given the number of close relationships he had with his teammates.
“It was a really good group at Leicester while I was there,” says Ben. “It was just a top atmosphere, with a cool group of people that I’m still very close with now. James Maddison, Hamza, Harvey Barnes and even the older lot like Andy King, Marc Albrighton, Kasper Schmeichel, Wes Morgan and Danny Simpson are all really good friends now even though we’ve gone our separate ways. That made it tough to leave but I was at the stage in my career where I felt like I needed a new challenge – I’d been at Leicester since I was 12 so it had been over 12 years and I wanted something new. I’d spoken to Brendan Rodgers who was obviously the manager at the time and said that I felt like I needed a new challenge and to be out of my comfort zone again and really go and push myself, so when Chelsea came that was the perfect opportunity to go and improve as a player.”
Whenever a footballer moves to a new club to “win trophies”, they’ll inevitably face intense scrutiny from the media and fans of their former club. But in Ben’s case, the move and £45 million Chelsea paid for him was as good as repaid within his first season, as he played an influential role in the club’s run to the 2021 Champions League final in Porto.
“To win the Champions League was crazy,” says Ben. “The whole journey was incredible – to win the Champions League in my first season at Chelsea was something dreams are made of. Obviously everyone wants to win the Champions League but to actually move to a club because you wanted to win trophies and in your first season win the biggest one of all, was just surreal really. To do it with the group of boys we have as well was amazing. They all took me in so quickly and were so good with me when I first joined the club, so it was even more special. And then to celebrate with our families after the game was unbelievable. The whole thing was an incredible experience and a night that I will never forget.”
While moving to a new club poses an exciting opportunity for any footballer, it can also be a challenging prospect given the level of upheaval and uncertainty that’s involved. As a player, you need to adapt to a new style of play and win the approval of teammates, coaches and fans, all while trying to forge new friendships and connections. From a personal perspective, a new club often means a new location which involves moving away from your family, friends and support network, to a new home and new surroundings. Thankfully, Ben was joining a Chelsea squad filled with fellow England internationals like Mason Mount and Reece James, which made his move as easy as it could have been.
“Settling in at the club was so easy,” he says. “I already knew like four or five players through the national team and a few of the foreign boys from conversations after the games in the tunnels so I knew a lot of people there anyway. I knew the manager Frank Lampard from our conversations before I signed so I went into the club and didn’t really feel like the new boy. Even the people I didn’t know were all sound and really good with me so it didn’t take long to settle in – it was a very quick, seamless transition.”
London has a lot to offer a professional footballer. The capital is the wealthiest and most stylish city in the UK, which makes it an attractive option for Premier League players. It’s one of the most multicultural cities in the world contributing to a world-class dining scene. With over 80 Michelin Star restaurants, and renowned celebrity hotspots like Sexy Fish and Bagatelle, there are few better places on earth for a bite to eat. What’s more, London is one of the four fashion capitals of the world home to some of the planet’s leading fashion designers, an eclectic shopping scene and of course, London Fashion Week. The London lifestyle is one of the primary reasons Chelsea and other London clubs attract footballing talent from all over the world, and for Ben it’s just another reason he loves playing for the Blues.
“London’s lovely and I know a lot of the boys down here,” says Ben. “I live in Cobham in Surrey, which is right next to the training ground, mainly because I like my sleep, so it makes sense to be two minutes away to get an extra hour in bed every day… But Surrey is really nice to be fair. I’m not in the hustle and bustle of London’s city centre – I’m hidden away in the countryside which I like. If I do want to go into London, it’s only an hour in the car so I can pick and choose when I go into the city which I prefer as I have the best of both worlds. When I do go into London it’s mainly for the restaurants and the shopping which is obviously unbelievable.”
Despite the draw of the big city, footballers often prefer a quieter life choosing to settle down in one of London’s surrounding counties. Surrey, Hertfordshire and Berkshire are amongst the most popular options for a professional footballer owing to the array of luxurious private estates and properties that reside there. For Ben, Cobham was the perfect place to settle down. Often referred to as the ‘Beverly Hills of Britain’, it’s home to a number of celebrities and offers the privacy needed to take his mind off the pressures of football.
“I spend a lot of time watching films and TV series and I love to read,” says Ben. “I tried to learn the piano and Spanish for a while, but they were both pretty difficult… I try and do things that take my mind off football because when you’re back at home it’s nice to try and get away from it all and relax. Obviously I’ve got the basketball court in my garden through SWM but the weather at the moment hasn’t been great so I can’t play much but in the summer that’s something I love doing. It’s a cool sport – I watch the NBA with my mates and at school, we had a team where we used to compete against other schools, so it’s just always been something that I’ve played. All my friends enjoy playing basketball too, so when the weather is better it’s something that we’ll be doing a lot.”
Spring is the time of year when most footballers start planning their summer getaway. After the disruption caused by the pandemic and Euro 2020, this should be the biggest summer on record for players travelling abroad. This year, Ben’s planning a trip stateside to either LA or Miami through SWM. Both offer the ultimate holiday destination with some of the world’s best restaurants, nightlife and shopping. Top of his bucket list will be a trip to watch the NBA. Whether that’s to see Miami Heat or Los Angeles Lakers remains to be seen, but we’ll be keeping one eye on Chilly’s Insta…
“Wherever I go this summer whether it’s LA or Miami, going to a basketball game is 100% on the list because I’ve never been to see it in America,” says Ben. I’ve been to one of the games in London around three or four years ago but never in America which I’ve heard is unbelievable, so that will be fun to do. I’ve already been to Florida and LA twice. America, in general, is just an unbelievable palace with good weather, cool people, good shopping, food, beaches… it’s got everything you could want. Last summer after the Euros we all went to Mykonos as a group. Pretty much the whole of the England team was there so it was nice to get away after what was a pretty intense five or six weeks. It was obviously a really difficult end, so it was nice to have some free time with each other in the sun away from football before the new season started. We were already a really close group but the Euros brought us closer together, so it was nice to socialise with each other for a few weeks. Mykonos is the perfect spot for it too because everyone keeps themselves to themselves. It’s a very social place but no one’s bothering you – it’s just loads of cool people from different industries that all want to go and have some fun, so I enjoyed meeting new and interesting people that you’d never normally come across.”
With only a few weeks’ off every summer footballers are fairly limited in the places they can go on holiday, often opting for southern Europe, Dubai or LA. Despite travelling extensively for European fixtures, the players have very little time to explore their surroundings and enjoy the city they’re in. It’s one of the primary reasons players enjoy travelling when they retire, opting for cultural hotspots such as Bali, Bora Bora and the Seychelles.
“I definitely want to travel when I retire,” says Ben. “There are so many places that I’ve not been to in the world that I want to see and experience. Like I said we only get a certain amount of time off each summer, so it’s difficult to go and see a lot of different places but when I retire it’s something I want to do more of in terms of going travelling and seeing as much of the world as possible. I’ve been to Italy for football but I’ve not been on vacation so I think I want to go and visit Venice and Como, and I’m keen to go to Australia. Milan would be wicked from the fashion side of things. Obviously, I know Fik Tomori who’s living there and he said he loves it and that it’s a great city so it’s definitely one I’d like to go and see. My dad’s from New Zealand so I want to go back there and also places in Asia like Tokyo. That’s just a few places at the top of my list but there’s definitely more.”
As Ben looks forward to his return from injury and an exciting year with England and Chelsea, we asked him about his ambitions and goals for the rest of his career.
“I do think it would be nice to play in Spain or Italy,” says Ben. “The people that I know who have gone there have always said good things, so it’s definitely not off the list. But to be honest the ideal scenario would be to retire at Chelsea. I want to stay here for the next 10 years, win as many trophies as possible and retire having played 500 games, but I’m definitely open to playing abroad. I want to win every trophy there is to win while I’m at Chelsea. Winning the Champions League for a second time would arguably be the most difficult thing to do. Chelsea’s won it twice now so I think to win it a third time with the same group of players would be an unbelievable achievement. Obviously, the Premier League would be the main one. I’ve been playing in the league for four or five years and at Chelsea for the last two years, so I’ve seen how difficult it is to actually win the Premier League. The competition at the top of the table is so intense, so I think that feeling of lifting the Premier League with Chelsea would be incredible.”
Whatever the future holds for Ben Chilwell, he’s already established himself as one of Chelsea and England’s most exciting talents. The Premier League title may well be out of reach for the Blues this season, but with the World Cup in Qatar getting ever closer, 2022 could end up being the biggest of Ben’s career. There’s an inescapable feeling that there’s more to come from Chilly and if there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s that he’s only just getting started.
“We’ve been big fans of Ben for a long time now. We’ve worked with a number of Chelsea and England players over the years and we’re keen to continue growing that.
“When Ben became a client of ours through the magazine and lifestyle management arm of the business, it was the perfect time to extend a media collaboration invitation and build on an already growing relationship.
“From speaking to his team at length over the months leading up to the shoot, we discovered Ben’s love of PRADA and everything the brand stands for. Ben himself has a very clean look which we felt fitted perfectly with PRADA’s minimal style.
“The shoot with Ben was thoroughly enjoyable - he’s a top lad and a top player and we look forward to continuing our work with him for the foreseeable future.”
Liam & Andrew - SWM
I’ve known about SWM since I was at Leicester when the magazines were coming into the training ground. I always thought it was a very clean, professional and interesting magazine because everything in there is relatable for a footballer - the holidays, watches, cars…
“So to get to work with the team and PRADA was amazing. I got on with everyone really well and thought they were a really cool group of guys. I’ve been talking to the SWM team a lot and whenever I’ve got any questions for them, they’re professional and very quick to answer, so I just really enjoyed the whole experience and hopefully, it’s the first of many.