In 2015, we partnered with Paul Smith to showcase some of the label’s best fashion stories. These have included the No.9 Leather Collection, which took inspiration from Mayfair’s Regency architecture, and a dynamic new suit put to the test by Olympic gymnast Max Whitlock. We’ve also picked Paul’s brain about Instagram and in the coming weeks will see how the quintessential British label is informed by art.
If you live in London you might know Eduardo Paolozzi for the many bright mosaics that fill Tottenham Court Road station. You might otherwise know him for the cover of Paul McCartney’s 1973 album Red Rose Speedway, the relief doors of the University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Gallery, or the Head of Invention sculpture on the South Bank outside the Design Museum in London. The list of the Anglo-Italian artist’s varied and high profile commissions goes on like this.
Travel, especially for business, used to be a slow-paced and slightly luxurious affair. There were steamer trunks, freshly pressed suits, free in-flight cocktails or drinks in the dining car, and people could take their time. Everything today is quicker and less polished, and gone are the stylish airport lounges and the days when, in true Mad Men style, boarding a plane in a sharp suit, lighting a cigarette and being handed a drink was par for the course. We lead moveable lifestyles, time is short, and the modern wardrobe tends to lean toward the highly functional.
The relationship between architecture and fashion is a well-noted one. For years the two have mirrored one another, and the fact that certain cities evoke particular ideas about style is as much about architecture as it is about culture. With its assortment of architectural styles, spanning gothic to Regency to brutalism, and everything in between, London in particular has a reputation for fashion that mixes classic and modern elements. There are few better torchbearers of this eclecticism than Paul Smith, a name synonymous with quintessential British style and quirk.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” The line is Marcel Proust’s, quoted by Paul Smith at an Instagram event in London last week in which the fashion designer and bona fide national treasure spoke about his love of the photo-sharing platform, his longstanding passion for photography and his incredulity at how many people look, but don’t see. It’s not a problem for Paul, who finds inspiration in all manner of things and takes the opportunity to absorb what he encounters in his day-to-day life.
Paul was bitten by the photography bug after his dad – himself a keen amateur photographer – gave him a Kodak Retinette when he was just 11. His dad had converted the attic into a dark room and Paul remembers with relish the hours spent developing pictures, superimposing one visual over another and “holding back” the image. “I thought it was magical,” he says. He has taken photographs for years and at his offices, his designers can delve into huge folders of thousands of his pictures collected down the decades. “They are pretty well organised,” Paul says. “If you came in and said ‘Has he been to Greece?’ they’d be able to say yeah in June 2013 or whatever…”