Sir Paul Smith has created an exclusive collection of clothes for MR PORTER inspired by the menswear bible, Take Ivy. The tightly edited capsule of nine styles takes its cues from classic pieces, like a crew neck sweatshirt and patch pocket blazer, but as seen through Smith’s distinctly British lens, and aims to add a bit of posh edge to the essentials for a prep lifestyle. The book of photographs shot on US Ivy League campuses in the 1960s and originally published in Japan in 1965 had become quite the cult classic over the years (out-of-print editions went for thousands of dollars. It wasn’t until 2010 that the book was re-published for a new generation of admirers).
“I’ve always liked Ivy style,” says Sir Paul. “It’s a good timeless look and I’ve just given it the Paul Smith twist. So the blazer is quite short, which is of now, where previously it would have been longer.”
The designer, who has been at the forefront of British fashion for five decades, is well placed to explain how Ivy style first came to the UK from the US. “In London the Ivy look was brought in by a lot of the GIs who were stationed out in places such as Cambridgeshire. They came into London at the weekends and went to clubs such as The Scene, in Soho. There was quite an interest in the way these guys dressed, because they looked so cool and slick.” In Sir Paul’s opinion, “The clothes are quite timeless, and there’s always been a hard core of fans.” That classic appeal brings a practical advantage: “It’s a look you can easily wear with your existing wardrobe,” he says.
* Courtesy of MR PORTER and GQ
For the designer, the Kennedy clan – “all of them” – are the icons of the Ivy look. “There are lovely pictures of Jack wearing Converse All-Stars, regular trousers and a pale-colored sweater with patch elbows. It’s the whole Hamptons look.” However, Sir Paul’s other source of Ivy inspiration comes from the music scene. “For me it was very much about the jazz era; Blue Note [a US jazz label] album covers always had these very cool-looking guys, with a very sharp look,” he remembers. “Herbie Hancock and John Coltrane were the guys who stood out as being very well dressed.”
The exclusive Paul Smith collection for MR PORTER will be available in the US from May 8th