Paul Smith: Cool Britannia

The internationally acclaimed designer unveils the first fruits of his collaboration with The Woolmark Company

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A certified living legend in the fashion industry, throughout his four-decade career Sir Paul Smith has often incorporated Merino wool in his collections. Now, he is using his sartorial star power to promote the textile to the world.


There’s a pervasive patriotism throughout Paul Smith’s spring/summer 2014 collection. For one, it’s called British Collection—part of his successful London Line. Keen-eyed observers might even notice the lines of the Union Jack subtly embossed across a grey suit, part of the textile focus seen across the range.

“The Union Jack [is] just more of an abstracted pattern which I think is really fun.”
Paul Smith

“As a designer you’re always playing with proportion, scale and that’s what we’ve done with the fabric,” Smith says. “This is a fabric which has been engineered.”

But for all the concessions to Britishness, the fabric at the heart of the collection hails from a far distant corner of the Commonwealth. It’s the first manifestation of Smith’s collaboration with The Woolmark Company—the second is set to appear for autumn/winter 2014/15—to promote Australian Merino wool.

The focus this season is on Cool Wool, a summer-friendly take on the textile made lightweight through modern manufacturing and processing techniques.

“British collection is using just one mill from the north of England called Clissold and they’ve been really cooperative and been working with me on ideas,” Smith says. “They’ve really made the effort.”



Reflecting on his newfound status as an ambassador for wool, Smith says the textile has been a constant in his work. “Of course, over the years since I’ve started there’s been lots of new, high-tech fabrics,” Smith reflects. “But I still tend to stick with my wool. I’ve always been a fan of natural fibres, so cotton for shirts, wool for the rest.”

Merino wool, in particular, has the softness and drape befitting luxury fashion brands but also a natural breathability that helps to regulate body temperature for inherent comfort. The other great advantage that Merino wool holds over many other textiles is that it is biodegradable—and with more than 70 million Merino sheep roaming the vast Australian continent, it is highly renewable.

For the first of his collaborations with The Woolmark Company, Paul Smith opted to work with a special selection of seven worsted Cool Wool fabrics—and as a brand that sells into 72 countries across the globe, creating suiting that is wearable in hotter climates is especially important.

Beyond sending the British Collection into stores across the world, Sir Paul will put his name behind a co-branded campaign set to appear in traditional and digital media in support of both the spring summer 2014 and autumn winter 2014/15 collections.

The versatility of the textile will become even more apparent with the arrival of the second Paul Smith collaboration in coming months.

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