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Words by Mr Mansel Fletcher

Sir Paul Smith has created an exclusive collection of clothes for MR PORTER. The tightly edited range consists of nine styles and is, according to Sir Paul, "Ivy inspired". Specifically, it's inspired by Take Ivy, a book of photographs shot on US Ivy League campuses in the 1960s and originally published in Japan in 1965. "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."

Sir Paul, London, May 2009

Sir Paul, 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.

As Ivy League style spread from US campuses - as illustrated in this shot from Take Ivy - its hip practicality gained the attention of young British men

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-coloured 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 8 May

THE COLLECTION


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