Paul Smith and Rapha’s shared love of cycling celebrated in vintage-inspired collection
An avid cyclist, Paul Smith collaborates once again with Rapha’s Simon Mottram on a colour-infused collection of pieces that draw on the ‘golden era’ of the cycling jersey
British designer Paul Smith was gifted a racing bike for his 11th birthday; as a teenager he sought to go pro, competing in races and time trials as part of Nottingham Beeston Road Club until a crash put an end to his ambitions. Despite this – and a shift to fashion after the success of his initial Nottingham boutique, which opened in the 1970s – cycling has remained a prescient inspiration throughout his career at the London-based eponymous label (he even released a Thames & Hudson-published book on the subject, Paul Smith’s Cycling Scrapbook, in 2016).
Smith’s relationship with Rapha – a cycling brand founded by Simon Mottram in 2004 that aims to ‘to inspire the world to live life by bike’ – is also longstanding. Smith has been friends with Mottram for over two decades and collaborated on several collections. One of the earliest collaborations was a co-branded cycling jersey in 2007, when the first leg of the Tour de France was held in London. ‘Paul and I are really just two long-time fans of cycling – something that brought us together from the earliest days of our friendship. We share decades of excitement about racing and veneration of cycling heroes,’ explains Mottram.
Paul Smith and Rapha cycling collection
The new collection – which is available now – draws inspiration from this longtime friendship, celebrating the way that cycling ‘brings people together’. ‘This collaboration was our opportunity to bring [our] shared history to life and to tell the stories of so many other friendships founded in cycling from around the world,’ says Mottram, while an accompanying campaign features pairs of riders – whether neighbours, brothers or friends – who found ‘closeness through cycling’.
‘Simon has this almost encyclopaedic knowledge of cycling and the history of cycling, so his expertise and enthusiasm for the sport has been a real inspiration to me,’ adds Smith. ‘And he’s generous with it, which is something I’ve always been an admirer of: people who are so excited by ideas that they can’t wait to share it.’
The vintage cycling jersey provides much of the impetus of the new collection, which finds its roots in what Smith calls ‘the golden era of jersey design’, ‘when designs began to become bolder, brighter, and more detailed, and thus, more collectable’, as the brand describes. Cycling jerseys come with rabbit prints and feature Smith’s signature colourful stripes, while an array of accessories sits alongside – from powerweave cycling shoes to sleek face-shielding wraparound sunglasses.
‘Collaborating with Rapha and Simon once again has been such an honour – working with someone with shared ideals is always a great pleasure,’ says Smith. ‘We were both brimming with ideas for this latest collection, and I hope it shines with our love of the sport as well as our fascination with vintage cycling jerseys.’
Jack Moss is the Fashion Features Editor at Wallpaper*. Having previously held roles at 10, 10 Men and AnOther magazines, he joined the team in 2022. His work has a particular focus on the moments where fashion and style intersect with other creative disciplines – among them art and design – as well as championing a new generation of international talent and profiling the industry’s leading figures and brands.
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