Paul Smith and Ahluwalia unite for a cross-generational collaboration
The inaugural recipient of &PaulSmith, a new collaboration and mentorship program, Priya Ahluwalia has teamed up with the veteran designer on a new capsule collection – the perfect encapsulation of their two distinct worlds
Paul Smith began his first boutique in a 3x3-metre cube in Nottingham in 1970; half a century on, he is perhaps Britain’s most well-known menswear designer, with outposts around the world (indeed, he is a rare fashion household name, knighted in 2000). It feels apt, then, that he is passing this wisdom down to a new generation of designers with a collaboration and mentorship programme &PaulSmith, of which London-born designer Priya Ahluwalia – who founded her eponymous label Ahluwalia on graduation from Westminster University in 2018 – is the first recipient.
‘I had the pleasure of being introduced to Priya through a mutual friend and our shared approach to design was obvious from our first meeting. Her maverick spirit reminded me of myself when I was just starting out,’ says Smith of the collaboration, which will see him team up with Ahluwalia on a 14-piece capsule collection of clothing and accessories (it is the first time he has collaborated with a ready-to-wear designer). Promising ‘a meeting of two distinct creative minds’, the aim of &PaulSmith is a ‘fresh and authentic’ approach to collaboration, built on a genuine connection between two generations of designers – a relationship which in this case has been growing over several seasons.
‘This collaboration is so special to me as it was born out of friendship and curiosity. A while back, Paul so kindly invited me to come and meet him and learn about how he works, and I was blown away by him and his treasure trove of an office,’ says Ahluwalia, who gleaned inspiration for the collection from objects discovered over several visits to Paul Smith HQ – from vintage cycling jerseys and Studio One record covers to some of the designer’s decades-old fabrics and checks. In the pieces, these references are melded with Ahluwalia’s own signatures, which often feature visible seams and panelling, as well as inspirations from her Nigerian and Indian heritage (here, Ahluwalia says this emerges in colours and prints drawn from photographs taken in the two countries).
The clothing itself has a relaxed, collage-like approach: a colourful jumper is stitched with ‘A Brand New Day’ and edged with racing jersey-style stripes, loose-leg trousers come in contrasting checks, a patchwork sweatsuit is dotted with badge-like prints (including a circular ‘Ahluwalia Paul Smith’ logo written in the former’s signature typeface). Sustainability, which is central to both designers’ work, is also a focus with organic cotton, biodegradable viscose, and repurposed surplus jersey making up the collection.
‘While our styles may appear different at first glance, we’re coming at it from the same place: a real conviction that clothes should be a source of joy,’ says Smith. ‘This collaborative collection is proof of that.’ §