The latest collaborative collection in the &PaulSmith series is a collage of archival-inspired styles and a tribute to generational style. Following the success of the Ahluwalia &PaulSmith collaboration, which saw the British brand partner with up-and-coming London-based designer Priya Ahluwalia last year on a collection and mentoring programme, the next iteration in the &PaulSmith series has chosen NYC based brand Commission. The second iteration of the &PaulSmith collaboration series was at it’s early stage supported by the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designer’s of America) who presented a shortlist of candidates for the collaboration by private referral.
East Meets West
From the first meeting, a natural synergy was apparent between Paul and Commission’s Dylan Cao and Jin Kay. Founded in 2018 with a mission to reframe and elevate how Asian culture was represented in western fashion, the brand’s designers are first-generation US immigrants from Vietnam and South Korea, respectively. Their collections are based on the wardrobes of their parents in the 1980s and 1990s, bringing back elements of nostalgia and uniform dressing, often pulled from straight from family photo albums.
With this in mind, the natural starting point for the &PaulSmith collection was ‘Father & Son’, a rare book of photographs taken by both Paul and his father Harold Smith and published after the latter’s passing in 2000. The book presents Harold’s photos, described by Paul as “light, witty juxtapositions” side by side with Paul’s “caught moment” compositions; a clear correlation between the source material and how Dylan and Jin are inspired by generational style emerged.
Back in Time
The Paul Smith archive in Nottingham also served as a large source of inspiration to Dylan and Jin. Referencing several Paul Smith runway collections from both pre- and post-millennium – more specifically, the 1997/98 and 2002/03 seasons – the resulting 22-piece collaboration features exaggerated and elongated takes on vintage Paul Smith pieces, including a sweeping wool-cashmere overcoat, a structured double-breasted brown worsted wool suit and a butter yellow leather field jacket with front and back waist pockets. Accentuated details like point collars, low peak lapels and on-seam pockets reinforce the archival theme, while the vintage-inspired palette of browns, yellows and blacks is modernised with vivid pops of red, blue, and green.
Paul says: “Tapping into new ideas is exactly why I wanted to start the &PaulSmith series and Commission are brimming with them. I also have a huge sense of pride in our archive and I’m so glad that Dylan and Jin have been inspired by pieces from past collections and put their own truly unique spin on them.”
Dylan & Jin say: “There’s a richness to Paul’s archive during the late 90s that resonates with us, where its masculinity seemed like a mash-up of preppy, sex and post-punk, yet highly functional and romantic. Our approach to products and storytelling was similar in that it’s an eclectic mismatch of various narratives and undercurrents.”
A Touch of Commission
Several Commission signatures appear such as the slightly fatherly stripes, bold red touches, and oversize roomy coats, all with their signature back yoke shape design. The tailored coats, a contemporary interpretation of a traditional mac – have been reworked in classic fabrics like a padded cotton-jersey and gabardine.
Commission’s punk undertones – something that has permeated the duo’s collections since their founding – are also apparent in fabric choices and techniques, such as mohair knitwear, snakeskin print and screen-printed florals, and graphics.
Hints of Americana, another of Commission’s reference points, come through in raw denim, embroidered shirting monograms (itself based on Paul’s handwritten logo and tailoring labels), striped knitwear, polos and ties, and styles like the blouson-style jacket.
Launching in November 2023, the collection will be available in limited numbers from Paul Smith and Commission and, for wholesale, exclusively at SSENSE. As part of the collaboration, Paul Smith will also provide business development mentorship to Commission.
Commission seeks to redefine and deconstruct the visual language of East Asian culture, looking beyond typical Asian motifs. Commission offers a nostalgic yet modern wardrobe of classic garments reminiscent of their parents’ working wardrobes in the 90s in Vietnam and South Korea. The brand was founded in September of 2018 and is headed by the New York based Dylan Cao and Jin Kay.
About Paul Smith
Paul Smith is Britain’s leading independent design company. Paul Smith champions positivity, curiosity and creativity. These qualities underpin every Paul Smith design, whether its a shirt, a shop or a special collaboration. Paul Smith is a British company with a global outlook. What began in a small, 3 x 3 meter shop in Nottingham, England in 1970 has grown to worldwide distribution in 60 different countries via over 2,000 ‘doors’, including 50 directly operated shops.”