When I look back on 2020, I will think not of the space I worked in, but the places I escaped to. Even at our most restricted, Britons were fortunate enough to be allowed to visit parks – for recreation, or dog walking, or just to clear the head. Wonderfully available, green spaces became a place of sanctuary when the pressure got too great. Later, as we started to re-socialise, they became the places where we met. I recall one afternoon, walking across Regent’s Park in early summer, being overwhelmed by all the activities on show: the grass was teeming with people having picnics, playing ball games, training toddlers and small children, footballing, frolicking and, in one particularly fancy instance, fencing, in small, socially distanced groups. People from every walk of life took advantage of the outdoors. The park became a microcosm of the world. As summer pressed on, the heat started rising and the gatherings got bigger, more energetic and more combustible as well.
There’s truth in the cliché that parks are a city’s beating heart. Hence, when Laurence Ellis and Julian Ganio suggested they use Hyde Park to shoot the season’s menswear, it seemed a perfect fit (“Style special: the park of human life”). The cast of characters they assembled – from bodybuilders and skateboarders to dog walkers and young families – represent all sorts of bubbled types. At a time when the world is so divided, the parks have hummed with a far warmer, more optimistic point of view, offering a connection with other people and a chance to reconnect.
More shared experience with Paul Smith, the designer who celebrates his 50th anniversary this autumn – and the man who has dressed the world in stripy socks. We have celebrated his brand’s first half-century by compiling a series of testimonials from the many scores of people with whom Sir Paul has worked (“Paul Smith: the most loved man in fashion”). If there is a constant thread to all their observations, it is that Paul Smith is, essentially, a really lovely guy. Which could be quite a tepid judgement until you consider the viperous industry in which he shines. On the many occasions I have met Paul, he has always been charming, punctual and super-professional. Moreover, despite his long experience in the business, and a brilliant intuition that has seen him accrue enormous wealth, he still has a huge appetite for meeting people. Most Saturdays will still see him in his Mayfair flagship, chatting to customers in-store, finding out what they’re up to, what’s selling and what’s stalling. He’s one of the friendliest and most warmhearted in the business and I’m delighted to toast his success here.
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Warmheartedness is something we tried hard to hold onto in this issue. The subject of style and fashion can sometimes be intimidating to a fella, and we were keen – especially given the year we’ve had – that this issue should have a user-friendly theme. Our guide to the best menswear stores is designed to cover tastes for all occasions, while the pick of this season’s sneakers should keep all chaps on their game. I’ve also got a soft spot for our feature “Pleat wave: the cult of Issey Miyake”, in which six very different gentlemen, who all work in different areas, discuss their long affiliation to the master of the geometric pleat. In particular, I love the portraits of Tim Blanks, a journalist who, in ordinary circumstances, I would now be spending far more time with: we are nearly always seated next to one another at the shows. This autumn, our seasonal catch-ups have been disrupted as the shows have all gone digital. Instead, I’m very cheered to see my favourite Miyake-wearing pal in print.
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