LONDON — Apart from being a designer, Luc Goidadin is an avid storyteller, and since taking over the creative helm at Smythson, he has been looking for new ways to tell the brand’s quintessentially British story to existing and new customers.
Goidadin, who is set to present his first collection for the heritage label as part of London Fashion Week on Feb. 16, has been focusing on exploring the brand’s archives and channeling the progressive spirit of its founder, Frank Smythson, for his debut.
“It was really important to me to look into what Frank Smythson represented because he was such a big character. He was a real believer in long-distance shopping and delivering product to his customer, which is so relevant to today,” said Goidadin, who was formerly Burberry’s chief design officer on Christopher Bailey’s team.
During the early research and design process, Goidadin said he became fascinated by Smythson’s background as a silversmith and by his then vision of creating a chic Bond Street emporium that would cater to 19th-century travelers with everything from silver, to leather goods and paper.
Goidadin’s ultimate aim? To create his own modern-day version of an emporium or a cabinet of curiosities, filled with products that can easily work into the lives of today’s global traveling set, and with design credentials — and the right dose of British humor.
“[Frank Smythson] had a business vision and he also had a product vision, doing things in an incredibly British way, with elegance but also with this rather eccentric mind-set,” said the designer, pointing to archive designs including bags with external pockets made for warming the hands, suitcases with legs, inflatable brocade pillows for traveling or little suffragette silver statues.
As he shapes his own vision for the brand, Goidadin said he wants to embrace the same sense of “Englishness” by doing things with a simultaneous “sense of refinement and humor.” He is also keeping a sharpened focus on the breadth of his collections and sticking to the categories the brand has always been known for.
This means a natural focus on the world of travel: Handbags, leather goods, paper and stationery, as well as soft accessories such as cashmere shawls or blankets — a category the brand used to offer, but moved away from in the last few years.
“If you come into a brand with so much history, you have to build on that history, otherwise you might as well build a new company,” added Goidadin.
For fall 2019, he has honored Smythson’s history with a collection that’s filled with subtle nods to its past and to some of its most loved products, but also a more modernist spirit: He has reimagined the brand’s best-selling currency case as a sleek cross-body bag for men; paid homage to the brand’s flair for organization by adding compartments on structured leather totes in dusty pastel shades.
He has also taken archival phone carpets – that used to be placed under the big Forties and Fifties phones – and turned them into striking woven patterns for top–handle bags and cashmere throws.
There are also roomy totes done in bonded leather to ensure they’re light for traveling, modernist bucket bags in nude shades and charming printed scarves featuring equestrian-inspired patterns taken from paintings by George Stubbs.
Home products, ranging from jewelry boxes to triangle-shaped leather trays and travel backgammon sets, were also sprinkled throughout the range to showcase the breadth of the collection.
“We are a brand that caters for a price point that can go from a 55-pound notebook to a 28,000-pound exotic jewelry box, so we’ve got a very wide spectrum of ages, something that a lot of brands would want,” added the designer.
He also kept the stationery and the brand’s popular notebooks at the heart of the range, renewing them with striking prints, including a new ‘S’ monogram taken from a 19th-century pen designed by Frank Smythson and a colorful feather motif, playing with the idea of the brand’s trademarked feather-weight blue paper.
“The aim was to bring every aspect of the brand together and I think that the paper is what means the most to people at the moment, on an emotional level, so it’s important to build it into the collections and use it as a way to recruit new customers, now that there is that return to the exoticisms of paper.”