Earlier in October designer Paul Harvey stopped by the Cruise Glasgow store as part of our Blauer USA launch night. Here we bring you his responses to some of the questions you all put to him.
How involved are you really in the design of items? Danny, 45
1. If you want to go deeper into this I will with pleasure, just get back to Cruise. For simplicity, and bearing in mind the questions posed earlier, I would say this. Give or take a tiny little bit, at Stone Island I was involved 100%. From the birth of the fabric, the design of the garments and the signing off of the finished piece. More or less it was all my responsibility. This is not necessarily a good thing. It can create a very pure product but one which is not so commercial. Please remember Stone Island has grown a great deal since I left. Right now the situation is this. Ten C is my company together with my partners. Sometimes things slip through due to lack of time, but my involvement is from A to Z, and further. My commitment to CP Company, together with Alessandro, is the same but, and this is very important since designers do not work in a vacuum, we do not own the company, our market in England is different from that in Italy or Japan and we do have to defend a certain turnover.
With Blauer it is different again. I would say that here my role is closer to that of the guy who signs things off. In America, Blauer has a very strong identity, a long, long story and so Alessandro and I are trying to protect that heritage. It is a bit like trying to design a new Levis jacket. One thing a lot of designers get wrong is that because they get paid, they think they have to change things. You need a lot of balls to take the money and tell the owners that there product is fine as it is! With Blauer, Alessandro and I are tweaking the product, trying to make sure it remains contemporary but at the same time respects its heritage. To change it completely would only be a senseless ego-trip. I hope that answers a little bit your question.
What was the best piece you ever designed? Daniel, 26
2. To Daniel. The choice actually is really easy, the reasoning behind them is much more complex. Here we go. There are two pieces. One was the polyester-cotton mesh-lined knit k-way, and the other is the free climbing sneakers.
The sneakers are easy. We had been asked by Puma, New Balance etc to “decorate" one of their models and in talks with them we proposed the idea of a free climbing based sneaker but they weren’t interested. So we did it with a specialist company in Italy. The result was too expensive for the sneaker market and had no great commercial success. But that shoe broke the mould. So, so difficult to do in that market.
The knitwear piece is more complex, and goes back to a fixation of mine which maybe, one day, we will get round to doing. I find it very strange that to make clothing we do this. First we make fibres be it from sheep, plants or oil. We then twist these fibres together to make threads and then weave them together to make cloth. And then we go and cut it up again into little pieces, and then we sew it all back together again! Madness. Knitwear doesn’t do this. It takes the threads and “weaves" them into a finished garment. Surely someday we can do this, perhaps through altering or treating the fibres, to make all garments. With the piece I’m talking about we made a first, very crude step in this direction. Using the then-new technology of seamless knitwear we applied it to each individual piece of the garment, rather than the whole garment. Instead of making an entire jersey, we made an entire sleeve in one piece. A polyester outside and a cotton mesh lining. We made 2 SWG sleeves in this way, a back and the 2 front pieces. The finished k-way was then “pressed" at a very high temperature to melt the synthetic outside so that it became more waterproof. Very few were sold but for us this was the way forward.
The best collections we ever did were the 6 seasons of Serie 100. But that is another story.
What is your favourite CP Company piece you’ve designed? Rogan, 21
3. To Rogan. My choice of favourite piece with CP is easier because I’ve been there only 2 years, and the role of designer has changed, and still is changing. I loved the original Scottish Shetland bonded to Lycra pieces as they seemed a perfect modern mix, but my favourite CP piece is the Nycra Bomber Jacket with the lense on the sleeve pocket. It is perfect, easy and shows the way forward, in all the right ways, for a contemporary CP Company.
What was the reasoning behind adding the extra goggles to the CP Company pieces? David, 49
4. To David. Well, it’s really just a simple - not that simple - question of branding. That is our trade mark.
I personally dislike trademarks and the flaws they cover. When I was at Stone Island I had a rule that the piece should live, be interesting, without the badge. Ten C has no branding and I am lucky enough to drive an M3. It is totally de-badged because I love it for what it is and really don’t care if people know it as an M3 or not. But brands exist and they are not all bad. They do change the way you look at things, which can be good. The goggles present a problem though. They mean every piece has to have a hood. A bit complicated when we are talking shirts or trousers.
What made you move the CP Watch back to the original position on the arms? Louis, 34
5. To Louis. Hey Louis, you are showing your age. Which is great. I would hate to think that CP Company is confined to 57 year olds like me. The “Lens" or “watch viewer" was originally on the left cuff so that you could look at your watch without pulling the sleeve up of your jacket. Cool. It didn’t work due to the sleeve being too wide and your watch was never under the lens, reflection on the darkened glass plus the noise of the lens tapping on your watch. I also wear my watch on my right wrist but that is irrelevant. But, it was a great trademark. I would love to say that we moved it to the pocket on the sleeve due to a single, genial process but that is simply not true. I can’t even remember who thought of it. At the time the MA1 was making a comeback, we were looking for a trademark (see the answer to David) and we were doing the winter collection with all its problems of linings etc. The MA1 pocket on the sleeve just solved all those problems.
What inspired you to start designing? Was there a moment that defined it? Jack, 20
6. To Jack. Mmmmm. Not so much a moment as a thing. Girls. I went to a very traditional school, Hitchin Boys Grammar School. Up to the age of 16, O levels, I was brilliant in maths and sciences, so good I was supposed to go on to Cambridge. I was also really good at art. The rest was a total disaster. At the same time I was very practical with my hands, making my own clothes, jewellery and rebuilding my motorbike from scratch. Then ladies happened. In maths you keep up with it every day or you just get lost. I lost it completely. All that was left was art in some way. If you are brilliant and manage to make a living as a Fine Artist, or if you want to have a career you do architecture but without maths or physics that is impossible. So, I reached an agreement with my father, a very down to earth Scotsman who worked for ICI. I get a direct entry into St. Martins School of Art, or I go back to school and do maths etc. Again. I managed the direct entry to St. Martins.
How did the Blauer collaboration come about? Roger, 36
7. To Roger. I suppose one thing led to another. We had Ten C up and running but we needed a producer and distributor. Enzo Fusco, who owns Blauer had just bought CP Company and needed a designer. Alessandro, my partner in Ten C, had done CP for 9 years and I was free. We reached an agreement for Ten C and CP, and a year later took on Blauer as well.
If you could do anything different, what would it be and why? Steven, 29
8. To Steven. Anything? I guess I would love to be a fighter pilot, possibly an Italian one as they seem to have more freedom. Doing Mach 2, or even just getting there, in that huge empty car park in the sky, with millions of dollars of engine at your command must be surely the biggest buzz ever.
On a more down to earth note I would do all the same again BUT knowing what I know now. Or else landscape gardening. As a true Englishman I love flowers in all their forms. In bud, flowering or their seed heads. Maybe because gardens don’t exist in Italy, or maybe because my mum has such a wonderful garden, I think that is probably what I would do. There seems to be such a perfection there. Or maybe teaching. There seems to be such a gap in England between Fashion Schools and the way things really are.