ICONOCLASTS: Brilliant renegades Jamie Oliver + Paul Smith
“There’s a fine line between someone that’s shit and someone that’s renegade and brilliant,” says celebrity chef Jamie Oliver on tonight’s episode of ICONOCLASTS (8P on Sundance Channel). Guess which side he and his chum Sir Paul Smith stand on.
For more than three decades, Smith has been designing classic fashion imbued with a sense of whimsy and artistry, what Oliver calls “little surprises everywhere.” Too-small buttons, unexpected colors in unexpected places — these little quirks have kept his looks in demand for those who want to look polished but are really, at heart, rebels. Like Oliver.
Smith made Oliver’s wedding suit (pale blue corduroy with leopard-print shoes; “properly rock & roll,” as Smith put it). “Jamie and I are very like-minded,” says Smith of his chum.
As for all those little details in Smith’s clothes, Oliver returns the favor: “He’s just being geeky and obsessive — I love that!”
And obsessive it is; Smith’s signature striped patterns of different widths and hues, for example, are painstakingly created by hand, with yarn (rather than a computer, as is more common these days).
Smith’s textiles and designs often emerge from photos that Smith snaps of the natural world, architecture, shadows… “It’s very rarely from fashion, my inspiration,” he says. “You get inspiration by training your head to observe and translate what you see into your world.”
Despite his remarkable success and longevity, Smith is so genuinely humble and unassuming that he still gets goose bumps talking about the scale of his business. The only time he beams with pride is when he shows Oliver a picture of the Dalai Lama wearing a Paul Smith scarf.
Starting off, Oliver’s goal was similarly humble; all he really wanted was to open a little gastro pub like his parents had.
Instead, on a day he wasn’t even supposed to be working, a film crew caught him in the background for a cooking segment and the camera so loved him that he soon shot to international acclaim with his show The Naked Chef and his first of many bestselling cookbook.
Since then he’s turned his attention toward activism — food activism, to be precise — particularly for children. He’s on a mission to make good, healthy food accessible to everyone, particularly children. He first helped spur a movement to improve food standards for school lunches in the U.K. and has recently turned his attentions to the U.S. as well, with his series Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.
Part of what connects Oliver and Smith is that each is what Oliver calls a “true geek” in his respective field. They are unconventional experts.
Though what they produce couldn’t be more different, Oliver has turned to Smith many times for advice about his business and his brand; he thinks of him as a mentor of sorts.
But more than that: The two are kindred spirits.
Says Oliver: “The friendship between me and Paul has been a really precious one.”
Sundance Channel and Grey Goose Entertainment present ICONOCLASTS every Tuesday at 8P.