Paul & Shark. The name’s intriguing enough. Who is this Paul? And what’s he doing keeping such close company with a shark? The whole thing sounds exciting, exhilarating — and just a little bit dangerous.
In fact, this underrated, understated luxury lifestyle brand is all of the above. Founded in the 1970s, the idiosyncratic name surfaced when businessman Paolo Dini took a trip to a small sailmaker’s workshop on the rocky eastern US coast. Tucked away amongst the nautical nick-nacks, he found an 18th century clipper’s sail embroidered with the words ‘Paul & Shark’. And so the brand was born.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. To fully appreciate this Italian brand, we must first dive further back into its shark-infested waters, to 1921. It was almost 100 years ago that the Maglificio Dacò mill opened in the provincial Lombardy village of Masnago. Keen of craft and high of quality, the mill worked and wove for decades before Gian Ludovico Dini, a chemist from Tuscany, bought the place in 1957 — and set to work positioning the small rural mill on the world stage.
The mill had found itself in a period of financial uncertainty. But, despite having little experience in the fashion industry, Dini was determined to steer Maglificio Dacò through the tough times. Steely-eyed and sharp of mind, he travelled the country — sourcing the finest yarns and fabrics on offer — and began to craft exquisite clothes in Masnago. Soon, the unrivalled craftsmanship attracted the likes of Christian Dior and Balenciaga, and prestigious partnerships were formed.
Several years later, Gian Ludovico Dini’s son, Paolo, found himself in that small sailmaker’s workshop in Maine. He spotted the ‘Paul & Shark’ name and — as a ‘Paolo’ himself — was struck by the elegance, mystery and the grace of such an enigmatic phrase. He adopted it, the brand’s identity grew stronger — and set Paul & Shark onto a course they still sail today.
It’s a course of graceful, sportsmanly luxury. Inspired by yachting and the open sea, the mid-70s saw the brand establish its core image. By 1978, the C0P918 pullover — a sailing sweater packed into a metal tube — had become the signature piece sold by Paul & Shark. And, while the brand has expanded across the world, with more than 280 boutiques in 73 countries, it remains a bastion of typically Italian, progressive design.
How? Simple. Though the brand takes inspiration from its illustrious past — and continues to produce core clothing such as the C0P918 pullover — designers and researchers are constantly striving for new ways to better their collections. From the water and wind-proofing treatment ‘Typhoon 20,000’ to ‘Shark 777’ — the world’s lightest three-layer fabric — all of the jackets, coats and knitwear produced by Paul & Shark are as modern as clothing comes.
"It remains a bastion of Italian, progressive design..."
So don’t be betrayed by the beguiling vintage styling — because these clothes are some of the most technical on the market. Take the ‘E.M.W Shield’ innovation, for example. Paul & Shark have developed pockets with steel-fibre linings to ensure you won’t be affected by the electromagnetic waves emitted by your constantly-carried mobile devices. ‘Three in One Compact Technology’ combines a trio of compacted wool fibres to create stronger, longer-lasting garments. And the brand’s high-performance ethical down is arguably the softest, lightest and most breathable alternative to unsustainable wadding on the market today.
It’s impressive stuff. And the development of this ethical down helps to introduce one of Paul & Shark’s other key aims: reducing any discernible environmental footprint. This eco-push is yet another indicator of how the decades-old brand is confidently remaining relevant in today’s world — with the ‘Save the Sea’ initiative committing to sustainable raw materials that increase efficiency in water and energy consumption.
But the eco-friendly objective hasn’t impacted on the luxury feel. In fact, quite the opposite. With so much money invested in creating sustainable style, Paul & Shark’s clothing has become something of a status symbol across continental Europe. And from shirts and trousers to sweatshirts and jeans, you can also personalise many of the brand’s core pieces — elevating their exclusivity even further.
So what are these core pieces? Paul & Shark has many collections, but several of its signature pieces remain available year-on-year — albeit sometimes tweaked and improved as new fabrics and treatments are developed. The aptly-named ‘Always’ range boasts some treats, not least of all these slick navy sneakers with a subtle shark motif pierced on the profile.
The ‘Typhoon’ range is one of the brand’s most extensive, utilising the ‘Typhoon 20,000’ weather-proofing treatment we mentioned above. From parkas to trenches, the brand has coated many jackets with the ultra-thin membrane — but none look as handsome as the chic fur-collared offering above. Or, of course, for the ultimate nod to the Paul & Shark’s yachting inspiration, its wool crewneck is a nautical mainstay — with a touch of velvet to remind you of the brand’s luxury heritage.
Because that is the beating heart of Paul & Shark. It does things properly, it makes things that last — but it also has a certain seafaring flair. There’s a romance in the label, and an adoration for the ocean woven into every luxury thread. That’s why it has endured for over half a century; because every time you pull out a piece of Paul & Shark clothing, you’ll feel like Paolo Dini, discovering that embroidered sail for the very first time…
Paul & Shark
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