Simons Est. 1955 - is the leading figure in promoting Ivy
Digger talks to Paul Simons of John Simons about the Ivy
League and Mod culture-inspired shop founded by his Dad back
in the day.
Paul and John are still providing quality clothing to the
design and image-conscious via their shop in London's W1, a
stone's throw from Marylebone.
also promote the brand via their website and the Social
back in the real world, this is soon to be augmented by the
launch of the John Simons label in various shops and outlets
worldwide, thus bringing the John Simons look to a much wider
Please tell us a bit about your and John's backgrounds.
My Dad started window dressing and selling clothes from about
When did you come along?
I was born in 1980 and was surrounded by all of this kind of
stuff my whole life, working in the shop.
I suppose you could either go one way or another, couldn't
you? You could either embrace it and love it or....
My brother is not so interested in this type of clothing so,
like you say, it can go one way or another. I took an interest
in it and then my Dad had the other shop in Covent Garden from
about 1980 when I was born. I was kind of involved in that but
it was very much his shop. That closed for one reason or
another about a year and a half ago and we decided to open
this shop. That brings us up to the present day.
What is your passion for music and pop culture?
My particular passion is more eclectic I'd say than my Dad's
who is very much into modernist jazz and everything that
surrounds it. But I grew up in the era I did and was very much
into what other kids were who were growing up with at that
Electro-pop, Punk and New Wave?
No, not really. More like Hip Hop and that kind of thing - I
was strange in a way that I was musically into those sorts of
things but I was always interested in the Ivy League and Mod
style of clothing.
The Ivy League is obviously a very American thing. How does it
translate to over here?
We don't just have an Ivy league clothes shop here. The shop
grew out of my Dad importing Ivy League type clothes and so we
have a mix of Ivy League and Ivy League-inspired clothes and
also British tailoring as well. So we sell vintage Savile Row
suits and new stuff that is more English but you can see the
American sensibility in it.
Where are your customers coming from? I imagine a lot of them
are just ordinary Joe Public?
Yes, definitely and that's why we don't just stick rigidly to
the kind of one style or be too anal about sticking to the Ivy
League style, because we like to dress everyone really. Any
guy who wants some new clothes - we're happy to serve them.
What do you think of the style of the British in general?
The pop style is pretty dire - but you do get very smart guys
walking into the shop. I'd say the average person on the
street is pretty devoid of style. When I'm on the train and I
look at how people are dressed and at people's shoes when
they're going to work it's pretty awful. I think "Bloody
hell, how am I going to sell any clothes today?!"
If you go back two or three generations it didn't matter if
you were working class, middle or whatever, you could tell
what somebody was and what they did by their clothes but also
they were always smartly dressed.
Yes, I suppose there's a much more casuals style for young
people these days, especially teenagers, but there is a kind
of smart look that some people are following and some young
guys do look very smart.
And ladies as well, I suppose?
I went to the V&A vintage event last Friday of the month
and it was almost exclusively women, which was a bit
disappointing that guys aren't better represented. But these
ladies really do mix their styles - 40s, 50s and 60s all
within the same outfit, you know?
Why is retro, vintage and nostalgia generally so popular in so
many people's lives? It even seems to be getting bigger - any
thoughts on that?
Yes, fashion is always harking back to an earlier period, I
suppose. And as time moves on, people go back to the 60s and
70s styles for inspiration. I suppose they become fashionable
again. Because you always have to look at what's happened
before to inspire you in the future.
Do you think it's something to do with the current climate
which is rather uncertain, so people are looking at something
I'm not sure about that. The market is so open now and whereas
before if you wanted to find a natural shoulder three-buttoned
jacket, you might have to hunt for a good few months around
shops, but now you can go on eBay or other web shops and if
you've got something in your mind you'll be able to find it in
a matter of seconds now. So I think that's actually got
something to do with it - just the ease of access.
So obviously the impact The Internet has on your business is
Yes, yes, definitely. There's customers from the Ivy Shop in
Richmond who, when the shop J Simons was open in Covent Garden,
they knew nothing about it because obviously it was harder to
find out what had happened to people in those days. But now,
since we've moved to this position, lots of those customers
who lost track of us before have re-found us again through
blogs and press on The Internet and Facebook and that kind of
thing. So it's helped us a lot, definitely.
What are the best aspects of running John Simons?
Paul: I would say there's quite a few because we do quite a
few things. Buying vintage clothing is a very enjoyable aspect
of it - I've just had a parcel through the door from New York
that my friend and I put together and then he's sent over to
me. Then designing our new label is an enjoyable part of it.
And then serving people and seeing happy customers.
And you have quite a few of those.
Yes, I hope so. We really try and make it a pleasurable
experience and make sure people can get something they really
Lots of repeat business as well?
Yes, certainly. That's what we survive upon.
are your plans for John Simons in the future Paul?
We're going to stay in this shop and do the same as we always
have. We're working hard on our own label, so we're hoping
possibly to start wholesaling our own label to other shops and
to keep going as we are. We aim to get our clothes through the
label out to other shops and other audiences that may not have
known about us previously.
No plans for shops in New York, Paris and Peckham?!
No. Not at the moment. I think I'll be doing that by proxy by
having the clothes in other people's shops, so kind of doing
that but not actually myself going and opening up shops all
over the world, no.
Next time I'm up there I'll come and see you. Thanks for
letting us know about John Simons, Paul.
That will be great David. Thanks.
John Simons, whose legendary Ivy Shop opened in the
late summer haze of 1964 selling the best selection of
imported American clothing in London, is generally
considered to be the leading figure in promoting Ivy
The new John Simons Store, situated at 46 Chiltern
Street (a short stroll from Marylebone High Street),
represents all that is unique about the John Simons
ethos, bringing together his lifelong passions for art,
design, Modern Jazz and quality menswear, into a new and
John Simons Est. 1955
46 Chiltern Street, London W1U 7QR
Tuesday to Saturday: 11am to 6pm Sunday and Monday
Tel: +44(0)20 3490 2729