Sir Paul Smith hasn’t put on airs and graces since receiving his knighthood, though he’s London’s most financially successful designer. When he turns his attention to women’s wear, however, his clothes always look like the work of a cheeky lad out to charm the cleverest girl at art school into bed.
For fall, he gathered ideas during a whistle-stop world tour that started in Moscow and ended in New York, where he saw an exhibit of Russian Constructivist book design. The latter inspired the thread-trailing disk-and-stripe appliqu¿s on the frayed tweeds that opened the show, and throughout the collection he used geometric or leaf printsalthough in a post-revolutionary palette of yellow, green, pink and blackto unify his theme. This was no propaganda overhaul, though. Smith can’t resist tinkering with his old favorites: school uniforms, delinquent debutantes’ partywear and the lexicon of gentleman’s attire on which he founded his name.
Those appeared this season as dippy asymmetric raw-edged kilts, striped school blazers and scarves, vaguely 30s satin print dresses and embroidered kimonos suitable for a sexy intellectual. Occasionally the collection took a turn into corporate branding, as when his signature swirly print appeared in chiffon and chain-mail dresses or branched off disconcertingly into embroidered black leather. The most amusing moment came when Sir Paul sent out his men’s shirts, buttoned all askew and back to front, with sleeves knotted to mimic bustles or thrown over the shoulder like a one-strap dress. It was a vision of morning-after wear in the bedroom of the (evidently successful) boyfriend.