The great thing about Paul Smith is that he's incapable of growing upeven though he's Britain's most successful senior designer and fully furnished with a knighthood, to boot. His perennially youthful eye gives his best collections a tomboyish naturalness that manages to capture the essence of the arty English student way of dressing. No need for Sir Paul to trawl reverently through reference books for sixties inspiration. Like the Beatles, he was there, and now that there's a new generation in love with vintage, he's absolutely at home in the English time zone of mod meets hippie.
"What really set me off was the 18-year-old daughters of friends who are coming in on work placement and thinking of all the great things they'd love to wear from their fiftysomething mother's wardrobes," said the designer. So out came the little Empire-line dresses, the mini capes, the narrow boy-tailored plaid pants, the drainpipe jeans, and the stripy knit college scarves. Styled with great-looking low-heel, square-toe Mary Janes and woolly colored tights, the collection was a breezy run-through of Paul Smith's signature items, from tailored trousers to cheerful argyle knits, polished off with a couple of panne velvet flower-embroidered caftan dresses that any 18-year-old would kill for.