From the moment the sound system at Paul Smith's show came up on the opening bars of "Free Money," you had to guess that he had taken Just Kids-era Patti Smith as his muse. And there she was, sort of, in the mannish overcoat draped over the show's very first look. Sort of, because the version of boy dressing for girls that Paul Smith turned out this season was quite a bit nattier than the threadbare androgyny she invented and perfected in the seventies.
That's not a complaint: Threadbare isn't really Paul Smith's thing, and it would have looked contrived if he'd gone for a straight-up Patti homage. Instead, he gave his menswear-inspired looks a poppy, preppy polish—throwing that show-opening mannish coat over a polka-dot blazer and rust-colored cropped and cuffed pants, for example, or putting a bright orange waistband on a pair of pinstripe trousers. Smith's trousers are worth dwelling on: For women who aren't entirely convinced by the current wide-leg silhouette, his boyish slacks are a strong alternative. There were the high-waisted narrow pants, cuffed at the ankle, rolled-up cords, slouchy khakis. They all looked great. And there are going to be a lot of takers for Smith's knits, especially standouts like his marled burgundy boyfriend cardigan and bright orange oversized cable sweater.
Some of the strongest pieces in the collection saw Smith taking some poetic license with his menswear inspiration, in particular the collarless coats and jackets in men's suiting fabrics, with a heavy top-stitch. There were outright feminine looks as well, such as a series of floral-embroidered pieces a little bit redolent of Christopher Kane's Fall 2010 collection. Smith's floral dresses were different enough that it didn't matter, really, that the look felt a touch familiar; that said, a long, floral-embroidered dress in gray tweed seemed a little ungainly. There were a few other looks that could have been cut—an oversize tuxedo shirt, for example, fit the theme but went against the show's tailored mien, and the little bit of fur here seemed more obligatory than anything else. All in all, though, this was a good collection for Smith—he certainly knows his menswear, and he had no trouble giving it a girlish twist.