Paul Smith is very much on his own turf this season. A cheerful English gent, he's always secretly been enamored of well-brought-up girls, flower gardens, and a bit of cheeky fun. At the beginning of his show, Lily Colethe 16-year-old redheaded London schoolgirlstrode out in a little blue-and-white Liberty print cotton trench, the very embodiment of those very British ideas. Cole was followed by a lineup of little pastel tweed jackets with contrast linings, seed-packet floral prints, and cardigans. One dress looked as if it had a fifties apron incorporated into itperhaps for making tea to take out onto the extensive lawn Mr. Smith had laid out for the occasion.
Couldn't be perkier or more of the moment, of course. At a time when the entire fashion world is playing with ideas of eccentricity and ladylike virtues, Smith is well within his fashion comfort zone, though he hasn't lost his soft spot for tomboys. His trim little pantsuits with African-print pork-pie hats looked just spiffy. Come the evening, though, this collection was never quite sure where to go. Thigh-slit variations on cheongsams didn't really do it, but never mind. Smith's designs are more about innocent laughter on a sunny afternoon, and that's how it should be.