"No theme, just classic English things: a parka, a rose print, Fair Isle, houndstooth, tweed." That was Paul Smith
's summary of his latest women's collection. But just as classically English is an eccentric touch: The first outfit featured a Fair Isle sweater dress, a leopard-print scarf, a wide-brimmed hat with a long feather, and a pink-strapped satchel. Or how about an army jacket over a khaki shirt over a lace skirt over leggings? Or a green wool jacket with hot pink epaulets? That particular—and not particularly pleasing—combination of colors dominated the first half of the show. Then the Smith woman enlisted. The designer showed an army sweater dress and an officer's coat-dress and a floor-sweeper for evening in army green. Yards of beads and crystals were trailed through epaulets as a way of dressing up military-influenced basics. Such ingenuity in hard times brought to mind Bevis Hillier's Austerity/Binge
, an early seventies book that was hugely influential in inspiring a reevaluation of postwar style. There was a lot of that style in this collection (a rose-printed mac with a matching full skirt certainly updated the aesthetic), but it still didn't make it entirely clear what Paul Smith's womenswear is supposed to be, beyond an exploration of fashion and personal history.