June 30, 2007
Paul Smith joined the chorus of designers claiming influence from David Hockney this season (was it the show at London's National Portrait Gallery that stirred interest in the artist?). In Smith's case, though, he could claim a direct connection. His wife Pauline was at college with Hockney, and the two men are friends. So it was Hockney's voice we heard on the soundtrack, and his red-framed glasses, striped jacket, flat cap, bow tieeven his blond hairthat we saw on the catwalk. But Smith was keen not to seem like a Hockney bandwagon-jumper, so he also harked back to his own friends at art college "dressing beautifully with no money," buying striped boating jackets from thrift shops, painting flowers on shoes. And he insisted that his decision to base the collection on primary colors for a change preceded his Hockney moment. Still, there's nothing wrong with being inspired by a colorist as accomplished as Hockney, especially when the inspiration produces such gently winning graphism: green-striped pants with hot-pink sneakers, or a pale-yellow safari suit or a candy-striped blazer. If the presentation itself ultimately felt a little slight, the finale's colorful march-past offered freshness and cheer as perfectly reasonable raisons d'être.