Paul Smith is fashion’s equivalent of a whirling dervish: He is constantly excited and seems to have boundless energy. With multiple women’s, men’s, and accessories collections on the go at the same time, the challenge for him is to have each one maintain a distinct personality. “The idea is to generate new ideas under pressure,” the designer said backstage, a little breathless having just finished his closing-moment jog across the runway. “You have to avoid becoming the hamster in the wheel.”
Smith’s aesthetic is all about the stripe, the floral, and the work looks. To keep things interesting this season, he turned to fringes and other details like tuxedo lapels and drop hems, which are not usually part of his repertoire. The opening looks were deconstructed, loosely tailored pieces in taupe, cornflower blue, and blush rose in linens and ticking stripe, with the aforementioned tuxedo lapels and fringes, but the use of the new elements was subtle, with wearable results. Panels of sheer silk on skirts and blouses lent a touch of femininity to looks that were borrowed from the boys; menswear is the heart and soul of Smith’s brand, after all, hence the bib fronts, mannish trousers, and oversize culottes.
The strongest looks were in the middle, with nautical pink and blue ombré stripes on a fringed tank top and skirt, followed by a dress with a dropped, pleated hem that felt fresh and summery. Add to that the easy blue floral silk top worn with a contrasting skirt with a spliced pleat detail, and it was apparent why Smith has stayed in business for so long: He avoids getting stale.