Paul Smith’s remastered Greatest Hits for second half-century
Not many designers can ever boast that they have entered the second half-century of their career, but Sir Paul Smith can, and did, this week – celebrating with a remastered menswear collection of many of his greatest hits.
The fashionable knight riffed through multiple eras, and musical genres – including the Two Tone and Northern Soul – in an impressively wearable collection.
"It’s a very Smithy collection. Because I have been in this studio for the whole year sometimes on my own, with no travelling and restaurants and museums closed. So, I thought I want to tap into all those British sub cultures but in a modem way, with a Paul Smith mix of check with check and pattern on pattern," explained Smith in a phone call from London.
Though based in London, Smith has shown his menswear collection in Paris for many decades. Maintaining the tradition, he unveiled his show video in this week’s entirely digital Paris menswear season on the official Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode website.
"No zoom! I still use a pencil," cackled Sir Paul, who showed several great tartan suits that riffed on The Specials and lead signer Terry Hall’s fondness for strictly cut suits.
Smith also sampled Mod mode with natty Harrington jackets that themselves referenced Ivy League Brooks Brothers jackets and short Baracuta jackets.
Like a lot of his colleagues, the knight designer played with mohair – the wool of the current season – but gave it a grunge reference; before playing on an idea taken from an old Aquascutum raincoat in weatherproof material, but reinvented in cashmere and wool.
"The suits industry is very complicated right now. So, we like more of a workwear jacket, though ours is made in a Loro Piana fabric,” explained Smith, who even showed donkey jackets. Traditionally made with leather shoulders for coalmen to carry heavy sacks, Smith’s donkey version came in orange cashmere twined with wool, and was paired with a new loafer with a crepe sole.
Referencing his beginnings with his original shop in Nottingham, Smith even produced some Hawaiian shirts.
"Back then the Wigan all-nighters would come down to my shop on a Saturday in a pack of Ford Cortinas to buy Hawaiian shirts for dancing and raving all night," he laughed.
And the nostalgia for foreign travel was evident in a series of ikat woven patterns, once again remastered in abstract versions and made in Como, Italy. Smith discovered ikats on his first visit to India in 1970s.
"I bought a suitcase full of ikats and came home delighted, only to realize that in Southall you could buy them all there from the Indian community. He he!" Smith mused.
Now that he has passed the half century, has Sir Paul ever thought of retirement?
"Retire? That’s a foreign word in this office! I’ve still got the legs of a teenager and and am blessed with a good young team around me. There’s lovely energy in company," he harrumphed with a huge laugh.
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