Paul Smith has had a strong couple of seasons across menswear and womenswear. The collections are getting more in line with the zeitgeist, clearer in their viewpoint and more covetable in the product they offer. So it's apt that Smith wanted some confidence, swagger and attitude in this collection. It's also apt that he was looking backwards. The whole world is feeling nostalgic; go on Instagram and you can’t shake a stick for images of a teenage Kate Moss or snaps of retro style heroes from young Mick Jagger to Serge Gainsbourg. There’s a certain coincidence in the fact that, this week, the fashion pack have gone particularly mad for regramming pictures from @70sBabes, an account dedicated to the best-dressed, best-groomed girls of that period and their effortless style, featuring everyone from Romy Schneider to Bianca Jagger. It was that decade which had inspired Smith, and the boys on his catwalk could have been the stylish boyfriends of those cool girls in their flares and fuzz. They came clad in suits with retro wide shoulders and exaggerated peak lapels, trousers with high waists and flared bottoms in sun-faded soft hues (oatmeal, pale peach, faded grey) and knits with patterns that recalled mid-century modern wallpaper. One came decorated with a bold triangle (a shape echoed in the invitation to the show) built from rainbow stripes; given the ode to the style hits of seventies, you couldn’t help but recall Pink Floyd’s iconic Dark Side of The Moon cover by Hipgnosis. Perhaps Smith had been playing that in studio whilst toiling away.
The seventies are an important decade for Smith. He founded his first shop in 1970 in Nottingham. In 1976, he showed his first collection in Paris. He admitted to looking backwards, explaining that the collection was inspired by the colourful tailoring he’d presented against the concrete backdrop inside the Andrée Putman at a show early on in his career. But one shouldn’t think that because of all that reminiscing this collection was too heavily steeped in the past. We’re in an odd period right now where old feels new; vintage styles feel more exciting and relevant to a younger generation than anything futuristic or overtly ‘modern’. If you’re in any doubt about that just look at the success of Hedi Slimane’s Saint Laurent and the countless other brands that are now trying to cash in on that same aesthetic. Maybe that’s why - however ironically given the nod to history - this felt like Smith’s most forward-thinking and relevant collection for a long time. In the past, he’s veered into twee territory - gimmicky colours, pastel pops, silly graphics like music notes and the like - but this felt well-edited and assured in the man it was speaking to. That said, some feathers were ruffled when a series of fuzzy, fluffy coats appeared. They’re clearly a response to the trend for ‘fun fur’ that doesn’t seem to be slowing down and recalled the effortless masculinity of past fuzz wearers of that period like John Lennon. They looked so sumptuous that some in the audience wondered if they were real. No, we were assured by the Paul Smith team, just sheepskin. Naturally, Smith hadn’t abandoned his principals, but it’s interesting that for a minute we weren’t quite sure. The lesson: even today, you should be ready to expect anything from Smith.