Paul Smith SS12

There were some things about Paul Smith’s show which were spectacularly, quintessentially British. The ice-cream van parked in the shady courtyard of the Couvent des Cordeliers, dispensing much-needed coconut ices to a press pack melting in the rocketing afternoon temperatures of Paris’ heatwave: the ever-so-polite shuffling into seats around the perimeter of the ancient refectory’s scarred shell: and the cool-as-a-cucumber palette of indigo, watermelon, beige and kingfisher blue which dominated his relaxed, subtly summery collection.

And then there were some things that were very NOT. Case in point, Smith’s own joyfully bouncy lap of honour at the end of the show, rampaging through the space to a blast of carnival music and playing mischievous Pied Piper to his brigade of boisterous models. It was an exuberant end to a catwalk that had seen Smith slowly build from assured, classic resortwear – light knits, unstructured jackets, and simple tailored shorts – through to a light-hearted sequence of sportswear detailing which suggested that at least one designer in Paris had an eye on the build-up towards London’s 2012 Olympic excitement.

Much of the recent focus of casualwear/formalwear innovation has focused on extremes – hybrid garments, clashing silhouettes, inverted details. Yet Smith managed to infuse his clothes with a gentler, more cohesive dynamic which underlines just how fundamentally the world of sport has revolutionised the way we dress, integrating contrast-sleeved jackets, horizontally banded seams and layered, multicoloured prints alongside more timeless, formal pieces.

There were clear echoes of the Eighties – the decade when leisurewear became a fundamental part of the British aesthetic – in the loose shapes and muted pastel palette which ran through the show: but, as always, Smith managed the feat of assimilating these vibrant counter-currents into a collection that shone with a clean, confident edge.

Catwalk images courtesy of Nowfashion. B&W images by John-Michael O’Sullivan

Posted by: John-Michael O' Sullivan


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