The Seventies was a significant decade for Sir Paul Smith, who staged his first show—a discreet affair—at a friend’s Paris apartment in 1976. The era wasn’t top of mind, however, until some of his younger designers—men in their 20s—got their hands on Smith’s archive, which is stored in his native city of Nottingham, England.
“They were looking at the old clothes, putting on all these bigger shapes and going like, ‘Wow, this is so brilliant.’ And I was saying, ‘No, no, we’ve done that. We did that in the Seventies,’” said Smith. “What we all forget is that the younger generations haven’t necessarily seen or experienced or witnessed what the more mature designers have. And so, that gave us the confidence [this season] to do the wider shoulder lines and the pleated-top trousers, the slightly looser fit, and add more pattern as well with the knitwear.”
Smith said it’s understandable why his designers—and other young men—are now interested in bigger shapes. “The whole industry has been wearing these really skinny, skinny, skinny, tight-legged trousers, and the very short jackets,” added Smith, whose refined outing for fall—one of the season’s standouts—was the very opposite, with boxier silhouettes and a load of colored and patterned knits and wovens.
His double-breasted jackets had peak lapels, coats had the wider, built-up shoulders of the era, while furs were big and bold—a refined spin on Huggy Bear’s look from Starsky & Hutch. Patterns played a big role, too, as in the big, blurred-edge faded checks on long overcoats and scarves, and the Bauhaus-inspired boxes and geometric shapes on knits and trousers.
Smith said he’s increasingly listening to, and working more closely with, young designers as part of a bigger studio—and brand—refresh. In addition to hiring and promoting younger guns, he’s recently reorganized the design studio so that the men’s and women’s teams are now sitting next to each other, sharing fabrics and working in parallel. In case there was any doubt, he’s as big a force as ever within the company. “I’m not going anywhere, not retiring or anything. What you’re seeing is new, reenergized Paul Smith. It’s great. It’s really exciting.”