There’s at least one men’s wear designer in Paris who won’t be jumping on the streetwear bandwagon: Paul Smith says he’s sticking with tailoring, even as other brands court Millennial customers with more casual offerings.
“There’s not a trainer in this whole show,” the British designer gleefully stated backstage before the show. Instead, Smith revisited his archives to play with the proportions of suits, which were shown on both men and women, in a nod to the gender-fluid trend that has been flooding the catwalks.
With broad padded shoulders and roomy pants, suit shapes harked back to the soft tailoring he pioneered in the early Eighties — except these days, Smith is using cloths that are twice as light, and has stripped away the lining.
Checked suits were paired with brightly patterned cycling jerseys, in a nod to his passion for the sport, while double-breasted jackets in pastel shades came with mismatched plaid wool or metallic silk pants.
Smith said tailoring remains a mainstay of his independent business, which saw revenues rise 11 percent in the last year, even though footfall fell by an equivalent proportion. With suits selling for 700 pounds to 2,000 pounds, it’s easy to see why he’s keen to buttress the category.
“There’s far too much sportswear out there, far too many trainers, far too many people being insecure and sort of following each other into this whirlpool,” he said, spinning around to mimic a vortex. “I’m not searching for acceptance. I’m just doing what I do.”
That’s not to say Smith is ignoring sportswear. There were plenty of casual pieces in the show, but all done with an upscale twist. Silky track suit tops and bomber jackets came in a Champagne-colored Victorian wallpaper pattern, while shirts and coats featured hazy prints of photos taken by his father and recently unearthed in a box.
Some of the images also appeared on fly posters outside the venue, the Elysée Montmartre concert hall, which has hosted performances by the likes of David Bowie and Patti Smith. The show’s upbeat soundtrack tapped into that history, with tunes ranging from Big Audio Dynamite to Rebel MC and Neneh Cherry.
If Smith was worried about swimming against the tide, it didn’t show.