The hackneyed and tired phrase, “Classic with a modern twist,” comes to mind, but the phrase, while apt, falls woefully short of describing the Fall/Winter 2016-17 collection by maestro Paul Smith. As if he were a horticulturist planning a spectacular garden, Smith assembled all his components and began the process of laying them out in a pleasing manner. Pleasing? Hell no, it was faaabulous!
Stepping away from his formerly segregated landscape where traditional suiting was confined to a large centrally-placed showing that gave only glimpses of other more exotic offerings a few stepping stones away, Smith has restructured his collections and presentations to reflect a millefleur approach. The less-strict casualwear was more like an adjacent garden filled with the breezy colors of daisies, snapdragons and tulips, while the sultry colors of the fashion-forward collection were placed in an enchanting grotto off in the distance.
Eschewing his previous formality, Smith proved that anyone can turn a new leaf. Combining the traditional with the casual and the fashion-forward, this new collection bloomed before us in a refreshing riot of colors, shapes and styling that was not the Paul Smith we expected, but was emphatically Paul Smith nonetheless. The overall palette of the collection was striking and unexpected. Yes, there were some grays and blacks and ivories, but these were planted alongside the verdant greens of moss, olive, seafoam, and emerald; smoldering oranges in peachy coral, cantaloupe, marigold, saffron, valencia and flame; and a palette of blues, from cornflower to azure, cobalt to navy. Anchored by blacks, grays, and ivories, two new basics were introduced – deep russet and dark maroon.
Smith ran the gamut from slim to voluminous, cropped to lengthy, and subdued to outrageous. Beautifully. A black double-breasted suit was accented with a wide tangerine-colored stripe that ran vertically down one side of the jacket and continued down one leg of the trousers, matching the socks. A russet-colored overcoat had a bold flame-colored stripe down one side of the front, and was worn with jade green trousers, topped by a royal blue sweater featuring a black and white funnel collar. Sound garish? Stop grousing – it works… if the wearer has the elan to pull it off. A dark maroon suit with a quiet tone-on-tone plaid was gorgeously cut – a slim, single-breasted coat lined in blood orange satin topped a pair of mid-rise, flat-front trousers with wide legs that began their flare at the hips. A Seventies feel, to be sure, but distinctly fresh and flattering.
Applied striping defined many of the pieces – suits with narrow cording that ran down the front of each sleeve, mirroring the same cording down the each side of the front, and continuing down the crease of the slacks. Sometimes two stripes were applied, and sometimes multiple rows of cording outlined cuffs, waistbands and lapels. Paisley motifs figured heavily – as embroidered appliques scattered on a pair of jeans, as a tone-on-tone pattern on dark suits, or as busy, bold prints on jackets, sweaters and shirts.
The overcoats became the focus of the show, the lush, eye-catching roses and peonies in this arrangement. From a pristine, single-breasted, knee-length ivory wool; followed by the same style in coral; next by a double-breasted, below-the-knee russet, garnished with orange; then to a single-breasted, mid-thigh coat in seafoam green; on to a single-breasted, knee-length coat in brilliant flame, which preceded the same style in rich saffron lined in valencia; and, finishing the stroll, a narrow-collared reverse-shearling in rust.
Oh, Paul, oh, Paul – how does your garden grow? Spectacularly!
Written by Stephen MacMillan Moser