Though rich in references dating back to the days of his youth in the 60s, the collection is «absolutely not a retrospective», says the designer
What do fashion and film have in common? The power of fantasy; a transportive quality only a true spectacle can provide. This theme prevails in Paul Smith’s fall/winter 2022 collection presented on January 21st in Paris, where Smith has been presenting his designs from the beginning of his career.
The designer – who has been a pillar of the British fashion industry for over half a century, and who in January has joined the Companions of Honour for services to fashion – looked to his all-time favorite films for inspiration, rewatching them during one of the lockdowns.
He cites Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut as particularly present on the moodboard: «Not only the actual films, but the advertising and posters… they were so outstanding in terms of graphic design and very different to what was around [at the time of his youth]». Smith then put his own spin on the New Wave look, filtered through the memories of his adolescence.
Paul Smith Fall Winter 2022 collection
It was the posters in particular that inspired the prints for the collection’s shirts and coats. A signature of Smith, bold and playful patterns are juxtaposed with opulent jewel tones. While wearable, these clothes are not meant for a man wishing to be invisible.
The hallucinatory Zig Zag pattern is eerily similar to the floor of the Red Room in Lynch’s Twin Peaks and a tribute to surrealist and avant-garde filmmakers; the Shadow Floral print is «inspired by the hand-tinting techniques pioneered by avant-garde directors», while the Starlet photoprint takes from the headshots of Old Hollywood movie stars.
True to the fashion house’s spirit, there is no lack of traditional winter patterns ideal for layering: spanning across outerwear, tailoring and casualwear, they adorn wool, drill and tweeds. Other fabrics allow a much-welcome escape from the ever-present athleisure of pandemic dressing. Matte satin, mohair and shearling are balanced against leather, technical nylon and corduroy. «A lot of the fabrics are organic, sustainable and traceable».
Films through the lens of fashion
The color palette, as Smith recalls, was influenced by the mood and visuals of 60s arthouse: «They were always low budget films, so the lighting was often quite odd, quite strange». Though Wizard of Oz was nowhere on the list of references, the rich jewel tones are reminiscent of the moment wide-eyed Dorothy marvels around the technicolor fantasy land. Striking as monochrome looks, the raspberry reds, emerald greens and electric blues will look just as chic when mixed. A particular highlight: an unassuming twin set featuring a blue-peach ombre pattern reminiscent of a sunset. It was styled with a fur-lined bucket hat, giving it a smidge of edginess.
The collection provides plenty of opportunities for layering, as reflected by the show’s styling. There is a turtleneck galore, matched with chunky sweaters, printed shirts, leather jackets or all of the above. It’s vaguely reminiscent of director Wes Anderson’s personal style: a quirky smart-casual look. Other garments – a duffle coat and an overcoat – are influenced by Nicholas Roeg’s film A Man That Fell to Earth, starring David Bowie, with whom Smith worked extensively. Quilted coats are on the looser side to allow room for layering; impeccable tailoring shines through in the boxy shape of the jackets. «Most of the garments are unlined, so suits are very casual and easy to wear».
The fashion of one’s youth is always imprinted on the subconscious. Smith, born in 1947, witnessed the 60s in full swing through the eyes of a young man, so his sartorial re-interpretation comes from first-hand experience. The collection is reminiscent of how the designer himself used to dress («We even made a trouser with a bootcut bottom»), but it is «absolutely not a retrospective collection – it’s very modern, with technical fabrics, and very wearable».
Setting the scene
Fitting the key references of the French New Wave, the show took place at Île-de-France Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry headquarters on the Avenue de Friedland in Paris and was meant to be viewed by a live audience. In a twist of fate, the cinematic theme of the collection was underscored by the sudden Covid-induced requirement to turn the real-life show into a video live stream.
This did not spoil the experience whatsoever: the music, composed by Smith’s Emmy-award-winning friend Richard Hartley, lent it an «atmospheric sound, rather than typical fashion show beat». The score referenced the soundtracks of Twin Peaks, You Were Never Really Here and Inherent Vice.
Perhaps one day the public gets to enjoy a film with costumes designed by Smith. Asked if there are any directors he would consider working with, he lists Paul Thompson: «He’s worked with Daniel Day-Lewis quite a lot. I like his work». Also on the list: «Daniel Lynch, fantastic… Wim Wenders is amazing». There’s nothing in the works at the moment, but a fashion lover can dream. And isn’t Hollywood the place where dreams come true?
Sir Paul Smith started out as a small shop owner in Nottingham and went on to build a global British brand spanning 12 lines, including menswear and womenswear, a denim line, shoes and accessories. Known for multi-colored stripes and clothes described as ‘classics with a twist’, the brand celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2020.