Paul Smith Fall 2023 Ready-to-Wear

A shopkeeper to his core, Paul Smith still spends part of most Saturdays in one of his London stores taking the pulse of his customers’ needs and wants. “As you know very well, we philosophize about our collections, saying they’re inspired by this trip or that artist or whatever it may be,” the designer explained. “But customers are not looking for philosophy; they might say ‘I need a new jacket for this reason,’ or ‘I’m looking for something I don’t have in my wardrobe,’ or ‘I want something that’s easy to wear and looks good.’”

That’s not to say there wasn’t a cross-disciplinary spiel behind this womenswear collection – the press notes said “modernist architecture” – but Smith preferred to focus on the pragmatic appeal of his ensembles as we looked through them together. He put a strong bet on a monochrome houndstooth check suit with a strong shoulder, boot-cut pant, high-skirted jacket, and interestingly twisted asymmetrical double-breasted closure. The high satin-revere jackets and black skirts with uneven hems were, he reasonably posited, effectively easeful variations of Le Smoking.

Womenswear represents around 25 per cent of Smith’s sales, so as well as the ecological sense in the recycled and wool that made up much of this collection, there was also a creatively sustainable reason in carrying over multiple fabrications from menswear. These included the rug-inspired knit jacquards and tailoring checks, as well as fresh variations of the Mulberry bag collaboration first trailed on his menswear runway in January. Nubbily-marled lilac cardigan knit tracksuits, and silk draped dresses and shirt-dresses were womens-specific, as was a pink silk shirt with a buttonable slash in each sleeve. “In the end what people want is attractive, interesting and easy to wear clothes,” said Smith. He’s not wrong.

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