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Jan 2017
Women on the march was the story of the weekend. And so it was with perfect timing that 23 years after he diversified into designing for women, Sir Paul Smith included clothes for women on his Paris catwalk during menswear fashion week for the first time. The designer has scrapped his slot showing womenswear during London fashion week in favour of a blockbuster Paris show in which clothes for both genders are shown together.

There is an industry-wide trend toward unisex catwalks, but the move felt organic for Paul Smith, whose womenswear has its roots in men’s tailoring. First on the catwalk was a woman in a trousersuit in the black-and-green check of Black Watch tartan, alongside a man wearing a tailored coat in the same fabric over beige trousers.

Backstage, the designer said putting the show together has reminded him why he started designing for women in the first place. “Grace Coddington and Liz Tilberis, all these incredible women, were dressing supermodels like Linda Evangelista in my clothes for men,” he recalled.

But one of the secrets of Paul Smith’s cheery, straight-talking brand is that it is more sophisticated than it lets on. The womenswear on the catwalk was not simply borrowed-from-the-boys, but fine-tuned for the female body. The attitude and fabrics are taken from menswear, but the tailoring – a higher and more defined waist, a longer jacket, a strong shoulder – is calibrated to flatter the female form.

A dandy aesthetic running through the men’s velvet suits and fitted waistcoats was adapted for women with colourful Fair Isle-knit sweater dresses, and silk blouses with a painterly feather print.

The show was staged under the glass roof of the grand École Des Beaux-Arts, just a few streets from where Sir Paul Smith staged his very first fashion show in a friend’s apartment on the rue de Vaugirard, that time to an audience of 35 people, with friends as models and a soundtrack he had compiled on a cassette.

But it was very British, not just stylistically but in the emphasis on British-made fabrics – in many cases modern, lightweight versions of fabrics Smith first used in the 1970s. The brightly coloured feathers, which appeared on men’s suit linings as well as silk womenswear, were inspired by an illustrated 18th-century book of British birds.

In the face of the unstoppable rise of a sports aesthetic in menswear, Smith remains a staunch defender of the suit. “People think that suits are stuffy, or that you can’t move in them,” he said backstage. “But it’s not true.” Soft, narrow suits were styled for life outside the office, worn with trainers and with poloneck knits.

The Paul Smith show was followed by Kenzo, also showing men’s and women’s collections together for the first time. In London, Burberry and Vivienne Westwood have both recently merged their collections for men and women. The trend for unisex catwalks, which is driven both by the rise of a genderless, sports-influenced aesthetic and a social media appetite for catwalks that are newsworthy moments, appears unstoppable.Read more at: |
judy smith
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judy smith
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