10 Very Stylish Men: Paul Smith
How do you say quintessentially English to an international fashion audience without conjuring the image of some silly-voiced snoot giving you a firm slap with their empty glove? A caricature concept of the stuffier side of Savile Row-born style, we mean. Very easily, actually. You simply say Paul Smith.
Mr Smith – or should we say Paul Smith CBE (mostly just for the sake of reiterating his brand’s intrinsic Englishness) – has been peddling his unique combination of tradition and modernity since the mid-1970s. He has breathed new life into classics with subtle eclecticism, and a flare for using almost-whimsical pattern and colour combinations in an understated way, but the best advert for this look is actually the man himself.
Smith took an interest in art and design in his late teens, meeting with a group of friends in a local pub popular with art students. Here, among all the talk of Mondrian, Warhol, Kokoschka, The Rolling Stones and Miles Davis, is surely where the roots of his artsy-meets-bookish, lightly eccentric aesthetic lie.
We like to imagine – mostly for the sake of a nicely flowing bit of copy – that this is also where he first discovered The Doors. The pioneers of psychedelic rock are major idols of Smith, as proved by his autumn/winter 2014 menswear show in Paris back in January. With Jim Morrison’s strange and languid vocals issuing out over the runway, the message that Smith’s personal loves and professional vision continue to be intrinsically linked was absolutely clear.
In fact, we reckon that beyond the items obviously designed for a bit of showtime spectacle, Smith could easily rock a good selection of the loosened, near-pyjama-ish tailoring himself. Whether congratulating him backstage during fashion week or spotting him out and about on his bicycle, the thing we most admire about Smith’s look is that certain agelessness you can’t quite place – the spry energy he naturally carries about himself.
Photographer: Maria Ziegelboeck
By Vincent Levy