Paul Smith, autodidact fashion designer and British game-changer, presented his first fashion collection in 1973. Smith’s fresh and tailored take on men’s garments ‘changed the way British men carry themselves’. Gentlemen Designer, the documentary exploring Smith’s position in the international design realm, is on show tonight in De Balie, during the What Design Can Do Film Festival.
By Rozemarijn Koopmans
Smith himself proclaims that the term ‘designer’ caused him quite a few struggles, being uneducated in his profession. Apparently this hasn’t limited him in any sense: Smith’s emporium today consists of over 400 stores that result in millions of dollars on a yearly basis. The documentary closely follows Smith – swimming laps, browsing through London, travelling to Japan, photographing Paris – absorbing the many facets of modern life that he successfully translates into the clothes he creates.
Stripes on stripes
Smith’s connection to urban English street life becomes evident through the actual wearers of his ensembles. Style-sensitive Brits explain why Paul Smith’s designs fit their wardrobe so well: ‘It’s in the details.’ Smith doesn’t design high-end avant-garde pieces that question wearability, his clothes are rather classically tailored, accompanied by an always present tongue-in-cheek detail (a diagonal stripe, a boldly printed sock or a contrasting inner lining). Nothing too crazy, but perfectly crafted pieces for the business-savvy (fe)male who longs to stand out.
Perhaps its Smiths’ lack of an official design degree: he seems to have never lost his ‘outsider-look’ on the fashion scene, allowing him to create popular pieces for a large audience that’s not necessarily interested in his clothing. His signature use of a combination of stripes (in 14 different colors to be precise) has been used on a variety of objects: cars, tableware, umbrellas, Evian bottles, lounge chairs and even skis. Smith seems to expand his business with an effortless attitude that is not often visible amongst (fashion) designers. Maybe it’s just a combination of gentleman’s genes and British humor.
Paul Smith: Gentleman Designer won’t show you inventive fashion, but provides a sneak-peek into the working life of one of Britain’s most charismatic fashion entrepreneurs.
Paul Smith: Gentleman Designer
May 6th 2014, 21:15h.