SARAH HORROCKS caught up with Sir Paul at Claridges just an hour before his show, and found him surprisingly cool, calm and collected…
How are the preparations for the show going?
"Luckily we’re always quite calm. You hear a lot of models say it’s all screaming and shouting backstage at some shows, but we’re calm!"
What can we expect from the show?
"Well, I usually have quite a strong theme but it’s just very British: Scottish Fair Isle sweaters that are very feminine and modern, mixed with stripes which I’m well known for, sweaters, print, English rose, Harris tweed…and there’s a big army section."
"As a boy I was always going to army shops and getting things like parkas and I think it looks quite sexy on a girl too, especially with feminine jewelry or a scarf."
How would you sum up the A/W collection in three words?
"Very British, very Paul Smith, very wearable."
How involved are you in the set design, hair and make-up?
"In everything! My head designer and myself work together on everything. I’m hands on with the women’s and the men’s. I design 26 collections a year so obviously I don’t physically design everything but I have a design team I work with on a daily basis, unlike a lot of companies with labels. I have an odd job with lots of hats: head designer, boss, chief shareholder…!"
Whose work has impressed you this week?
"Unfortunately I don’t see anyone else! There have been good shows from Giles Deacon and Luella. We’ve got a lot of good designers and ideas. We’re always overshadowed by Milan and Paris but the buyers and press always still come."
We’ve seen a lot of designers in New York and now in London downscaling their shows to more intimate, low-key affairs because of the economic situation. Has this influenced you?
"At the moment we’re not thinking negatively. There are obvious things you can do like anyone: good housekeeping, asking “Is that really necessary?”, sending things by mail rather than by courier…but we’re still at Claridges, we’ve still got the models, the hair, make-up and music people."
"Business is not bad – obviously people are nervous, but in fact we’re selling well! I don’t do big theatrical shows. For me, the show is an important thing but it’s only part of the process. For some designers it’s all about the extravagance, the self-indulgence…for me that’s not a highlight."
With New York ending the same day as London opening this year, do you think London is under threat?
"We’ve been squashed, but it just means you work harder."
Has the crisis opened up a market for investment fashion?
"Well, I’ve always enjoyed that anyway. I have lots of collections that have grown over the years but good quality suits, cashmere coats and shoes are always important. If you’ve got good pieces you can add to them."
"The key thing is accessories. I’ve used a lot of costume jewelry in my show. It can make a simple outfit look special, and I’ve used it in an unusual way, not just round the neck but worn like the cords and sashes across the chest in ceremonial dress."
More interviews from Fashion Week:
- William Tempest
- Emma Bell
- Avsh Alom Gur
- Harriet's Muse
Catwalk photos and reports here.