Paul Smith offers a clear vision of what men really want

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The Independent Online

It is clear why Paul Smith's business has grown from a tiny space at the back of a shop in Nottingham 25 years ago to a company now worth pounds 85m with shops and outlets world-wide.

He gives men what they want. The terry-towelling suits in his collection for spring/summer 1996 might have limited appeal, but the flat-fronted trousers, the flower-print shirts and the easy summer knitwear will be just the thing for men who are after intelligent, quality clothes to wear for work, holiday or simply lounging around.

Last week, a painting by the conceptual artist Yves Klein featuring the artist's famous shade of blue - La Grande Bataille - sold for pounds 947,500 at Christie's. Klein called the peculiarly vibrant colour that he was obsessed with International Klein Blue. For a fraction of that amount, it would be possible to invest in a Paul Smith suit, shirt, socks and cufflinks all dyed an equally striking shade of International Smith Blue.

Also making a strong statement was a whole range of safari jackets and suits, a look that has already been adopted by aficionados of the easy- listening "lounge" club scene in London. The multi-pocketed jackets might make the wearer look stiff and wooden, but the lighter, softer shirt versions will no doubt be a hit with Paul Smith fans next summer.

While Paul Smith made do with conventional models, Comme des Garcons, who showed on Tuesday night, continued the trend of using men of any profession other than model to wear the clothes on the runway. The McGann brothers, Stephen Callow and the British tailors Mark Powell and Timothy Everest were among the familiar faces showing off the traditional tailored suits decorated with high-visibility fluorescent vinyl strips. The north London tailor Charlie Allen modelled two, along with his four brothers and their pensioner father. The theme of the show was "disconnected gentlemen".