Proud to be British, Paul Smith delights in presenting his very own empire line

Click to follow

Yesterday morning, Paul Smith – that's Sir Paul Smith, please – showed his autumn/winter 2002 collection which, once again, bore all the hallmarks of the quaint, English eccentric style that the designer knows so well.

In a silver-lined vault lit by some 50 chandeliers, there were modern-day Vita Sackville-Wests dressed in rose-scattered silk chiffon tea dresses and cable-knit cardies, perfect for walks round the country estate. There were also Second World War Wrens in curvaceous army green skirt suits that were stern but saucy.

The designer shouted his "proud to be British" credentials with skirts, shirts and a velvet evening gown based on the Union Jack – in colours that were rich and autumnal – then offered up a line of odd little prom queen dresses, belted at the empire line and worn with oversized parkas.

Smith, 55, is, of course, this country's most successful designer by far. It is easy to see why. While others change their style from season to season, the Paul Smith signatures – the things that have made him so famous – were firmly in place.

Think classic with a twist; Smith almost invented the phrase. Paul Smith girls have very English words such as scones, tea and cake scripted on their slightly dowdy, knee-length skirts. They might wear all black but they're likely to finish such looks with neon lime ankle boots.

The designer has shown his womenswear at the London show since he first launched a range in 1998. In the past four years, it has gone from strength to strength – the masculine side now sits effortlessly alongside a more overtly feminine style.

Later in the day, Betty Jackson took to the catwalk once more. While this designer's business is small by comparison, with nothing like the international profile of Paul Smith, she has been running her own independent label since the 1980s, and also catering to a wider audience designing clothes for Marks & Spencer.

Jackson's was a lesson in just the type of understated, slightly shabby luxury that chic English women love to wear: tattoo-punched pale sheepskin coats and jackets over shredded and embroidered chiffon dresses in cream, black and white and aubergine. More simple were the most effortlessly chic black trouser suits imaginable – black jackets tied loosely at the waist like dressing gowns accompanied by wide-legged trousers, or black crepe cocktail dresses trimmed with jet.

Comments