In recent years, London Fashion Week has been dominated by young up-and-comers. Unlike Milan and Paris, where old, storied houses always reign supreme, some older British mainstays have fallen by the wayside a bit, at least in terms of runway buzz. One example is Paul Smith.
Still a highly respected British heritage brand with a strong retail business, Paul Smith is known for beautiful stores, great customer service and, of course, wonderfully tailored, classic-with-a-twist menswear.
Smith launched womenswear in 1998 and has been showing collections during London Fashion Week ever since. And while the ongoing success of his menswear collection is no secret — he sold 45,000 suits last year according to Business of Fashion — the company has been quieter about womenswear growth, and reviews have been mixed.
Like his menswear, Smith’s women’s styles are rooted in classic Britishness, but done in quirky colors and prints. His last collection for spring was comprised of baggy suits and leisurely blouses and shorts in jewel tones — items that people might buy (except for those difficult-to-wear baggy suits), but nothing that made for a particularly memorable collection. Perhaps that’s why, according to the Telegraph, Smith has brought in Jonathan Saunders in some sort of consulting role, in an unusual instance (as far as we know) of a younger designer coming on to consult an older, more established one.
(Press reps at both companies did not respond to our requests for confirmation of the news.)
At first, Smith and Saunders seem like an unlikely pair. Saunders’ designs can hardly be referred to as commercial, though his silhouettes have gotten more wearable over the years. Most notably, his expertise is in experimenting with fabric, color and texture. Every one of his collections is eye-catching and memorable and displays a clear point of view, something Smith’s womenswear collections could often benefit from. Plus, the two designers share a love of vibrant colors.
If these rumors are true, it will be interesting to see how Saunders will influence commercially-minded Smith. We’ll definitely be playing close attention at Smith’s show next month.
At the same time, perhaps Saunders stands to gain some knowledge from Smith about running an international business, not to mention some cash in his pocket to invest into his own, much smaller, company.