As I mentioned during my last journal entry featuring my initial style notes from Paris, I’m upholstering new pieces in the Azure Collection, which will grace the Ellouise Abbott showroom in Dallas, in Fermoie fabrics—the navy blues, rust tones and grape hues an exciting mixture of weaves and patterns that will bring texture and richness to the vignette showcasing our furniture. I’d already chosen these fabrics by the British textile manufacturer when I stepped into the world of Sir Paul Smith, the UK-based fashion designer who is known for his devotion to tailoring and classicism.
The World of Sir Paul Smith
As is most often the case, the January design shows I visited in Paris last month overlapped the Menswear fashion releases and I was particularly keen to attend this designer’s runway show. He didn’t disappoint, the suit-clad males and jacquard-draped females prancing down the catwalk smack in the middle of the École des Beaux-Arts sported a mélange of plaid and feathered ensembles.
The paisley prints, grosgrains, Prince of Wales checks and the douses of strong color mimicked the swift appearance of a Scarlet Tanagers’ breast or a Canary’s wings fluttering past. These extravagant moments were made all the more quixotic surrounded by the terra cotta walls and tiled floor of the glassed courtyard in the heart of the Palais des Beaux-Arts. Intelligence was at hand, I thought to myself, learning only after the fact that the feathered specimens inspiring Smith’s flights of fancy were gleaned from a 19th-century tome titled The Instructive Picture Book, a survey of exotic flora and fauna for bookish Brits who deigned to travel back then.
Paul Smith at the École des Beaux-Arts
How fitting that the show took place in a glassed atrium that could have served as a riotous greenhouse filled with the plants and winged creatures ripped from the pages of the beautifully illustrated book! The designer of the statuesque space, Félix Duban, meant the enclave to be an open-air encyclopedia for artists and architects, intending the graceful statuary peering down upon the fashion-hungry crowd to be sketched by those who craved an education in the arts. The notable alumni who did just that include Renoir, Monet, Givenchy, Bonnard, Seurat, Braque and Brâncusi.
The spot was a hub of activity as the clothes-conscious in-crowd awaited the debut, Sir Smith’s British manners clearly visible with the branded pastries and steaming coffee he made available to everyone biding time as the models, clips in their hair, received their instructions for the catwalk.
It occurred to me how fortunate the fashion world has been that the curtailing of the designer’s desire to be a racing cyclist had led him to art school and into haberdashery. And how far he has come without turning away from his roots in tailoring since his first show in a hotel room in Paris in 1976! He attracts a stylish crowd that poured into the complex as stridently as the models sauntering down the catwalk.
Fashion and Interior Design Inspiration
He described his working premise for this collection as both a peering back and a reaching forward. Edgy music was infiltrated with rock guitars and references to the 1960s as his clean-cut fashion in soft lavender velvets, Aegean blue jacquards and slate gray plaids ornamented with pale lapis shearling rocked the runway.
You can see evidence of the designer’s inspiration on the above page of The Instructive Picture Book, the color of the Monk’s-Hood a similar soulful shade of blue that arrayed his models. I had not yet seen his blue crush when I settled upon the slate shadings of the Copy Book blue Fermoie fabric, below, which will be an important hue in our Ellouise Abbott vignette. As I gather inspiration for designs such as this, I marvel at the sources from which other designers, whether geared toward interiors or fashion, glean their inspiration. The world includes a vast storehouse of stimuli if one is adept at paying attention.
This post, The World of Sir Paul Smith, © Bruce Andrews Design, all rights reserved. Our furniture is now available through Nandina Home in Aiken, SC; Jalan Jalan in Miami, FL; Travis & Company in ADAC in Atlanta; and the Ellouise Abbott showroom in Dallas, TX. We will soon be showing in the Ellouise Abbott showroom in Houston and in the Michael-Cleary showroom in Chicago, IL.