Yaeger: The Problem With Paul Smith; Christopher Kane’s Masterful Collection

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Paul Smith, Christopher Kane, Pringle of Scotland. Photo: Imaxtree

Okay, so let’s say you are at a posh London House party, you know, something out of Brideshead Revisited or Gosford Park. And let’s say you drink too much Pimm's (whatever that is) and end up just a little too cozy with someone who is not the person you came with. And then let’s say (bear with me, this is going somewhere) that person’s significant other surprises you and your paramour in flagrante delicto in one of those bedrooms with no heat and you have to run out of the room without your clothes, covered in nothing but the afghan you’ve torn off the four-poster.

Worried about how you will look as you parade in shame in front of your housemates? Paul Smith has the answer. Sir Paul, who shows in the glorious ballroom of Claridge's (why am I not staying here?), offers a frock made out of one of these crocheted coverlets, a garment which gives the lie to the old canard “She would look good in a blanket!” She doesn’t, and nor will you.

The problem with Smith is that a lot of the wonderful hallmarks he introduced in menswear — funny colors like chartreuse, flower-printed silk linings, etc. — lose a certain something when they are translated back into women’s clothing. The result, which this season sadly includes tweed knickers (does anyone really look good in these things?), also features some lovely full floral skirts and pretty little sweaters that have been deliberated trashed up — or down — for the runway with the addition of shredded fishnet stockings, an attempt to add a little salt to this toad-in-a-hole.

If you crave flora (and London is betting that you do), far better to get a dose from Christopher Kane, whose masterful collection manages to combine leather — both matte and patent — with lace, invariably embroidered with garden bouquets in strictly tailored ensembles that, despite the rather louche materials, never looks wanton. In fact, if Jenny in An Education (for which Carrie Mulligan won the BAFTA on Sunday night, an event which resulted in the closing of the streets around Covent Garden, where many of the shows are held, and thus added to the chaos of London traffic, if that’s possible) succeeds at Oxford where she is bound at the end of the movie, but retains a taste for unsavory gentlemen, these Kane getups are the perfect clothes for her.

What a crazy trio graces the front row at Pringle! Not just Courtney Love (who I at first mistake for just a sad English girl with too much surgery) and Janet Jackson (with that face that bears those ghostly echoes of the lost Michael, and wearing a tightly belted leopard tunic, a refreshing change from the unrelieved black and gray besetting the rest of the fashion flock) but none other than Tilda Swinton, looking like a very chic redheaded version of Tintin and sitting with Ryan McGinley, with whom she has some kind of commercial/artistic partnership funded, one assumes handsomely, by Pringle. (Who’s going to come through the door next? Rumpelstiltskin? Travis Bickle?)

The Pringle clothes — flappy kilts, shiny velvet evening frocks, and fisherman’s sweaters stretched into dresses — have a palpable British charm (well, the house is celebrating its 195th birthday this year, so it's had plenty of time to get things right) and would be far more flattering for a country weekend than bare feet and a blanket.

View the fall 2010 Pringle of Scotland Collection.
View the fall 2010 Christopher Kane Collection.
View the fall 2010 Paul Smith Collection.