Paris Insight by publisher Karin Sawetz
Are you looking for an attractive man?
Men in Paris are looking adventurous with an inherent magic as if their treasure lies in the fantasy. You can find them in the famous Café de Flore where fashion people love to appear and enjoy the 'streetwalk'.
On the way from my hotel 'Bel Ami' I decided to take a break for fresh water from the French alps. Unexpectedly a man with a book in the hand, wild hair, three-day beard, comfortable trousers, and shoes that tell the story of an urbanist, sat down on the table beside me. These are my visual 'keywords'! I grabbed for some of my essential French vocable: "Est-ce que tu avais une cigarette?" It was a Lucky Strike.
This happened in the beginning of June 2009 in Paris, on my way to the Gallery Visconti where Paul Smith has invited editors, fashion people, perfume specialists to the presentation of the photographs for the new fragrance Paul Smith Man.
fig.: I have taken this picture of Sir Paul Smith standing in front of one of the exhibited photographs with my Cybershot camera of my mobile phone at the Gallery Visconti, Paris, 3rd June 2009. The male model is Florent Megdoud.
On the photographs you see mainly one man, standing alone; his dark hair is wild, the beard is adventurous without any hurry, wearing nothing else than his naked shoulders.
Paul Smith has shot the campaign in a hotel. The photo used for the print materials reveals that the 'pirate' is part of a couple; this 'pirate' has already found his 'paradis'! Probably Paul Smith was inspired by Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis or the trendy couple who visited the opening of the photo exhibition at the Gallery Visconti, wearing their pieces of the latest collections from the renowned Couture Houses in such an unhasty way while sitting comfortable in front of a window of the Gallery...
fig.: The visual for Paul Smith Man, photography by Paul Smith, art direction Alan Aboud (www.aboud-creative.com), spring/summer 2009.
The interview in Paul Smith's Parisian showroom
On occasion of the presentation of the photographs I had the great chance to interview Paul Smith in his showroom about some themes which are of interest for Fashionoffice: the 'unexpected' which can be found as elements in his fashion and fragrances, such as the combination of bergamot and anise with patchouli and Iris, and the answer to the question if the source for the unexpected bases on a design concept or rather on the inspired eyes of a designer.
The interview began more as a conversation with the pretty accessible Sir Paul Smith who sparkles so much creativity that it was not easy to go straight through the planned interview.
The internet enthusiast
As soon as I have introduced myself as the publisher of Fashionoffice, I developed that Paul Smith is an internet enthusiast who uses the website of his label paulsmith.co.uk to write about his passion to cycle, his view on politics, personal music tips (such as 'Florence and the Machine' which comes out on 21 June) or anything else what gets his interest. This was the moment I became aware that I am looking into the face of a man who loves to work and to express his view of life.
Paul Smith is active in different ways; alongside to his job of being the chairman of Paul Smith (his fashion is wholesaled to thirty five countries, 14 shops in England and over 200 throughout Japan), Paul Smith is designing the clothes, chooses the fabrics, approves the shop locations etc, he has an art gallery in Tokyo, a furniture shop in London, dresses football teams, and photographs the campaigns of the label 'Paul Smith'.
fig.: Karin Sawetz and Paul Smith at the Gallery Visconti in Paris, 3rd June 2009.
"They persuaded me," says Paul Smith about his photographic work with the coolness of one who is permanently looking forward to improve himself, "I am not so potential in doing that. We can provide you the pictures of Paul Smith taking the pictures for your website. Probably you like them."
Is this typical supercooled British humour?
Paul Smith writes for Vogue(1) and has just released a new edition of his book 'Paul Smith: You Can Find Inspiration in Everything*: *and if you can't, look again!" (Paperback, published by Violette Editions) with contributions by wellknown authors like 'Neuromancer' William Gibson in April 2009(2). The images come from the designer himself.
ad (1) On Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Smith_(fashion_designer) you will find out that the designer has an own blog on Vogue.co.uk since May 2008.
ad (2) Source of the information: Amazon.
Question: "Which of your men collections visualize the style of the new fragrance best?"
Paul Smith: "From the 4 men collections, the main line Paul Smith is expressed by the new scent best."
Paul Smith stands up and brings a book from the bookshelf. He takes his seat beside me on the sofa and begins to browse the book with the photographs he has taken. The introduction to the book with portraits of his friends and people who inspired him makes a non-glamorous girl in white male shirt and black trousers with suspenders. "The pictures are inspired by Patti Smith. She looks cool." I learn that Paul Smith, who has nearly the same age like punk icon Patti Smith, met her for the first time in the 70ies in Barcelona. "I like the way she looks - a boyish girl - sometimes she is looking masculine, sometimes feminine."
As much as I like Patti Smith for her music, political engagement and her role in defining a new type of women in the late 60ies, at last even for her lyrics and photographs fashionoffice.org/foto/2008/pattismith1-2008.htm, and all the questions I had about the article Paul Smith has written about the musician, I continued my interview.
The creator of the unexpected
Question: "The label Paul Smith is known for unexpected elements in fashion and fragrances. What’s the fascination of the unexpected?"
Paul Smith: "Unfortunately the world is so informed with internet, Google, with transportation. We know so much about everything. We are over-informed. What worries me because there is no spontaneity any more. Everything is so cliché and so few unexpected."
Question: "Can people be trained to do the unexpected?
Paul Smith: "This is not easy because in their head is what they 'should' do, to earn money. Young people don't think about playing football but about earning money with football playing."
Paul Smith is active in education too. The Paul Smith scholarships are going through several schools such as Central St. Martins College of Art and Design.
Question: "Would you say that the source for the unexpected bases more on a design concept or the inspired eyes of the designer?"
Paul Smith: "Several designers are handicapped into reality what is expected of them - in big business they have to follow a certain path because it is risky to do the unexpected. Especially salespeople get nervous if somebody makes the unexpected."
As an example Paul Smith named Alexey Brodovitch who brought innovations to Harper's Bazaar. Brodovitch had a deal with the publishers of Harper's Bazaar: he made a magazine such as expected with an exception of six or eight pages: there he published the unexpected and left his footprints in the history of magazine publishing.
Paul Smith: "He worked with young, unknown people such as Andy Warhol in 1958 or Richard Avedon. That was Brodovitch; taking the risk, doing the unexpected and taking young people that have no history because he had the security that the magazine works. You have to find the balance between things that are save and secure and these sweeties, the spices in life."
This was the end of my interview with Paul Smith in his showroom in Paris. Probably you are questioning now what happened with the man I asked for a cigarette at the beginning of this article. Well... it is up to you! What do you expect?
The new fragrance Paul Smith Man will come out in mid July 2009.
The interview with Paul Smith was recorded and transcribed in selected details, corresponding to the answers of Paul Smith. Karin Sawetz is journalist, media researcher and fashion scientist (Mag. Dr. phil.). > sawetz.com