At first glance, there was little about Paul Smith's latest womenswear show to scare away the label's established, loyal clientele; strictly business as understatedly usual, with mannish tailoring barely softened into womenswear form, and executed in soft textures and gentle autumn shades.
What was interesting, though, was how Smith played up the dislocation of menswear-on-womenswear this time out. Instead of adjusting and finessing his lines to the female form, two two-piece suits hung slackly away from the body in flannel greys or washed-out blocks of colour, and pockets, buttons and lapels were moved off to the side of jackets, with contrast black edgings to emphasise the shift in scale. Shearling outerwear was purposefully heavy, with raw edges and oversized toggle ties, whilst Crombie coats came with scaled-up contrast patch pockets.
The reverse of all that flat masculinity came through in what lay beneath; soft, pajama-like polka dotted trousers, pastel satin shirtdresses and subtly translucent printed separates. And the show's main interest lay in the lack of compromise between those two elements, in a season where gender-bending fluidity has already established a foothold on the runways. Instead of a middle-ground, Smith was offering uncompromising clarity; masculine clothes, to be worn by women. Simple.