῀ opinion 37
As he launches his new fragrance, Optimistic, Paul Smith argues we could all benefit by embracing enthusiasm, fun and a positive outlook When I look at the past decade it has been a one of challenging events: terrorism, war and global economic crisis. A lot of serious stuff. And yet in spite of this – perhaps because of it – a new generation is defining itself by a positive attitude. Environmentally aware, connected by technology, creative, ready to try the non-mainstream – this generation sees change as an opportunity, not a threat. Arguably, the Sixties was the last time the young faced such a mixed outlook – the decade of pop art and flower power as well as the Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam. In the turbulence there was a spirit of hope and creativity. It was a period when barriers fell, self-expression became the order of the day and young people realised they could be heard as individuals.
Divisions of class tumbled as rebellious children of the aristocracy hung out with pop stars, artists and writers. It was a bohemian Chelsea and King’s Road scene, and I suppose my interest in fashion stems from there. Today things are less radical, but no less exciting. Technology’s potential to bring people together is being explored daily, while I can see a real backlash against global corporate marketing. Young people want things that are individual and full of character. I know that when I open a new store I want it to be totally unlike any other in the world, including my existing stores. The one-lookfits-all aesthetic of fashion retail is so boring. I believe the realisation that it’s a rough old world means we have to be willing to do something about it and
I really have no time for doom and gloom. I like surprises and I like change savour the pleasures we are lucky enough to enjoy. In other words, it’s time to enjoy life, seek new experiences and be part of a community. It’s time to embrace fun and enthusiasm. It’s time to recapture a childlike, playful attitude to life. It’s time to be optimistic. I’m the first to admit I have a child’s eye when I look at the world.
I am constantly inspired by the things around me – crates of tomatoes in a Soho street market made me think about using patterns and repetition in clothes displays; a bus with an image on its side of the Duomo in Florence led to a skirt with a photograph of a Mini car printed on it (literally a mini skirt). I have always taken pictures of things that strike me as unusual and amusing – such as a sign in South Africa: ‘Penguins on parking area, check under vehicle before departing.’ I can trace my interest back to my father, Harold Smith, who was a credit draper. When he wasn’t working, he thought about composition, light, witty juxtapositions, experiment – developing and printing all his own work. My pictures, taken on an instant camera, are about humour and the ‘caught moment’; different from my father’s photographs, but displaying our shared quirky way of seeing the world. A few years ago I published a book called You Can Find Inspiration In Everything* (*and if you can’t, look again). That really is my philosophy. I really have no time for doom and gloom. I like surprises and I like change. In design terms I aspire to make my collections full of the playful and the joyous. I delight in colour and in the unexpected. Unusual contrasts are the foundation of my style – a pinstripe suit with a floral print shirt. I hope my work is full of energy and life and not only makes you look and feel good, but also makes you smile. That’s why I’ve named my new scent Optimistic, in the hope that it will spread a bit of fun and pleasure. Q
Paul Smith has bottled his youthful enthusiasm and sense of fun in Optimistic for Her (floral tenderness, fruity top note), from £28; and Optimistic for Him (classic, fern-like), from £25. paulsmith.com