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Paris Fashion Week: Paul Smith goes lunar luxe

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Framed by a backlit photo of the full moon hanging on the horizon at both ends of the runway, and accompanied by a soundtrack that began and ended with the strains of space rock pioneers Pink Floyd, Paul Smith sent an out-of-this-world Fall and Winter 2011 menswear collection down the catwalk on the last day of Paris Fashion Week.

Gray trousers, jacket linings and shirts bore a pattern that seemed to combine leopard print with the crater-pocked lunar surface; large polka dots on other shirts symbolized the full moon. Some jackets were made out of actual aluminum, while traditional tailored sport coats had collars with zip-in metallic hoodies that recalled the crinkly foiled look of NASA's Apollo modules.

Knit watch caps lent a '70s-era U.S. Navy vibe, while zippered embellishments around trouser legs looked straight out of Hanna-Barbera's early-'60s space age cartoon "The Jetsons."

Other offerings included toggle-button coats (hands down the hottest trending outerwear piece on the runways of both Milan and Paris this season), outsized furry jackets and cool blue collarless chambray shirts.

Many of the looks were accessorized with long, dangling chains bearing silver charms that seemed sourced from a cache of good luck talismans (a wishbone, a twisted pretzel) and a tool box (a hammer, a pair of calipers, a sextant).

It felt like a natural follow up to his cosmic rocker Spring and Summer 2011 collection, but backstage after the show, Smith said it wasn't the glowing orb in the nighttime sky that was the initial inspiration for the collection, but rather a specific constellation of 70s-era musicians.

"When I started working on the collection a year ago, I was interested in exploring Frank Zappa, the Yardbrids and Captain Beefheart -- I just really loved that posh rock era and that whole disjointed sound -- the randomness of it," he said. "There wasn't any fashion then; it was you just threw on these huge hairy jackets with these skinny trousers and off you'd go."

"And then, when Captain Beefheart died," Smith explained, "it seemed like an awfully dreary subject for a show. Then I remembered that Zappa named his daughter Moon Unit. And the whole interest in the space program dates to the same era [as the posh rock '70s], and I figured that was a pretty random thought so that's where I went."

As for those dangling silver necklaces? My guess was that they were symbols of the age-old navigational and exploratory skills our lunar pioneers used on their visits to the moon's surface. Smith offered a more down-to-earth explanation.

"Zappa and all those guys who lived up in Laurel Canyon back in the '70s, they all wanted to build their houses with their bare hands, do all that stuff by themselves," Smith said.

-- Adam Tschorn, reporting from Paris

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Photos: Looks from the Paul Smith Autumn / Winter 2011 runway show at Paris Fashion Week. Credit: Jonas Gustavsson & Peter Stigter / For The Times.

 
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