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Paul Smith

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CONGO DANDIES

Ever channeling the British dandy, Paul Smith researched new angles on traditional dressing and found inspiration in photographer Daniele Tamagni’s soon-to-be-published book, Gentlemen of Bakongo: The Importance of Being Elegant. Tamagni documented Bakongo’s sapeurs (or lords of elegance) — fashionable locals who continue to be influenced by the elegant French style first seen when Congo was colonized at the beginning of the 20th century. Smith’s first runway look, a candy pink suit complete with vest, oxblood oxfords and a bowler hat, came directly from the book’s cover. Other classic suiting elements, like pocket squares, skinny ties and blazers were mixed with an offbeat sensibility. Feminine printed dresses were the place where authentic Congolese culture was incorporated into the collection; leopard prints, hand-painted stripes and graphic oxen were mixed, using a simple palette of black, brown, blue and orange. Patrician cardigans were twisted and tied, combining ladylike looks with ethnic eccentricity. Androgyny and the use of indigenous prints are two strong themes that have started to emerge throughout London Fashion Week.

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