Paul Smith is a label that has become synonymous with classic British tailoring and style. Inspired by the traditional British menswear he admired as young boy – such as his brother’s Post Office shirts and the tweeds of the Nottinghamshire country set – Smith’s greatest attribute is simplicity. He has described his designs as “well-made, good quality, simple cut, interesting fabric, easy to wear” and often adds a splash of vibrant colour, a floral print or his signature multi-coloured stripes.
Born in 1946 in Nottingham, England, Smith’s childhood ambition was to become a professional racing cyclist. He left school at 15 with no qualifications and began working in a Nottingham clothing warehouse as an errand boy. He relished his cycle to and from the warehouse each day until aged 17 he was in a serious accident and sustained injuries that put an end to his racing ambitions. Six months in hospital followed, during which Smith made friends with people from the local art college who would introduce him to the world of art and fashion.
Returning to his job at the warehouse, he used his newly acquired interest in art and fashion and began making displays for the showroom. Soon after, he was made menswear buyer.
Smith also started to take evening classes in tailoring in Nottinghamshire where he learned to cut cloth as well as the basics. Soon after, he joined Lincroft Kilgour in Savile Row after being spotted by chairman Harold Tillman, where his designs were worn by celebrities including footballer George Best.
Paul Smith now has 15 shops and concessions in the UK and 200 shops worldwide, in markets including Japan, Paris, Milan, New York and Hong Kong. The business, still based in his native Nottingham, has turnover of £325million. As chairman and designer, Sir Paul is still involved in every aspect of it.
Known for his positive outlook on business and life, Smith has become a key figure of the British fashion industry. Although he is an internationally celebrated fashion artist nowadays, Smith is known to have remained very much down to earth. He frequently visits his shops, talks to customers, and learns about his clientele’s needs.