Paul Smith (fashion designer)

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For other people of the same name, see Paul Smith (disambiguation).
Paul Smith
Born (1946-07-05) 5 July 1946 (age 69)
Beeston, Nottinghamshire
Nationality British
Occupation Fashion designer
Labels Paul Smith
Paul Smith logo

Sir Paul Smith, CBE, RDI, (born 5 July 1946) is a British designer, whose business and reputation is founded upon his men's fashion with a special focus on tailoring. He is known for his idiosyncratic take on traditional British styling having coined the term 'classics with a twist'.[1] Smith was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000 for his services to British fashion. After founding his company in 1970 with one shop, Paul Smith now has more than 300 shops worldwide with an annual turnover of £200m.[2]

Early life[edit]

Smith was born in Nottingham in 1946 and educated at Beeston Fields Grammar School. His father, Harry, was a draper and amateur photographer.[3] He left school at 15 to work at a clothing warehouse but his real ambition was to become a professional racing cyclist.[4]

He relished his cycle to and from the warehouse each day until, aged 17, he was in a serious accident, sustaining injuries that put an end to his racing ambitions. Six months of recovery 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.[5]


After recovering from his cycling accident Paul began to take evening classes in tailoring. Soon after he joined Lincroft Kilgour on Savile Row where his designs were worn by celebrities including George Best.

With the help of his then-girlfriend (now wife), Pauline Denyer, who was a Royal College of Art graduate, and a small amount of savings, he opened his first shop on 10 Byard Lane, Nottingham in 1970[6] named Paul Smith Vêtements pour Hommes.[7]

In 1976 Paul showed his first menswear collection in Paris, under the Paul Smith label. He gradually expanded the retail business, being the first designer to open on Floral Street in London's Covent Garden in 1979. His shop offered an eclectic combination of clothes and finds for men which reflected his own eclectic personality.[5]

Smith had a key role in changing the perception of the suit in the 1980s. 'I started my little shop in Covent Garden in 1979', he said, 'and it was in the 1980s when Mr Armani and I were relaxing the suit - although I'm not comparing myself to Mr Armani. We were making them softer, and making people think that they weren't only for interviews or funerals or weddings, but were something you could wear more informally'.[8]

In the 1980s he was credited with single-handedly reviving boxer shorts as men’s underwear of choice.[9]

Interestingly for such an archetypally British label, Paul Smith enjoys a cult status in Japan, which is the company's largest international market. The first Paul Smith store opened in Tokyo in 1984.[10]

After discovering that 15% of his clothes were bought by women, Smith introduced a women's collection in 1993. In the same year, Smith took over the traditional but bankrupt workwear company R. Newbold (established in 1885) and quickly incorporated many of their famous cuts into his collection.[5]

In 1997 he joined the new Labour government's Creative Industries Task Force.[3]

Smith launched a collection of children's clothing named Paul Smith Junior in September, 2010.[6]

Collaborations and special projects[edit]

In 2007, Smith began working with the UK based boutique cycle clothing retailer, Rapha.[11] Smith designed a range of cycle clothing in association with Rapha, including a jersey to celebrate the rare start of the Tour de France in London.[12]

Paul Smith provided suits for the Manchester United team in 2009.[13]

In September 2011, Smith designed a limited edition copy of John Le Carré's novel, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, in conjunction with the release of the film adaptation. Only 250 copies were produced worldwide.[5]

In 2014, Paul Smith collaborated with lamp manufacturer Anglepoise to create a new version of the classic Anglepoise Type75 lamp to mark 80 years since its first production. Smith applied a strikingly colourful treatment with a playful colour-by-component approach.[14]

In May, 2014 HarperCollins asked Smith to re-interpreted his favourite children's book, Richard Scarry's 'Cars and Trucks and Things that Go', to mark the book's fortieth anniversary.[15]

In March, 2015 Smith designed a bespoke Land Rover Defender. The one-off design featured 27 individual colours and was created to mark 67 continuous years of production for the Land Rover Defender, which will come to an end in December, 2015.[16]

Smith has been the subject of two exhibitions at London's Design Museum. In 1995, the 'True Brit' show marked 25 years of his company. This was followed in 2013 with the exhibition 'Hello, My Name is Paul Smith', which celebrated his career to date while revealing insights into his creative processes.[17] This second exhibition later transferred to Belgian fashion museum, Modemuseum Hasselt, in January, 2015.[18]

Awards and honours[edit]

In 1991, Smith was awarded the title of Royal Designer for Industry (RDI) by the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts Manufactures and Commerce).[19]

In 1994, Smith received a CBE for his services to the British fashion industry.[5]

In February 2007, Smith was awarded an honorary fellowship of the Royal Institute of British Architects - an organisation that rewards outstanding contributions made to the world of art, design and architecture.[5]

In 2011, Paul was awarded the Outstanding Achievement in Fashion Design award at the British Fashion Awards for his exceptional contribution to the British fashion industry.[20]

He was named one of GQ's 50 best dressed British men in 2015.[21]


  1. ^ "Paul Smith : Fashion Designer (1946–)". Design Museum. 
  2. ^ Cartner-Morley, Jess. "Paul Smith design showcase is 'absolutely not a retrospective'". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Finnigan, Kate. "Sir Paul Smith's short cut to success". Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  4. ^ Hopper, David (2014). The Branded Gentry; How A New Era of Entrepreneurs Made Their Names. Elliott and Thompson. ISBN 9781908739780. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Sowray, Bibby. "Who's Who Paul Smith". Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  6. ^ a b Alexander, Hilary. "Paul Smith launches children's wear". Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  7. ^ Leitch, Luke. "Mencyclopaedia: Paul Smith". Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  8. ^ Leitch, Luke. "Sir Paul Smith: 'I learnt the trade doing some crummy jobs'". Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  9. ^ "Sir Paul Smith portrait". Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  10. ^ Mowbray, Nicole. "Paul Smith, man of the cloth". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  11. ^ Rodale, Inc. (August 2007). Bicycling. Rodale, Inc. pp. 38–. ISSN 0006-2073. Retrieved 1 November 2012. 
  12. ^ Gay, Jason (1 April 2009). "In These Clothes, You Can Go Far". New York Times. 
  13. ^ Millar, Jamie (27 May 2011). "Paul Smith kits out Manchester United". GQ (UK). Retrieved 1 December 2014. 
  14. ^ Thompson, Henrietta (22 May 2014). "Paul Smith in the spotlight with Anglepoise". The Daily Telegraph (London: TMG). ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Retrieved 1 December 2014. 
  15. ^ Vincent, Alice. "Paul Smith re-designs Richard Scarry classic". Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  16. ^ Harvey, Michael. "Dressing for retirement: Land Rover Defender's Paul Smith suit". Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  17. ^ ""You'll probably need an aspirin" after my Design Museum show, says Paul Smith". Dezeen. Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  18. ^ "Hallo, Mijn Naam is Paul Smith Hello, my name is Paul Smith". Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  19. ^ "Royal Designers for Industry". Retrieved 3 August 2015. 
  20. ^ Leitch, Luke. "Paul Smith to be honoured at British Fashion Awards". Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  21. ^ "50 Best Dressed Men in Britain 2015". GQ. 5 Jan 2015. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Paul Smith at Wikimedia Commons