Sir Paul Smith 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”.
Smith was born in Nottingham in 1946 and educated at Beeston Fields Grammar School. He left school at 15 to work at a clothing warehouse but his real ambition was to become a professional racing cyclist.
At age 17 , after recovering from a serious cycling accident whoch sustained injuries that put an end to Paul’s racing ambitions, he 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 named Paul Smith Vêtements pour Hommes.
1976 was an important one for Paul’s fashion designer career as he showed his first menswear collection in Paris, under the Paul Smith label. Gradually, he expanded his retail business being the first designer to open on Floral Street in London’s Covent Garden in 1979. His shop offered a combination of clothes and finds for men which reflected his eclectic personality.
‘I started my little shop in Covent Garden in 1979’, he said once, ‘and it was in the 1980s when Mr Armani and I were relaxing the suit – although I’m not comparing myself to Mr Armani.’
In the 1980s he was credited with single-handedly reviving boxer shorts as men’s underwear of choice.
In 1984, Paul Smith opens the first Paul Smith store in Tokyo in 1984.
Years later, in 1993, after discovered that 15% of his clothes were bought by women Smith introduced a women’s collection. In the same year, he took over the traditional bu bakprut workwear company R. Newbold and quickly incorporated many of their famous cuts into his collection.
In 2007, Smith began working with the UK based boutique cycle clothing retailer, Rapha. 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.
Smith launched a collection of children’s clothing named Paul Smith Junior in September, 2010.
The Fashion Designer 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.
1991, Smith was awarded the title of Royal Designer for Industry by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts Manufactures and Commerce.
1994, Smith received a CBE for his services to the British fashion industry.
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.
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.
2015: He was named one of GQ’s 50 best dressed British men.
‘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’.