Known for his bright color stripes and self-described “classic with a twist” creations, Paul Smith fell into fashion design literally by accident. After dropping out of school at the age of 15 in Nottingham England, Smith’s father escorted him into a nearby clothing warehouse and offered him up as an errand boy. Young Smith’s interest at the time was not in fashion, but in cycle racing.
It was Smith’s cycling to and from the warehouse on deliveries that kept up his interest in the job, until he had a serious accident two years later. During his six-month recuperation in the hospital Smith decided that fashion design may be more his speed than cycling. And the fashion world has never been the same.
Although Paul Smith’s reputation was built primarily as a designer of menswear, today he has 12 different fashion lines, including women’s wear, shoes, pens, watches, and furniture. His collections are wholesaled in 35 countries, with 15 shops in England including his flagship store in Notting Hill.
According to London’s Design Museum, Smith is regarded as Britain’s most consistently successful fashion designer, which is not lost on the Japanese. His products are sold in 200 stores throughout Japan alone – where his label outsells every other European designer.
In 2000, Smith was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, in recognition of his iconic success over three decades.
Sir Paul Smith continues to remain very active in his company, serving as both chairman and designer. He is also a regular blog contributor at Vogue.com.
Many have studied Smith and the source of his success. Some point to his focus and accomplishment as both a designer and a business man. “The reason I’ve been successful is because I’ve just got on and packed boxes and I know that VAT means Value Added Tax not vodka and tonic,” Paul Smith has written. “I’ve sold on the shop floor, I’ve typed invoices.”
There is a lesson here for every aspiring entrepreneur or corporate manager. Creativity, smart design, and business savvy make for a powerful combination for success.
Happy Birthday Sir Paul!