Paul Smith: Fashioning Britishness

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Whilst scanning Netflix recently (is anyone else embarrassed by Netflix’s suggestions – I won’t confess how often the Bratz Movie is pops up) I stumbled upon a documentary called; Paul Smith Gentleman Designer. I didn’t know all that much about Smith except for the fact that he designs a lot of ties with bicycle patterns. I decided to give it a whirl and oh how quickly I fell in love.

Image Credit: Lookbooks

Smith is all about ‘maximising Britishness’ and ‘classics with a twist’. He left school at fifteen and worked in a clothing warehouse whilst his real dream was to become a racing cyclist. At the age of seventeen Smith was in an accident meaning he would never be a racer and instead looked to his interest in art and fashion. He began evening classes in tailoring and returned to his warehouse job where he was then made menswear buyer. He now has fifteen stores and concessions in the UK, two hundred worldwide, a children’s line, a book, not forgetting his CBE and knighthood. Despite all of this Smith still seems very down to earth and apparently visits his stores regularly.

His grounded nature really shined in the documentary Gentleman Designer. The crew followed Smith’s day to day adventures around Notting Hill and him jetting off further afield to the likes of Paris. I loved how intimate the design team seemed. Smith seemed to know what each of his colleagues was working on. He often wanders around the Portobello Markets claiming that inspiration can be found everywhere. On this occasion Smith picked up a few vintage pieces and headed back to the office to hand out a few of his finds to designers he felt they were relevant for. I think this shows how involved Smith is in the production despite its success. He has still maintained his activity with the brand.

Another thing that I loved about Smith was his extrovert quirkiness. He says that when he is jetlagged he sleeps in his spare bedroom. In this room he has an abundance of paper as he often wakes up at odd times with a sudden thought that he must write down. Whilst a lot of this remains illegible Smith is such a believer that inspiration is all around us and you should never ignore an idea. His office is a treasure trove of items he has collected over the years and some that have been sent to him. An assortment of books, hats, rainbow zebras, globes and countless pieces of artwork. You name it there is bound to be one in Smith’s office. His love of everything and passion for creativity is so obvious and I feel like this is reflected in every pinstripe and bicycle print.

If you find yourself with Netflix up and an hour to spare I would definitely recommend giving the documentary a watch if you fancy something a little different. Let me know your fashion film suggestions down below I’d love to watch some more!


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