Behind The Signature Stripes: Paul Smith

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It's difficult to think of a brand more quintessentially British or indeed more recognisable than the multi-coloured stripes of Paul Smith. One of the biggest names to dominate premium menswear over almost 40 years, we take a look back at the rich creativity, tradition and modernity that Paul Smith is renowned for.

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Paul Smith is a name that has become synonymous with all things British, tailoring and style. His iconic multi-coloured stripes have leant themselves to a plethora of designs, reaching far beyond the realms of the socks and ties you might initially think of. So what does the brand owe its global success today? Put simply, it's largely to do with the man himself. With his genuine sense of humour and down to earth attitude, Paul Smith is massively admired within the industry, just as much as his classic, wearable collections - always with strong references that typically British dry sense of humour. Quirky but not frivolous, eccentric but not silly.

paul smith young tailoring
PHOTO CREDIT: Paul Smith Instagram

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His mantra of 'classic with a twist' is still something that reigns supreme in the brand today, and it's not surprising given that Paul Smith's inspiration came from an admiration of his older brother's Post Office shirts and the tweeds of the Nottinghamshire country set. The simplicity is his greatest attribute, with Paul describing his collections as "well-made, good quality, simple cut, interesting fabric, easy to wear".

Whilst it may look like design is second nature, it could all have been very different for Paul Smith. The Nottingham born designer originally had dreams of becoming a competitive cyclist while working in a clothing warehouse. When an accident at 17 left Paul unable to ride professionally, he got in with the local arty kids, who introduced him to the world of design and fashion. After recovering and returning to the factory, Paul Smith's newly discovered interests were put to good use, creating showroom displays and eventually becoming a menswear buyer. The rest, as they say, is history.

paul smith pattern cutting
PHOTO CREDIT: Paul Smith Instagram

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Paul Smith began taking evening classes in tailoring, going on to join a Savile Row tailor, where he learned to cut fabric amongst all the skills that contribute to his classic tailoring that we see today, with his designs even worn by the likes of footballer George Best. With an acute eye for detail and such eclectic taste, Paul opened a small shop to sell his wares, as well as a whole host of eclectic bits and bobs he had picked up along the way - and when we say small, we mean small. His first shop in Nottingham was only three meters by three meters! It might have been small, but what it lacked in size, it made up for in potential. The shop, called Paul Smith Vêtement Pour Homme, was the only place outside of London to also stock the likes of Margaret Howell and Kenzo, so it was only a matter of time before it gained wider attention.

paul smith black overcoat
PHOTO CREDIT: Paul Smith Instagram

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By 1976 Paul showed his first menswear collection in Paris, under the Paul Smith label and was later the first fashion brand to open in London's Covent Garden in 1979. Today, the brand boasts over 200 stores worldwide, with Paul himself still very much involved as chairman and designer. His classic designs and subtle yet innovative twists have earned him huge accolades in the industry, and you can't get much bigger than receiving a knighthood (making him only the second designer to ever receive one) from The Queen now, can you?

And it's not just The Queen who's a bit of a fan of Paul Smith, with the brand having a bit of a celebrity cult following, including the likes of the late David Bowie and Eric Clapton. As the designer put it himself, "We make suits for the head of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, and we make suits for Paul Weller. How diverse do you want it?"

paul smith office
Paul Smith in his infamous, eclectic office.
PHOTO CREDIT: Paul Smith Instagram

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You might think that such a title and big name fans might leave you with somewhat of a big head, but it's pretty widely known that Paul Smith is one of the nicest, down to earth guys in fashion. He's even pretty self-deprecating: he once joked that he'd recently seen a man on a train station wearing a dinosaur print coat he had made and he had resisted the urge to push him off the platform. Everyone has their fashion faux pas.

If you're after something a bit less of a 'statement' and a bit more classically cool, then head over to our Store, where the latest PS By Paul Smith collection has just dropped.

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