The Paul Smith Brand – Clothing, Accessories, Mini’s and more
A Brief History of Paul Smith: The Most Versatile Brand in Fashion
Paul Smith is of the greatest collaborators, and one of the biggest names in British fashion – but it wasn’t always ambition to join the ranks of the fashion glitterati. Paul Smith initially wanted to be a racing cyclist, but a serious accident ended his dream leading to him starting work in a clothing warehouse. He began making clothing displays in the warehouse’s showroom; the boss was so impressed that he trusted the young 17 year old Paul to do all the menswear buying. Just two short years later, Paul Smith opens his first store and the rest, as they say, is history.
As of March 2011, the Paul Smith company had an astounding 12 different diffuse label lines: Paul Smith, Paul Smith Women, PS by Paul Smith, Paul Smith Jeans, Paul Smith London, R.Newbold (Japan only), Paul Smith Accessories, Paul Smith Shoes, Paul Smith Fragrance, Paul Smith Watches, Paul Smith Pens, Paul Smith Furniture and ‘Things’. Additionally, made under Licensing agreements are Paul Smith rugs, spectacles, fragrances and even bone-china.
The Paul Smith company has gone from one store in a back alley in Nottingham, to a global brand, wholesaled to over 30 countries throughout the world. Paul Smith is sold in over 200 shops, and through 500 wholesale customers in Japan alone, where his label out-sells every other European designer.
The Paul Smith timeline snapshot
- 1970: Paul Smith opens his first shop, Paul Smith Vêtement Pour Homme in Byard Lane in Nottingham using his £600 savings.
- 1976: The first Paul Smith collection is shown in Paris.
- 1979: The first Paul Smith London store opens in Covent Garden.
- 1984: Paul Smith signs a licence contract with Japanese company C. Itoh.
- 1986: Paul Smith launches a toiletries collection
- 1987: The first New York Paul Smith store opens on Fifth Avenue.
- 1991: In January, Paul Smith launches a childrenswear collection and a flagship store opens in Tokyo.
- 1993: Both the Paul Smith Accessories and Womenswear collections are launched.
- 1994: The first standalone womenswear, childrenswear and PS Jeans stores all open. Additionally, the Paul Smith spectacles, luggage and watch collections are launched.
- 1995: The Paul Smith website is launched.
- 1998: The debut Paul Smith womenswear catwalk show takes place in both London and Hong Kong. The brand signs two deals; a footwear deal with the Overland Group and a 12 year licensing deal with Inter Parfums SA. The Paul Smith Mini ‘Art Car’ is launched in the UK and Japan only.
- 2000: The first Paul Smith fragrances are launched; ‘Paul Smith Men’ and ‘Paul Smith Woman’. Sir Paul Smith takes a trip to Buckingham Palace and is awarded a Knighthood by the Queen.
- 2001: The Paul Smith rug collection is launched for the Rug Company and the first stand-alone Paul Smith accessories store is opened.
- 2002: A Paul Smith store opens in Heathrow’s Terminal 3 and the Paul Smith furniture line is launched for Cappellini.
- 2003: The Swiss-Made Watch collection and the ‘Furniture and Things’ collection are launched along with ‘Bespoke’ – a Paul Smith upholstery textile for Maharam.
- 2005: A year of big collaborations. There is a collaboration with Triumph motorbikes, involving the customising of nine bikes, as well as designing a capsule of associated clothing and accessories. Additionally, there is a collaboration with Burton Snowboards to design an exclusive bespoke stripe snowboard and related snowboard gear such as jackets and pants..
- 2006: Flagship stores are opened in Tokyo, New York and Paris. There is Paul Smith collaboration with Mercian Bike with personalised track and tour bikes.
- 2009: Paul Smith collaborates with famous water brand Evian, producing a limited edition bottle incorporating the famous Paul Smith stripes.
“Upper Class with a Twist”: The Paul Smith Brand Aesthetic
When you think of Paul Smith, you are sure to picture the iconic stripes that are found throughout all 12 of his different collections. But there is a lot more to the inspirations of the Paul Smith brand. In 2001, The Paul Smith book ‘You Can Find Inspiration in Everything…’ was published – and like the title of the book suggests – Paul finds inspiration in everything and anything. The book takes a look into how Smith finds his inspiration, whether it is from souvenirs or photographs from his travels around the world, or something he has seen just walking down the street.
As said by the man himself:
“When I look back I realise how influenced I was by Nottingham, I’d cycle around, there’d be the coal miners, Derby tweeds and the elegance of the country squires…” Paul Smith
Paul Smith still draws inspiration from his childhood upbringing in Nottingham. He admired traditional British men’s work wear including his brothers Post Office uniform and the Nottinghamshire tweeds. He also took influence from imported US jeans, and bespoke suits in unusual blues or greens that he wore himself. His clothing is a mixture of a genuine sense of humour, a touch of mischief, and his love of tradition and the classics.
“Well-made, good quality, simple cut, interesting fabric, easy to wear. No-bullshit clothing.” Paul Smith.
Paul Smith: True Brit
In 1995 Paul Smith launched the solo exhibition, True Brit, at the Design Museum, London. Designed by Tom Dixon, it reviewed his design contribution over the previous 25 years. It was the first time in the museum’s history that an entire exhibit had been devoted to a single designer.
- 1995: The Paul Smith True Brit book is published by Conde Nast Italia to coincide with exhibition of the same name, which opens at the Design Museum in London in October.
- 1996: The Paul Smith True Brit exhibition travels to Glasgow as part of the festival of design.
- 1997: The exhibition moves to Paul Smith’s home town and to the Nottingham Castle Museum.
- 1998: The Paul Smith True Brit exhibition travels to Tokyo, Kobe and Fukuoka in Japan.
The Future of Paul Smith Ltd
There is little doubt that Paul Smith is one of the worlds most diversified fashion brands, selling everything from clothing to furniture to, fragrance and eyewear. Unlike other British fashion brands, Paul Smith had weathered the recession well. As reported in the London Evening Standard (Jan, 2010) in the financial year of2009 – sales in Britain rose by 7% to £59.6 million. Additionally, sales in Europe were up by almost 25% and sales outside Europe climbed by 8% This totalled sales of £168.4 million, which meant there were minimal declines in profits.
The recession has not halted the brand’s global expansion with rumours of an expansion into China – by far the largest (potential) and fastest growing consumer market in the world. However, Smith himself admits that business in Japan has been difficult over the past few years, so will this mean that there will be a postponement in the far eastern expansion? Watch this space.