A great British success story, Paul Smith's smart, cool clothes and idiosyncratic accessories have earned him a place in the front ranks of British fashion.
Born in Nottingham in 1946, Smith started as a gofer in a local clothing warehouse at the age of 18. In 1970, he opened his first shop with a few hundred pounds of savings and took evening classes in tailoring, gradually developing his own style. By 1976, he was playing consultant to an Italian shirt manufacturer and to the International Wool Secretariat. In the same year, he showed his first collections in Paris under the Paul Smith label.
Today Paul Smith Ltd boasts a chain of around 225 shops and concessions, 200 of which are in Japan, where Smith is a local celebrity. In May 1998, he won endless column inches and credit for introducing a new retail experience in his shop-in-a-house on Notting Hill's Kensington Park Road. And, although his company's annual turnover is over £100 million, it still manages to retain Smith's personal touch: a true man of the people, he advises and pilots each division himself, as well as finding time to oversee the running of the shops.
Smith was made a CBE in 1994 for services to the fashion industry and won a Queen's Award for Export the following year. To celebrate his 25th anniversary in fashion, London's Design Museum dedicated an exhibition to him, entitled Paul Smith True Brit. He was named Designer of the Year for four years running by the readers of GQ. On 24 November 2000, he was granted the ultimate honour, a knighthood and his wife's hand in marriage.