Great British Icons: Paul Smith

Posted on by Abbie Coombes

' expensive shoes, a new pair that you can't afford to lose, the sparkle of the grime, dirt, muck (all of which made this city what it is)...' This extract from a piece composed by James Massiah, was played before the tie dye of Alex Mullins, the bold prints of Edward Crutchley and the work of many other of the very best British designers, graced the catwalk of Men's Fashion Week on 6th-8th January. This year, the focus has been on the sense of inquisitiveness that London's menswear so often conjures, as well as the notion of discovery. One of the very best British brands that springs to mind when speaking of inquisitiveness is Paul Smith.

Since 1970, Paul Smith has produced designs that are bold in style and playful in detailing. Each though, have a profound sense of Britishness underpinning them and in particular, completely embody our nation's wit and dry sense of humour. Although initially having a focus on menswear, in 1990 Paul Smith introduced a children's collection and then a women's collection soon followed in 1993. For a preview of the vast array of products that the brand has to offer, browse our site.

Smith has not only become a highly regarded fashion designer in Great Britain, but his unique creative spirit has allowed him to gain international recognition, and he has over 200 shops worldwide. This however, does not see him lose sight of what he originally sought to achieve- simple designs, that ultimately, celebrate all things British. There is much to suggest that Paul Smith is a craftsman in his own right. During his teen years, he pursued tailoring classes to obtain cloth cutting skills, whilst more recently, an article in The Independent noted how Smith resented the decline of traditional craftsmanship in Britain's fashion industry.

Paul Smith has made it explicit that much of the inspiration for his designs is taken from his surroundings; that which sparks his interest and passion. Paul once remarked that 'creativity is Great Britain' and it is therefore unsurprising that he has collaborated with some of the most renowned British music icons, two of our nation's most beloved vehicles and even, one of our favourite condiments to make his very own stripe shaped stamp on each. His most recent collaboration has been with the band, R.E.M. , in which a collection of shirts, t-shirts and accessories were designed to commemorate the 25th anniversary of their highly successful album, Automatic for the People


I think what is clear, is that although Paul Smith may utilise idiosyncratic patterns in his designs, it cannot be denied that a quintessentially British tone underpins each of them. It is this juxtaposition of Smith's desire to create products that showcase high quality craftmanship and his cutting edge designs, that really distinguishes this brand. 

Smith's signature stripes should not be seen to be the only thing we associate with his name. For instance, in 1995 he was awarded The Queen's Award for Industry for export achievement, whilst in 2000 he was knighted. With these accolades, it is clear to see why he has been regarded as Britain's foremost designer.

Written by Abbie Coombes