Top British Designer Sir Paul Smith Shares His Wit and Wisdom

Paul Smith's introduction to fashion was completely accidental. At the age of 18, with no qualifications or career plans, he was propelled by his father into a gofer's job at a local clothing warehouse, where his interest in clothing and fashion developed. Two years later, he was managing his first boutique in his native Nottingham; he opened a very small shop with his savings in 1970 - at the time, the only one outside London to stock designers like Kenzo and Margaret Howell. At the same time, Paul was also designing his own line of clothes: he'd been to evening classes and, with the help of his girlfriend Pauline Denyer, an RCA graduate in fashion, he was able to create more of what he wanted. In 1976 he showed his first collection in Paris under the Paul Smith label.

Paul Smith now has shops in London, York, Manchester, New York, Paris, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Manila, his original shop in Nottingham, and over 200 shops in Japan. Paul Smith Limited remains self-financed. The annual worldwide turnover of the wholesale, retail and licensed business is €350 million. Paul, who was knighted two years ago, is the chairman and also the designer of the clothes - a unique position in the fashion industry - which ensures that he is continually involved in every aspect of the business.

THE FIRST RULE OF DESIGN IS...to know what your aim is.

WHEN I STARTED...I was completely naive and learned through experience

A GOOD IDEA...often comes spontaneously.

There's a fine line...between bad taste and good taste.

I STILL DON'T KNOW...where my ideas come from.

THE SECRET OF...success is keeping your feet on the ground.

ALWAYS FINISH OFF...a collection when it feels right - never overwork a design or idea.

YOU SHOULD NEVER...assume.

IF YOU CAN'T FIND INSPIRATION...then you are not looking properly.

ACCOUNTANTS SHOULD BE...trained to see both sides of the picture; finance and creativity.

THE MOTHER OF INVENTION IS...the brain

MY FAVOURITE CAR...is my 1956 Bristol.

I'VE NEVER BELIEVED...in my press and publicity because you always have tomorrow.

THE ESSENCE OF ENGLISH STYLE IS...craftsmanship, tradition and a sense of humour.

THE SECRET OF GOOD MANAGEMENT...is allowing staff you trust to be themselves.

RELAXING IS ESSENTIAL...but it doesn't happen very often.

A MAN...can often be chauvinistic but please don't be.

RIDING A BICYCLE...helps you relax.

LIVE...life to the full as it is so short.

THE JAPANESE...are hard to understand, but once you do the world is your oyster.

CLASSIC WITH A TWIST...helps pay my wages.

THE FILOFAX...was a brilliant invention.

I KNEW I'D BECOME A GROWN-UP WHEN...this question is nonsense - I am not grown up at all!

Enquiries: +44 (0) 20 7379 7133; www.paulsmith.co.uk

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