European School of Economics’ Fashion and Luxury Goods Management students visited two of Paul Smith’s stores in Floral Street. Covent Garden and Albemarle Street, Mayfair. The quintessentially British designer founded his eponymous fashion company in 1970 in his home town in the north of the UK. He had intended to become a professional cyclist until he had a serious accident. Friends and his now wife, Pauline, encouraged him to take classes in tailoring and design. He inaugurated his small store in Covent Garden whilst it was still a flower market and a rather run down part of town. “You can find inspiration in everything”, he stated as he worked on his innovative combination of classical and avant-garde designs from a small designer studio, in the narrow little street in the heart of the market. Our students were impressed that It is the original template for Paul Smith retail globally, with reclaimed furniture and a dedicated suit room downstairs. He has brightly coloured rabbits scattered all over the store – a tribute to his wife who gives him a rabbit as a lucky charm for his various fashion shows around the world!
Paul Smith can often be seen riding his bicycle round Covent Garden, stopping off at various stores of friends of his in the area. His recent claim to fame is that he has been commissioned to make the black suits for Daniel Craig and the actors in the James Bond film, ‘Men in Black’.
At the Albemarle store, the students were very impressed, not only with the fine fashion accessories – bags and shoes, but also with the fine collection of rare furniture and artwork sourced from around the world. There is a room covered in dominos which was painstakingly built piece by piece.
Paul Smith’s reputation is founded on his designs for men’s clothing, but his business has expanded into other areas too. He designed woman’s clothes when he realised that women were buying his men’s clothes but in the smallest sizes! His philosophy is summed up in his comment, “What I adore is mixing the unexpected, things you don’t imagine should go together. …stop making sense…”
Smith was made a Royal Designer for Industry in 1991 and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000. He has expanded into over 70 countries, selling its products via standalone stores, departments in high-end stores or malls, along with airport terminals, as well as the e-commerce section of its international website. Some of his brand’s physical stores are recognised for their uniqueness and eccentricity, including the much-photographed vibrant, fluorescent pink flagship store in Los Angeles.
His attitude to fashion is best summed up when he said, “don’t dress for fashion, dress for yourself. …Fashion is about today and tomorrow”.
The students came away very inspired and determined to carry on the spirit of Sir Paul Smith!
The visit to Paul Smith is just one of the termly visits organised for students on the Fashion and Luxury Goods Management course – apply for the next 3-month session beginning September 23, at http://apply.ese.ac.uk
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