Paul Smith was born in Nottingham, England in 1946. Growing up, he wanted to become a cyclist, but an accident in his teens saw that dream crushed. His father had made him get a job at a clothing warehouse and after his accident he threw himself into it: by the age of seventeen he was doing all the buying for the warehouse.
In 1970 Smith opened a shop in a back alley in Nottingham, selling designer clothes that were not available outside London. He began to design some pieces of his own, which he had made by local manufacturers, but hesitated to call himself a “designer” because the clothes were so simple. By 1974 he had outgrown his little shop and expanded to a store in the main street. Just two years later he showed his first menswear collection in Paris, and was soon able to open a small store in London’s Covent Garden.
Paul Smith’s clothes have a very specific, eccentric “classic with a twist” aesthetic. He riffs on traditional, well-made, simple British clothing with unusual, witty prints and thoughtful details. Smith launched a women’s wear line in 1994, and was knighted in 2001. Paul Smith is still very involved with his company as both the head designer and the chairman—a rarity in such a large, multinational company.