A Brief History of Paul Smith: Covent Garden’s Most Famous Designer

Items from Paul Smiths spring/summer 2010 collection adorn a tabletop
Items from Paul Smith's spring/summer 2010 collection adorn a tabletop | © Jonathan Player/REX/Shutterstock

Paul Smith launched his Nottingham-based menswear label in 1976 and carved a name for himself as a tailoring specialist with an eye for quirky detail. Here is all you need to know about the designer, his history and how his work has stayed relevant in a world of changing trends.

Sir Paul Smith stands in his office in Covent Garden, London

When Paul Smith opened his first boutique, Paul Smith Vêtement Pour Homme, in Nottingham in 1970, it was the only menswear destination outside of London to house contemporary fashion labels like Kenzo and Margaret Howell. Thriving off the success of his store and its unique position in the market, he added his own tailoring designs into the product mix. In 1976, he showed his first official collection at Men’s Fashion Week in Paris and established himself as a globally recognised designer.

His suiting is modern in silhouette, impeccably cut and often detailed with a splash of colour or his signature rainbow-stripe logo. Easy to wear with a charismatic edge, it appeals to the fashion-savvy consumer and stands out against more classic designs.

Paul Smith Shop signs line Floral Street in Covent Garden, London

Smith specialised in menswear until 1993 when he added women’s collections to his repertoire. In 1994, he received a CBE for his services to the British fashion industry, and in 2000, he became the first UK fashion designer to receive a knighthood.

A Paul Smith preview takes place at his offices in Covent Garden, London

His portfolio continues to thrive, and while tailoring remains at the core of the business, Smith has turned his hand to less formal clothing designs, too. In 2002, he worked with the FA Cup and Umbro on a range of accessories for the England football team, putting a spotlight on his own-label accessories and positioning himself in the nation’s eyeline. Past collaborations include Liberty London, Oakley sunglasses, Cappellini furniture and Mercian Cycles.

It’s additional projects like these that keep Smith’s fanbase growing, with his product mix now spanning childrenswear and travel accessories, too.

Paul Smith holds a preview at his offices in Covent Garden, London
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