PAUL SMITH /BY/ BEHIND THE BLINDS
EXCLUSIVE ITW by REMY RUSSOTTO & FASHION STORY by MARTINE FOUGERON
Buffon said “style is the man itself”. Sir Paul Smith is the man. His impeccable touch dresses women and men with elegance and determination.
How tall are you?
Tokyo has the most Michelin stars restaurants in the world and the most Paul Smith boutiques. Any Japanese artist you recently discovered and admire?
There’s a very talented young Japanese photographer called Naoki Honjo. Having met him several times and worked with him before, I know that he's very shy but also incredibly creative. He uses large format cameras and he often photographs from above, sometimes involving him hanging out of helicopters! We did an exhibition with him in my 'Space' shop in Tokyo and also in my shop on Albemarle Street in Mayfair, he came to London and we organised a helicopter for him and he shot some fantastic street scenes. He's figured out a way of getting this amazing depth of field so everything looks miniature. It's a real unique way of working which is very exciting to see in today's photographic world which is often so homogenized.
What are you wearing now?
I wear a suit more or less every day, today I’m wearing a Paul Smith ‘Suit To Travel In’ with a vintage chambray shirt and a pair of original Adidas Stan Smiths.
You work reminds me of late Matisse, in its striking simplicity and naïve rawness. Is there something you would like to say about Matisse?
That’s very flattering! I’m a big fan of Matisse. An exhibition of his cut-outs was on show at Tate Modern recently, it was fantastic! I guess something I should say about him is that his famous picture ‘The Snail’ is exactly them same size as my first ever shop, three metres by three metres!
What is your favourite children’s book?
I always find it very difficult choosing favourites but I have been reading a lot of Winne-the-Pooh lately!
Your pieces are often humorous. Would you agree? Are fashion designers too serious?
It's all about getting the balance right – making sure that you keep an eye on the commercial aspects but also not take things too seriously. Since it all began I was determined to never let the job change me. I'm blessed with a sense of humour and the ability to keep my feet on the ground, but I'm also aware of the importance of marketing, of fashion shows and having beautiful shops.
Where do you spend most of your time?
I’m constantly on the go but London will always be home.
Where will you be tomorrow?
It’s Saturday tomorrow, I’ll be in London so will probably try and stop in at an exhibition or two and maybe pay a visit to some of my shops here and see how things are going.
I read your father was a photographer. How would you define his photography? Did his photography influence your style?
He always specialised in the 'caught moment' and that's something I've picked up on. I take photos every day and if you use your eyes, every day life can be very inspiring. My ideas for designs can come from anywhere; from a bright pink giant box in LA to a dark ocean on an evening in Italy. My iPhone is packed full of photos of all sorts of different things that inspire me. I also have my own Instagram page (@paul_smith) which acts like a visual diary.
Buffon said “style is the man itself”. Do you find men in Europe well dressed?
Style is something that is very natural and is a representation of your own personality as opposed to something, which is forced. It's not something you can buy. It's very much about an attitude. Whether on a man or a woman, style can be found in the simplicity of something that we all wear a lot of; a white shirt or a navy blue suit for example, as long as you do it with confidence.
When were you last in Tokyo?
In October. I go every six months to catch-up with all my team there. This summer I’ll actually be going an extra time as my exhibition ‘Hello, My Name Is Paul Smith’ which started in London and has toured to Belgium and Scotland, is opening in Kyoto in June.
What is your favourite time of the day?
First thing in the morning. I get up very, very early. I swim about 5am and normally I’m in the office before 6am. I get into my studio, listen to some music and get to work before everyone else arrives.
David Hockey’s landscapes are wild and peaceful. Mondrian’s colour schemes are musical; they ‘boogie-woogie’ like your work. Do you have a preference between the two artists?
Both have the most amazing eyes for colour. I could never choose between them.
Do you work at night?
Night and day, my mind is constantly working!
What music did you listen to recently?
I've been listening to a lot of Jake Bugg's album, Shangri-La lately.
You had a serious cycling accident, followed by months of recovery, do you still cycle?
Absolutely! I still love to cycle, especially in the summer when I’m on holiday in Italy.
Your style reads like a detective novel, your colours and codes adding up to a collection of clues. Would you associate fashion design with story-telling?
For sure! Fashion is about today and tomorrow. You never know what’s around the corner, just like in a detective novel!
What will you do after answering these questions?