Paul Smith: The Labor of Love
A roadmap usually contains a point A and a point B. One element serves as your origin and the other is your destination.
There were two unrelated things that contributed to Paul Smith’s road map to success, a bicycle and a clothing warehouse. Smith used his bicycle to get him to the Nottingham clothing warehouse in England where he worked as an errand boy. Although he already had a job in the clothing industry, Smith had his mind set on becoming a racing cyclist. But a serious accident that left him hospitalized for six months put an end to this dream and shed light on a new endeavor.
Sometimes you have to go through a storm to receive a blessing. It may seem like the rain will last forever, the strength of the wind may knock you off balance and the loudness of thunder may startle you, but if you don’t continue to participate in the battle you will never witness its after affects.During Smith’s hospital stay he made new friends and was introduced to the world of art and fashion. After his release from the hospital Smith began to make the most of his job at the clothing warehouse by creating displays for the showroom and taking tailoring classes to learn new skills in the fashion industry, according to an article in Vogue UK. Eventually, he became the menswear buyer for the company. This was the beginning of his fashion career, now he is considered to be a global fashion icon. It’s important to note that Smith took the non-traditional route to success. He left school at age 16 and he has never borrowed money from a bank to maintain his business.. And even as a wealthy Fashion Designer with a stellar reputation all over the world, he still focuses on keeping his head above water and resisting mediocrity.
“I completely understand but I loathe the concept of the corporate role…it just means that the world is becoming so boring and so similar…,” Smith explains in a Bloomberg TV interview. He recalls traveling to Milan, Florence and Paris and seeing the same set-up in store windows. He describes this experience as a “shame.”
Smith’s very first shop was opened in 1970, it was only 12 square feet and it didn’t contain any windows. He opened the shop with the support of his wife. And of course, Smith ran into a few problems, he knew getting people to come into the shop would be challenging so he lured them in with things that he collected from around the world.
“There’s not much to see. Why would anyone come?” So I’d always have a poster from the Pompidou Centre to sell, or three school notebooks from a trip to Greece,” Smith told theTelegraph in 2008.
The Nottingham native started off in the industry by designing menswear. He also creates accessories, perfume, clothing for babies, children and women. Paul Smith is the “go to guy” for British Fashion. His designs are very distinct, sophisticated, “simple cut and [they are] well-made.”
The designer explains that even when it comes to the setup of his boutiques “it was never a conscious thing it was always the love of life [that’s why I did them],” he said. Also known as Sir Paul, the Chairman and Designer describes himself as being old-fashioned. Even with a $325 million turnover rate he still has a hand in the operations of his business. From talking to customers to picking out fabrics. Today, he has 15 shops and concessions in the UK and 200 shops worldwide.
Award-winning is another title that has been added to Smith’s long list of accomplishments. He was selected to receive the Honorary Freedom of the City (Nottingham) award in 1996. A London-based design museum highlighted his work by displaying an exhibit titled “True Brit,” it chronicles about 25 years of Smith’s work in the fashion business. In addition, he has contributed to Vogue as a guest blogger and even published a book. Smith held the titles of “Menswear Designer of the Year,” for the British Style Awards and he has been chosen as the “Designer of the Year,” for four years when it comes to the GQ Men of the Year awards. Through it all, Smith stays humble and seems to be disgusted by the constant chase of wealth which many people are infatuated with.
“The obsessive pursuit of status, wealth and power has done much to drag ambition’s reputation into the mud,” Smith asserted to VOGUE.COM in 2010.”And nowhere has this been truer than in the banking industry, where ambition has curdled into greed,” he goes on to say “My top tip is to take it slow. Life is a joy. You don’t have to be rich and famous straight away. Take it easy, grow gently and you’ll have a lovely life.”