- Words by Mr Peter Henderson, Senior Fashion Writer, MR PORTER
In our new feature, Style Notes, we catch up with the designers whose collections we stock on MR PORTER, and ask them to share some of the things that inspire their life and work. This week, the legendary British designer Sir Paul Smith talks photography, architecture and Mr David Bowie.
Sir Paul Smith's name is known around the world for his highly renowned, quintessentially British fashion and design, but it might not have turned out that way. As a young man Sir Paul was a serious cyclist who aspired to race professionally, until a bad accident ended that idea. While he was recuperating, the designer fell in with the local art school set, and the rest, as they say, is history. Starting from the single shop he opened in his native Nottingham, UK, in 1970, Sir Paul has built a global style empire with an annual turnover of £330m, of which his menswear collections are integral. Sir Paul's approach of updating classic men's clothes with contemporary cuts (Sir Paul is a trained tailor himself) and mischievous details, such as jauntily patterned linings on otherwise formal suit jackets, has not only revolutionised modern menswear but also spawned countless imitators.
Worn by rock stars and members of the establishment alike ("We make suits for the head of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, and we make suits for Paul Weller. How diverse do you want it?" the designer says), Paul Smith menswear is characterised by well-considered details and proportions, high-quality fabrics and production, and innovative design with a sense of humour. Sir Paul himself remains heavily involved in every aspect of his company, where he is both chairman and head designer. In his central London studio, hundreds if not thousands of art and photography books jostle for space with antique and design objects, original artworks and prints, and sometimes the odd bicycle or two, all evidence of the designer's broad and varied cultural interests. When Sir Paul is invited to guest lecture at art and design institutes worldwide (which is rather frequently these days), the message he likes to drive home to the students is that you can find inspiration anywhere - indeed, he has even written book entitled You Can Find Inspiration in Everything* (*And If You Can't, Look Again). You can find out what is inspiring Sir Paul right now by clicking through the slides, above.