May. 17th, 2011

Paul Smith: Most Successful British Fashion Designer

Within the last couple of years GQís multi-winning designer-of-the-year Paul Smith has opened shops in Los Angeles and San Francisco, hoping to finally crack that American market. Each of these buildings reflects an architectural through-line back to Paul Smith himself: colorful, drawing influences from sport, history, art, pop-culture or modern architecture. Paul Smith the brand continues to open stand-alone shops throughout the world, including this past month with a new 3-story flagship in Seoul, South Korea, featuring Paul Smithís personal art collection on its walls.

British designer Paul Smith is not a household name in America; not yet. Where the French have always had a reputation for womenís fashion, it is the Brits, well, Londonís Savile Row specifically, that has the well-earned reputation for turning out men in bespoke suits, fitting the countryís elite and sophisticated and, yes, the wealthy in clothes that definitely make the man.

But, truth be told, these companies churning out high-end menís fashion havenít been ďBritishĒ in the strictest sense for decades; they can be, and are often, owned by multinational corporations headquartered in France, Italy or Japan. The designers, and their sense of style, most assuredly rock a British idiom that push past typical Savile Row boundaries, leaving the shores of England as fast as any Virgin airlines jet can whisk them away.

The globalization of British menís and womenís fashion is certainly alive and well from Asia through to America, with the likes of British (and award-winning) designers like Christopher Bailey (Burberry), John Galliano (Dior), and recently departed Alexander McQueen influencing the way men and woman are dressing.

Bringing us back to the iconic British designer Paul Smith, who is arguably the most successful designer in British history. Knighted by the Queen in 2000, Paul Smithís fashion strengths have always played to a manís sensibility: well-made clothing with just a touch of unique style as seen in his signature multicolored stripes. Sir Paulís fashion house, still independently owned, supposedly has revenues now past $600 million from 48 different countries, including 12 different menís and womenís lines, licensing and limited edition deals with Evian water, cameras, Cross pens, Barneys New York, luggage, furniture, skis, and the list and revenues go on (and on).

In his book Paul Smith: you can find inspiration in everything (2003), Sir Paul says that we should seek to be childlike, not childish; and that the key to staying inspired is to see and to think about the world horizontally, where we can find inspiration from all of the things around us (not other designers). As Paul Smith expansion continues around the globe, his personal inspiration is sure to follow.
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