We interview Sir Paul Smith

Style

Last week we interviewed British fashion designer Sir Paul Smith following his fascinating talk at the Union.

Q) What have been the highs and lows of your career to date?

No lows, only highs.  I’ve never really had any lows because I’ve never pushed myself to do things that are risky, I’ve always done things that I’ve been comfortable with.

Q) Can you describe a normal working day for you?

Yes, long.  I swim at 5, get to work at 6.  My day is incredibly varied.  Obviously it involves working on all my collections, so I’ll often sit down with my team of designers and we’ll talk about the mood, the silhouette and the shape of a collection, then I’ll look at how a collection is progressing from an idea to an actual sample.  Sometimes I’ll do press interviews, look at shop designs, do some business stuff.  It starts at 6 and finishes at 6.  I never do any business lunches or dinners ever, I don’t court the press at all.  I just get my nose to the ground and get on with it.

Q) With the introduction of London Menswear collections do you see London as a new capital for menswear?

They have been trying to get me involved but purely for practical reasons, it would be ridiculous for me to move; I’ve got 119 staff in Paris, a huge showroom and I’ve been showing there since 1977.  I do try to be involved but I can’t move the whole thing.  Last time, I hosted a dinner with Tinie Tempah and the time before, I did a talk with Suzy Mankes from the International Herald Tribune.  I respect what they are trying to do, but it’s a tough one, hopefully it will work out for them.

Q) Do you think it’s very different for new designers starting out today than when you started?

I think I could still do it today, but it is very different.  You are constantly bombarded with information, everyone knows what everyone else is doing, fashion shows are streamed live – it’s definitely harder to break into it now.  If you can work out what your unique point of view is then you’ve got it, you just need to get that ‘squirt of lemon’.

Q) What has been your favourite collaboration that you have worked on?

I like doing collaborations which are right, not ones which are easy.  I’ve done Leica cameras, John Lobb shoes, snowboards, bicycles, always very spontaneous ones.  If it feels right I’ll do it, if it doesn’t, I won’t go near it.  My favourite is probably Leica cameras because they’re old and established, they’re beautiful – that was a real privilege.

Q) Who would you most like to dress?

I’m not bothered about that, I just like people.  I’m not seduced by fame.  I know loads of famous people, they’re good but so are the 22 9 year olds who came to see me on Monday from the local school.  If you do it my way you’re selling clothes because people like your clothes not because you had a famous person on your front row that you paid $100,000 to sit there.  I mean that’s nonsense, it’s such a false world.

Q) Do you think there is an iconic image for our time now?

I think it’s a lot tougher these days.  Even with Music and Art, people still refer back to the 60s and 70s, to Jazz, to the ‘Blue Period’ or ‘Impressionism’.  It’s so difficult to imagine that you could start from a blank sheet of paper now.  All I can stress is to think laterally, do that and get a point of view, that’s what is really important – one that can work, one that stands out.

Q) What do you hope your lasting impression on fashion will be?

He was a nice bloke!