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In the world of British designer Paul Smith, art and fashion collide, usually to a pounding soundtrack. Smith's background in the small city of Nottingham has always informed his buttoned-up fashion sense. However, his love for modern art, pop art and loud guitars infused his styles with humor and brilliant pops of color. This marriage of opposites has proven a winning combination.
From Tragedy to Triumph
Paul Smith was not born wanting to design. He dreamed of bicycle racing. The dream turned into a nightmare when a cycling accident waylaid the 17-year-old Smith at the hospital for six months. He made friends while recuperating and, during a meet-up at a local pub, hung out with art students. Arguing about Andy Warhol and Piet Mondrian while the jukebox cranked out Rolling Stones sparked a love of pop culture in Smith. By 1970, he opened a tiny boutique selling designs he loved as well as his own creations.
Paul Smith Style
A young upstart in the realm of traditional British menswear could suffocate from the lack of fresh ideas. While Smith admits to a love for tweeds and classically styled suits, he seeks the unique twist that modernizes them. Smith had trouble calling himself a designer at first, given that he kept the styles simple, but it is his eye for fashion that has him dying fabric in bright shades of blue and green or pairing a pinstriped suit coat with denim shorts. He finds inspiration everywhere, as in the case of retro seed packets with bright colors that had him ordering a factory to knit basic V-neck sweaters in flamboyant hues.
The Shopping Experience
Entering a Paul Smith boutique is a whole different experience than shopping at the neighborhood mall. Smith loves design and culture, and that translates to boutiques jammed with first-edition books, mod 1960s posters, Japanese action figures and flea market finds. Display windows may feature a podium topped with the latest iPad or video game rather than a mannequin wearing the designer's new styles. Even the store exteriors get into the act, such as a Los Angeles store painted Pepto Bismol pink.
More Than Fashion
It's Paul Smith's world, you just live in it. These days, the Smith brand goes far beyond his clothing collections for women, men and juniors. He has a denim brand, a line of footwear, fragrances, watches, pens and even a line of what he calls "things," essentially toys, baubles and tiny accessories. In 2002, Paul Smith joined forces with Cappellini to produce the Mondo Collection, a series of designer home furnishings inspired by global traditions.