Expanding from his initial menswear offering in 1970s Nottingham, today Paul Smith encompasses creativity, innovation and passion across additional categories such as womenswear, lifestyle, interiors and childrenswear, as well as unusual collaborations, all of which have been the subject of a retrospective exhibition that has toured the globe.
This comprehensive approach to design, combined with an astute ability to marry this with retail, lies at the heart of the brand experience. According to David Miller, branding expert and consultant, “Paul Smith has achieved its iconic status by doing the basics right. It's something all brands desire but so few brands actually achieve: creatively designed, quality products that enhance people’s lives,” he explains. “Simply put, people enjoy wearing Paul Smith.”
With extensive global experience on world-leading brands including Nike and Coca-Cola, Miller is no stranger to cultivating brand excellence and strategy. He goes on to add: “Nowadays, every marketer talks about the desire to have a consistent 360-degree consumer experience: At every touchpoint Paul Smith is consistent. From the in-store experience — the look, display, the feel and the service — to the digital, it's overwhelmingly rewarding. In fact, you really have to ask yourself, how many brands could honestly say that about themselves?”
At luxury department store Harvey Nichols, menswear buyer Danielle Grantham has been working with the brand for 10 years and will soon launch a pop-up with Paul Smith in the Knightsbridge location, showcasing all brand lines in the lead up to Christmas. Grantham says that while the industry has changed, the Paul Smith approach hasn’t.
“Whilst the labels may have reduced and combined, the attitude and attention to detail remain unique and refreshing. Visiting the showroom every season is particularly exciting as it’s the first look into what has been curated, and the inspirations and themes identifiable for the season.”
When asked how the brand responds to changes in the fashion industry, Grantham offers thoughtfully: “Whilst we are all aware online sales are taking over, I appreciate the brand’s respect for the retail experience. Ultimately the customer and the service is the most important – I hear Sir Paul still visits his Mayfair store every weekend...I can’t say I know of many other designers taking the time to learn directly from their customers like this.”
Paul Smith’s signature stripes have long become a trademark, but what endures to this day is the founders’ commitment to all aspects of the business. “You get the feeling that despite the number of stores around the world, and the range of products, Paul himself has had personal input into every single aspect,” Miller says, adding, “as you so often see at the most successful companies in the world, the product and the voice of the brand, mirror the personality of the founder.”
Grantham agrees, citing the designer’s ongoing personal touch for the success of the brand. “I think this has a lot to do with how much Sir Paul is involved,” she says. “He is so hands-on and as a result there is a handwriting throughout every collection which makes his products so identifiable. This distinctive flair is prevalent across not only the clothing, but the stores, approach to retail, and people. It makes it easy to become a Smithy fan, and everyone is invited.”