Style | The Aesthete

Paul Smith talks personal style

Paul Smith’s first shop opened in 1970 in Nottingham. His clothes, accessories and homeware are now sold in 74 countries.

April 05 2010
Maria Shollenbarger

My personal style signifier is a simple, classic suit. I tend to wear a suit every day, but in my own, atypical way – with a denim shirt, or trainers.

The last meal that truly impressed me was at The River Café, which I love. I often have the pork followed by the homemade caramel ice cream. Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, London W6 (020-7386 4200; www.rivercafe.co.uk).

My favourite websites are very few. I did recently see the online shop of Industrial Facility, by Sam Hecht and Kim Colin, which is really great. But to tell the truth I don’t look at websites much. Honestly, I don’t e-mail, we don’t have an answering machine. I’m probably the only person who has lectured at Apple who never uses a computer. www.industrialfacility.co.uk.

An indulgence I’d never forego is collecting things. Paintings, drawings, objects, kitsch – anything beautiful or special.

An object I would never part with is this exquisite little train my wife, Pauline, had designed and made for me – by hand, entirely of gold with black-diamond coal, at JAR in Paris – for an “important” birthday. I’m the most difficult person in the world to buy for, so it’s very special to me. By appointment only, 7 Place Vendôme, Paris 75001, France (+331-4296 3366).

The place that inspires me is Sir John Soane’s Museum, which I discovered in the 1970s. He was an architect and the museum was his house. It’s crammed with the crazy curios he collected on his travels. 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2 (020-7405 2107; www.soane.org).

The grooming staples I’m never without are Almond Shaving Cream by DR Harris (£8.95 for 75g) and Aromatherapy Associates Revive Morning Bath & Shower Oil (£34.75 for 55ml). www.aromatherapyassociates.com. DR Harris & Co, 29 St James’s Street, London SW1 (020-7930 3915; www.drharris.co.uk).

The last item I added to my wardrobe was this pair of Grand shoes from my autumn/winter 2010 collection, which I stole from my own fashion show! They’ve got moulded rubber soles and they’re in a dark purplish-black leather. I like the fact that they mix in a sort of clumsy way with a slim, elegant suit. £230, Paul Smith, 40-44 Floral Street, London WC2 (020-7379 7133; www.paulsmith.co.uk) and branches.

The best gift I’ve given recently was a pair of bespoke earrings, to my wife, made by her granddaughter Lauren Adriana. They’re substantial – big quartz cabochons and another blue stone, with little ribbons of gold studded with tiny rubies running across them. Really gorgeous. Lauren Adriana, 020-7727 9229; www.laurenadriana.com and stockists.

And the best one I’ve received was probably an extravagant mirrored box filled with chocolates, from the King of Malaysia. We also have one avid fan who has been sending extraordinary gifts for 15 or 20 years – the most bonkers things, like a bicycle saddle or a traffic cone. There was a ski – just one – and a pair of huge Incredible Hulk hands. When these things arrive, Richard, the guy on our front desk, is unfazed. He just buzzes and says, “Rubber chicken here for Paul,” or whatever it is. I’ve never ascertained the identity of this person, but he or she must be infamous in the postal community.

The books on my bedside table are Oscar Niemeyer: Curves of Irreverence by Styliane Philippou. And Olivia de Oliveira’s book on the Brazilian architect, Lina Bo Bardi. I have the concentration span of an ant, so pictures are better than words.

A recent “find” is a little cycling workshop in Milan on the exterior wall of the velodrome, called Masi; it’s been there since 1949, and the owner restores the bikes of all the old 1960s cycling icons. That was a joyous visit. 19 Via Arona, 20149 Milan, Italy (+3902-3310 1647).

If I didn’t live in London, the cities I would live in are Paris, Rome; third is New York, which is great at the right time of year. I’d need the year reconfigured to two-month increments. But I love London – I could never live anywhere else.

See also

Interview, People