Style | The Aesthete

Paul Smith talks personal style: Part Two

The design icon rounds off his repertoire of tasteful revelations.

April 07 2010
Maria Shollenbarger

My style icon is my wife, Pauline. We met when I was 21; I was a shop assistant, she was a fashion teacher at the art school in my home town of Nottingham. She lived in London and worked two days a week at the school. We met, fell in love, started life together. She encouraged me to start my own shop, and she taught me everything I know about design.

In my fridge you’ll always find very little, by design, as we buy fresh food daily.

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Matisse. His use of colour, his graphic shapes and also the way he put them together so easily are inspiring, and have influenced my collections.

The people I rely on for grooming and style are few – to tell the truth, I don’t do much. I try to keep fit by swimming every day, and have for years. And my friend Peter Smith has been cutting my hair for as long as I can remember.

The last music I bought was Charlotte Gainsbourg’s new album, IRM. It’s just a really good record, produced by Beck, who is by chance a very nice customer of ours. I’m a fan of Charlotte in every way; I like her music, I like her look. And I like her mum.

My favourite room is my studio. It is my room, in every sense. It is very light and I am surrounded by all my stuff. Art, magazines, piles and piles of books, objects, toys, photos, gadgets… I get sent a lot of things, too, so the piles are continuously growing.

The best souvenir I’ve brought home is a snow globe from San Francisco. That’s the best kitsch one, anyway. And the most beautiful one is a really old fabric swatch book, containing various indigo-dyed pieces of fabric, from Japan.

The thing I’m eyeing next is a new book by Patti Smith called Just Kids, published by Bloomsbury. It’s an account, an autobiography I guess, of her life with Robert Mapplethorpe. I actually already own it but am still eyeing it because I haven’t had a chance to so much as open it – the day job’s been a bit busy.

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is LA, New York, San Francisco, Paris, Milan... I’ve travelled a lot this year. But I particularly like Tokyo, which is just so full of energy and product and stuff. One of my favourite shops in the entire world is Tokyu Hands, which sells… you name it, it sells it. You can find nuts and bolts, literally, or a backpack or a bicycle or a tent, and so it goes on. I can’t remember how many floors there are, but there are many. 12-18 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan (+813-5489 5111;

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Borough Market for food, Old Spitalfields Market on a Thursday… I’d actually want to amalgamate bits of markets around the world – whether in Marseilles or Venice, Lucca or Pietrasanta, or New York or Tokyo. I’m a bit of a walking encyclopedia of the world’s fleas – I know the days they’re on and the days they’re off, when to go for what stall. And best of all, markets, like me, start early. Borough Market, 8 Southwark Street, London SE1 (020-7407 1002; Old Spitalfields Market, 16 Horner Square, London E1 (020-7375 2963;

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be a professional racing cyclist; this was my dream when I was younger, which was shattered by a bad accident. But to be honest I don’t think that I would have succeeded; I was not brave enough or strong enough. So the thing that I probably would be is a photographer, as my father was a prolific amateur who had a great influence on me. I’ve been taking photographs since the age of 11.

See also

People, Interview