Style | Diary of a Somebody

Paul Smith

The designer plumps for his home town

Paul Smith

November 05 2010
Paul Smith

Day: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

I really missed my swim today, having woken up in the English countryside with no pool nearby. It was a really windy night in the old part of the house where I was sleeping. I made the most of the nice fresh air when I got up and had a quick walk before breakfast.

The greatest thing about staying in countryside has to be cooked breakfasts. Delicious bacon and egg which I haven’t had for a long time, especially since I just came back from Japan where one has pickled vegetables and Miso soup for breakfast, so quite different.

First stop today was Nottingham Trent University. I have had a connection with the university for many years, with it starting out as Nottingham Art College and now with many thousands of students it is a huge, modern, amazing facility, covering lots of subjects including fashion, textiles, architecture and product design, to name a few. I was invited to have a good look around, as the final refurbishment was recently completed. I was a bit thrown by being greeted by a film crew and photographer who proceeded to track my every move! But they were very nice, so no problem.

I’ve set up the Paul Smith Bursary exchange programme with the university which allows students from England to go to Japan for several months, and for Japanese students to come to England. I met two of the Japanese students, who are really excited by the university and its facilities. And when I was last in Japan, I met the English students, who felt the same about their visit there; so, all in all a great experience for everyone.

With only a 20-minute gap between leaving there and my next appointment, a quick drive and I made it on time, visiting the Nottingham City Hospital to launch the building of a Maggie’s Centre which I am designing the interior of. The building itself is designed by Piers Gough of CZWG Architects. Maggie’s Centres are houses which are built in hospital grounds around the country and are for patients with cancer to go to during or after treatment where they can relax and be out of the hospital environment and also obtain some privacy, as the house has a communal kitchen, a small library and relaxing areas as well as private treatment rooms, IT facilities... all manned by trained and helpful staff.

I was offered the option of scissors and cutting a ribbon, or possibly planting a small tree to launch the start of the project; but I chose a digger, which they managed to supply. It seemed like it would be a great combination of fun and publicity photo op, to draw attention to Maggie’s as we are always looking for donors for this worthwhile and fantastic project.

I then nipped over to my Nottingham HQ, which houses my five big warehouses for distribution, accounts, production – massive with lots of different departments. The newest and biggest building was opened in 2009 and is 165,000 sq ft. Every time I stand in it, I’m still so amazed how big it is, and can’t quite believe that it is actually anything to do with me – it just seems too massive! My first shop was in Nottingham and was 12ft square, open only on Fridays and Saturdays – and had no windows. I still have a shop two doors away from the original location, as well as a beautiful shop in a house, called Willoughby house. It’s really special; an old townhouse built in 1735, with a 120ft-long garden right in the middle of the city. I’m pleased to say one of my friends, Jamie Oliver, is shortly to open one of his Jamie’s Italian restaurants right next door.

After an hour-long chat with my managing director about various things, I hopped back in the car and drove to the station to return to London. I was hoping to go to a really nice gallery called Elms Lesters to see a book launch and exhibition by Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, but unfortunately didn’t make it. I will try to go another day, but meanwhile I did manage to get a signed book. Paul Elms at Elms Lesters is a good mate, and I’ve bought quite a lot of things from him over the years. His gallery mostly specialises in great graffiti art – and I’ve bought some great work by Brooklyn-based artist Phil Frost, who has established himself as a very important artist. Have a look: www.elmslesters.co.uk – and have a great weekend.

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