Paul Smith’s perfect weekend in London

The British designer is renowned for his classic-with-a-twist tailoring and adventurous use of colour and pattern. His latest collection features tartans, Liberty prints and Fair Isle knitwear

Paul Smith at the Design Museum
Paul Smith at the Design Museum | Image: Rick Pushinsky

“I swim every morning and have done since the early 1990s when someone I met at a dinner party advised me that swimming would help my bad back. I joined the Lansdowne Club and then the RAC Club, and on Saturday my wife Pauline and I go for a swim at the RAC around 8am. Afterwards we go upstairs for a croissant and a coffee, and then we spend a couple of hours there just reading the newspapers. I never used to sit still, ever, and then Pauline suggested that we do this at the weekend – and it’s been really good for me.

After a jam-packed week when I’m always on a plane or a train, I like my weekends to be relatively calm – it’s mostly just the two of us and we always do something related to the arts. After the RAC we might go to see a new exhibition at the Royal Academy or the Courtauld, which is such a charming building. We also love going to the National Gallery for the classics – Titians, Caravaggios – even if we’ve seen them 20 times before. Or we’ll go to the Design Museum – we’re delighted it has moved to west London, near our home. I remember it when it was the Commonwealth Institute and seeing the most amazing things as a boy. The building itself is extraordinary.

If we go out for lunch it’s to the River Café. We’ve been going since it first started with two gas stoves and garden furniture – it’s got quite smart now, though. Pauline always has the stinco – a slow-roasted veal shin – and I have the beef, which is just the most amazing quality. We might have the squid to start but always without the chilli. It even used to be written on the wall there: “No chilli for Paul and Pauline.”

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After lunch I sneak off to my shop in Albemarle Street. I really enjoy just being there for a couple of hours, meeting customers. People like it very much, but it’s actually a real treat for me. In the evening, we’ll eat at home – we get a roasted chicken pie from Clarke’s, where the food is so good. I normally call on a Saturday morning, and before I have even said it they know what I am going to order.

On Sunday morning I drop Pauline off at the Brompton Oratory and then I’ll have my swim. Afterwards we often go to Chiswick House, a beautiful neo-Palladian villa. When you are a clothes designer that whole thing of perfect proportions is always interesting – the pockets, the shoulders – and when you look at Palladian buildings the proportions are just perfect, really gorgeous. We walk around the William Kent gardens, with its beautiful vistas and statues. I love all that. I am not a gardener, I just “dust”, but I’ve got to know a lot of gardeners over the years. 

We’ll grab a sandwich in the café there – it’s a very simple building by Caruso St John and it fits into the gardens beautifully. I have a cheese sandwich on white bread – it’s like being on a school trip. Alternatively we’ll go to the Chelsea Physic Garden, with its incredible micro climate, or to Holland Park. I love the Kyoto Garden and seeing the peacocks, squirrels and rabbits. It’s a long story, but the rabbit has become a bit of a mascot for me and now people send me toy, wooden and china rabbits from around the world. They’re all over my studio. 

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In the evening Pauline might watch some telly or something she has recorded – we still record things on an ancient video machine – and I will sit on a sofa close by and write notes for the week ahead. I wear lots of hats at work, as a designer but also someone running a business, so my mind is constantly full of thoughts.”

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