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Five Questions for Doyen of Fashion Design, Paul Smith

That's Beijing: What can we expect to see in the Paul Smith shop in Beijing?


Paul Smith: The collection for both men and women uses very washed out, faded colors, such as pale lemons, pinks, blues and creams. A lot of the clothes have more of a vintage appearance, rather than really crisp and perfect. The collection is based on visiting your great aunt's house in the countryside and sneaking up into the attic and finding lovely old underwear and antique lace and maybe your grandfather's old linen suit.


I use the expression "think global, act local," and that's what we try to do when we open a new shop. At the moment, the chance for me to break into the Chinese market is really with embroidery, print and color: something that's eye-catching and distinctive.



tbj: What was your motivation behind opening stores in China?


PS: We're not a big, financially motivated company. It's still privately owned, so we don't have this really aggressive expansion program. The idea in China is just to get in while there are spaces available in the shopping malls and to establish a name with people, so they become familiar with Paul Smith. It's just a massive learning curve.


tbj: What are your impressions of China?


PS: I'm fascinated by it as a country. It's like when I went to Berlin the year after the wall came down. There was this release of energy and release of repression and I think you get that feeling here. There's much going on with the Olympics coming. I just hope they don't lose their heritage and lose sight of their good bits.


tbj: Counterfeiting is big business here in China. How much of a problem is it for you?


PS: Providing they don't have a bigger business than yours then I suppose it is okay. In certain things, like in fragrance, it's quite a problem. But I don't think we notice it so much because most of the fakes are of very identifiable, famous products or logo products. We don't really use a logo so, touch wood, we don't have too much of a problem.


tbj: Do you have less creative input now that you are CEO of Paul Smith?


PS: A little bit less but I still kick off every collection, so it all comes from my head. But whereas before I would have seen it all the way through, now I have two senior designers to help me. When I'm in England, I am absolutely involved in the design process. It's just I'm spinning a lot more plates these days. But you can be creative in business as well. Creativity is not just about designing. It can be the way you approach a new project.


(That's Beijing May 16, 2006)

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