Paul Smith

Paul Smith founded his eponymous British fashion company in 1970 and has expanded the world over. What is it about this cheeky, luxe fashion designer that has everyone swooning over his creativity? The former head of Apple design, Jony Ive, tells us why he loves Smith.
Paul Smith

Essay by Jony Ive, Designer

I don’t think I can remember a time when there wasn’t the happy Paul Smith logo.

I first saw it looking up at the Floral Street shop window as a boy. Growing up vegetarian in London in the 1970s, we would go to Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden to buy large sacks of bright-orange lentils. On one of these outings I escaped into a narrow and quiet street, and found Paul Smith.

A couple of decades later Paul put a few of the first translucent iMacs in the window of his magical Floral Street shop. As the head of design at Apple, a company that had just teetered on the brink of going out of business, I was never more encouraged or affirmed. I first actually met Paul in Japan in the late 1990s, and then soon after in his studio above the original shop. His fabulous office initially appears chaotic, the workplace of a voracious hoarder, assembling the most eclectic art and objects as curios. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The thing about Paul Smith, and it’s a remarkable thing, is that he truly sees. He doesn’t choose to see within predictable categories; he ignores the constraints established by the traditional dogmas of art and design. He doesn’t just see what interests him; he sees broadly and deeply – and embraces the world with a breathtaking rigour, focus and thoughtfulness. And he finds joy and delight and promise in what he sees.

His curiosity has led him to work hard and with awe-inspiring discipline to learn more about what he has discovered. His modesty masks just how much he knows and understands about art, architecture, philosophy and design. On countless occasions he has introduced me to the work of brilliant people whom I wish I had known years earlier.

Paul Smith's stripes
Paul Smith’s Signature Stripes

His joy and enthusiasm are fantastically manifest in his use of colour. I have always loved his combination of discipline, expertise and exuberance. He celebrates colour as if it were about to be made illegal.

I am particularly aware that I am only one of so many designers and artists whom he has profoundly encouraged and supported over many years. While I am certain that he will always refuse to conform, I am equally certain that his rebellion will always be kind and generous.

I love Paul Smith.