The British designer is known for his eclectic, o en eccentric tailoring – characterised by jaunty prints, psychedelic colours and striped patterns. Smith started his career as a suitmaker in 1970, and has since extended his oeuvre to include women’s and children’s wear. He has collaborated with international brands on wide-ranging design projects for cars, carpets and interiors, and even redesigned the cover of a children’s book. In keeping with his dynamic disposition, the 70-year-old designer sent his latest collections down unisex runways
IF YOU COULD WAKE UP ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD TOMORROW, WHERE WOULD YOU BE?
Tomorrow, I’m very happy that I’ll be waking up very early in my home in London, and jumping on the first train to Paris. One of the joys of what I do is that every day is different, and I enjoy waking up every morning and going to work. It’s not o en that I’d change anything about the way I’m already doing things.
YOU’RE SITTING DOWN TO THE PERFECT MEAL. WHERE ARE YOU, WHAT ARE YOU EATING AND WHOM ARE YOU WITH?
With my wife, Pauline. We’d have some simple white fish in a restaurant near our home in Italy, where we spend a few weeks in the summer.
YOU’VE DESIGNED EVERYTHING FROM CLOTHES AND CARPETS TO VINTAGE CARS. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU HAVEN’T DESIGNED YET, BUT WOULD LIKE TO?
Surprisingly, I actually say “no” to more offers than I say “yes” to. I’ve been asked to design some pretty unexpected things, and I think I’ve covered many of the dream items. I was amazingly privileged when they asked me to design a Leica camera, as I’ve always been such a keen photographer. Likewise, when I designed the jersey for the Giro d’Italia [bicycle race], as a lifelong cycling fan, that was a massive honour.
YOU’RE A STAUNCH ADVOCATE OF THE SUIT. IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT ARE THE DEFINING CHARACTERISTICS OF A GREAT SUIT?
The main thing is that the suit fits. You should feel comfortable and confident in it. Style isn’t necessarily about dressing a certain way, it’s about an attitude, and the same is true for a great suit – it’s not always what you wear, it’s the way you wear it.
IF YOU COULD SEE YOUR CLOTHES ON ANY ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE, AND WHY?
My wife, Pauline. Every time. She is a constant source of inspiration. Initially, she inspired me because she was trained as a designer at the Royal College of Art, and had a very particular understanding of the construction of clothes, which she passed onto me. Of course, I liked the way she looked physically, but also the way that she dressed. She continues to inspire me because she’s always kept her feet on the ground and she’s very calm.
WHO’S THE BEST DRESSED PERSON YOU KNOW?
Daniel Day-Lewis. He’s the only bloke I know who can wear a necklace and still look cool.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE WAY TO TRAVEL FROM A TO B?
Cycling. My love of cycling really started when I was a teenager. I had dreams of becoming a professional cyclist, but unfortunately had a serious crash. It was an accident that I couldn’t avoid, but as a result I’ve entered the world of design, and out of bad came good.
ARE YOU A COLLECTOR AND, IF SO, WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO COLLECT?
Anyone who’s seen a photograph of my office will know that I’m certainly a collector. I’m actually a collector of collections. I collect everything from vintage bicycle jerseys to books, records to rabbits, stamps to Dieter Rams designs. I always say: “You can find inspiration in everything, and if you can’t, look again.” My office is filled with things I find inspiring.
WHAT DOES LUXURY MEAN TO YOU?
Not a great deal, really. Everyone has a different view on what words like “luxury” represent. You can get “beautiful luxury quilted jackets” and “beautiful luxury quilted toilet paper”. I o en talk about effort in my work, which I think means a bit more. For me, effort is one of the most important ingredients in making something feel special. I always like to have something in the shops that demonstrates effort. In my shop in Mayfair at No 9 Albemarle Street, for example, it’s the room covered entirely with individual dominoes.