Tatler Singapore

Paul Says

Paul Smith tells the stories behind some of the nuggets of wisdom he shares through his foundation



We have a little expression about collaborat­ions: we always say, do things that are right and not just because they’re easy. You can do things just for the money but they might be detrimenta­l to your image or end up not being something you enjoy. I’ve done some collaborat­ions that I think I should have said no to, not because they were bad, but they just used up a lot of my energy and time. I don’t make that mistake any more, though, because of my experience. So I just mostly say no. It’s easier!


I call it the squirt of lemon because the idea is if we were having a lovely meal together and I’m squirting some lemon onto my fish and it goes—blip!—into your eye, you’d cover your eye and scream, but the next day when you have dinner with your friends and they ask how it went, you’d say, “It was lovely but he squirted lemon in my eye!” And it’s the thing that you’ll remember strongly from our encounter. It’s about doing things that are memorable and more special.


When I first started making shirts, my orders were for 28 shirts when they said the minimum order was 2,000, and then through conversati­on—by telling them I was a young designer and that I was just starting out, and asking nicely if they’d please help me—they eventually came around. I later went and got a little gift for the man to say thank you for giving me my start. You get so much more if you’re just polite to people. And just


When I started in the 1970s, I was doing lots of odd jobs to keep my business going, like freelance styling or photograph­y, and I was designing fabrics for a company in the middle of England. I distinctly remember that the guy who owned the company taught me: when someone offers you something, give yourself time to think about it overnight, because you may not want to do it or you’ll find another way you want to do it and it will end up being more evenly balanced as it’s more on your terms. before lockdown in the UK back in November, I hired a boy and told him, “I’d like you to come work for us, but just so you know we say please and thank you here, we open doors for people and we ask, we don’t tell.” And he burst into tears, telling me that the people at the job he just came from swore and shouted all the time and he ended up having a nervous breakdown. Hearing him say that brought me joy to know I can give him a different environmen­t. Being well-mannered isn’t being uncool.

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