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George Ellis
Junior account executive at
George Ellis

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Today’s edition of Nottingham businesses that we admire sees us look back at a local businessman who put Nottingham on the global fashion map – Sir Paul Smith.

Hailing from relatively humble beginnings, Sir Paul has become one of the most recognisable style icons in global fashion, all whilst still holding the city he grew up in close to his heart.

Paul was born in Beeston in 1946, and having left school at the age of 16 was thrust into a dead-end job at a local clothing warehouse.

Initially wanting to become a professional cyclist, his life took a dramatic turn when a cycling accident left him hospitalised for six months.

Upon being released from hospital, Paul met with friends at a pub popular with local art students, and after being introduced to a new and exciting world of creativity began taking evening classes in tailoring.

First Shop

With help from his girlfriend Paula, whom he later married, he was able to open a tiny shop in the Nottingham’s Byard Lane, and by 1976 was already having his signature menswear collection exhibited in Paris fashion shows.

Perhaps it was the knock on the head he suffered in the bike accident but something seems to have galvanized some ambition into the young Paul Smith and pretty soon he was opening shops all over the UK and beyond.

Now after over 40 years in the fashion industry, Paul’s distinctly British brand has more than 300 stores across 66 countries worldwide. Making him the most successful Nottingham entrepreneur since Jesse Boot.

His business has grown into far more than just its trademark clotheslines, and among other products you can now buy Paul Smith Shows, rugs, china and fragrance. He was subsequently knighted by the Queen in 2000 for his services to fashion.

From a PR point of view he’s single handedly created a fabulous brand combining great fashion with a unique sense of Britishness. It’s clear that his connection to Nottingham still remains strong, and Paul has always looked to give back to city that gave him so much.

He designed the logo for the now closed down ‘Music Exchange’ record store, and opened Nottingham Trent universities’ ‘Bonington’ arts centre back in 2006.

Nottingham’s flagship Paul Smith store is now located in the grade II listed building Willoughby House, with Paul himself personally designing it’s interior. But perhaps partly for sentimental reasons he still maintains a store in Byard Lane (pictured above) where it all began.

Sir Paul’s contribution to Nottingham can never be underestimated, and his signature style of creating affordable clothing that has a truly quintessential British design.

Despite his global success and stardom, he has constantly remained close to his Beeston roots, and really is Notts through and through.


Notts PR