NOTTINGHAM, England — “Good morning! Have you seen the kangaroos?”
The perpetually lighthearted Sir Paul Smith is taking the edge off a bleak and windy morning, proudly welcoming customers to his first flagship here in his hometown in the Midlands.
Smith, 58, may be postwar England’s most commercially successful — and canny — designer, with global sales of $350 million annually and a bulging commercial property portfolio. But the one thing about Sir Paul is that he never lets the serious stuff get in the way of the silliness.
“There were only two kangaroos yesterday,” he said, gazing through one of the store’s shiny Georgian sash windows toward a clutch of topiary animals in the back garden. “I think they’re breeding.”
It is the day after the store’s opening party, where the guest list of 300 included European style journalists, the joiners and electricians who worked on the store, Smith’s old schoolteachers and Nottingham’s sheriff.
“I wore green tights and carried a bow and arrow,” said Smith, referring to Nottingham’s other illustrious son, Robin Hood, during a walk-through.
It took the designer 18 months to restore Willoughby House, the 18th-century home of a gentleman called Rothwell Willoughby. The 2,000-square-foot store, which spans two floors and had a soft opening on Dec. 14, has a mix of original walnut and oak parquet and flagstone floors. The walls are covered in Forties flower-printed wallpaper, shades of dark mint, ballet-slipper pink and green crocodile skin. The elevator has black ponyskin walls and a parquet floor.
Smith designed the interiors in his typical curiosity-shop style: There are Sixties pink-and-blue Murano glass chandeliers and fixtures, framed vintage Patti Smith and Rolling Stones album covers, photographs by David Bailey and Bruce Weber, a hot pink lounge that originally belonged to a brothel and hand-carved wooden mirrors.
In addition to his men’s and women’s clothing and accessories lines, Smith is selling his usual mixed bag of objects he finds and restores — gardening tools, watering cans and vintage books. “It was a labor of love,” said Smith. And it was clearly worth the wait: Smith said the store is turning over sales of $66,000 a week.
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