By  on March 7, 2012

LONDON — In 1979, Sir Paul Smith opened his first London shop in Covent Garden, which was then a gritty, has-been of a neighborhood whose only attractions were the Royal Opera House and the Royal Ballet School. “I remember walking onto Floral Street and shouting — literally — ‘Is there anybody out there?’” said Smith with a smile during an interview at his head office here.

With no one there to watch — and no retail competition — Smith started having some real fun, projecting images onto the shop walls each night. “It was like the theater,” he said. That attitude extended into the mix as well, with the store stocking colorful, but decidedly unfashionable, items. He happily sold his friend James Dyson’s lilac and purple vacuum cleaners alongside the equally colorful clothing.

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