PAUL SMITH’S JEANS SCENE
Byline: James Fallon
LONDON — Paul Smith is spotlighting his growing collections of women’s and men’s jeans and casualwear with their own freestanding store, and the designer says it’s planned to be the first of several.
The 2,000-square-foot shop in Langley Court here near Smith’s other women’s and men’s wear stores in Covent Garden is on two floors. It has a stark interior, with squash-court plaster walls and concrete floors. The display units are made of steel and cast iron frames with wooden shelves, while the stairs are painted steel. There are three video monitors between the two floors playing music videos, soccer games and movies.
Smith is in talks about franchised jeans shops in Japan, where there currently are 78 franchised stores selling his women’s and men’s collections.
These are in addition to the six shops in the U.K., one in New York and one in Paris owned by Smith.
“The collections are becoming so huge we didn’t want to crowd the Japanese shops with the additional jeans and casualwear labels,” the designer said. “So we thought if we created a flagship jeans shop in London it could serve as an example for future franchises worldwide.”
Smith introduced a men’s jeans line four years ago. The women’s jeans collection was launched when he introduced his women’s wear collection last year.
His casualwear collections, which go under the labels PS by Paul Smith and Paul Smith Jeans, now sell about 2,000 pairs of jeans a week and 1,000 jeans shirts in the U.K. alone. Total annual sales are about $9.4 million (6 million pounds) worldwide, Smith said. The bulk of the sales are in the U.K. and Japan, although there is a small wholesale business in the U.S.
The American business mainly is with the PS by Paul Smith casualwear line, Smith said. The collections include pants, denim and chambray shirts, polo shirts, T-shirts, and denim jackets. Jeans retail from $101.40 (65 pounds); denim jackets from $179.40 (115 pounds); T-shirts for $54.60 (35 pounds), and polo shirts from $85.80 (55 pounds).
“We don’t want to do just typical jeans,” Smith said. “There are satin, striped, worsted and garment-dyed jeans as well as just plain denim.
“We also have a lot of hand-customized jeans specifically for the shop that have either a piece of ethnic fabric sewn on the pocket or leg or beading or whatever. Those are created at our workrooms in Nottingham. That’s something rare in jeans because usually they’re simply churned out in their thousands without any differentiation.”
Smith draws a distinction between his collection and other designer jeans. “We aren’t a Gianni Versace, which is aimed at people who follow a particular tag or label. Those jeans basically maximize the potential of a designer name. We’re a designer name, but we are coming up with a nice product that simply happens to be Paul Smith. Its main message is that it is a good pair of jeans that are well-designed and made.”
As with any Paul Smith venture, the jeans shop has a tongue-in-cheek attitude. Mixed among the denim and cotton apparel is an exclusive collection of merchandise from the Japanese Football League of soccer teams, including team jerseys, knit hats, watches and badges.”There always has to be some fun about everything we do,” Smith said. “Not everything has to be deadly serious.”