YES, YOUR HONOR: Sir Paul Smith has joined an elite group of accomplished Britons, becoming a Companion of Honor to the British Monarch in a ceremony held Wednesday at Windsor Castle.
Smith was recognized for his services to British fashion, and is the first fashion designer to receive the honor. He joins a group that is limited to 65 people. It includes Dame Maggie Smith, Sir David Attenborough, Sir Elton John, Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Paul McCartney.
The award was founded in 1917 by King George V, Queen Elizabeth’s grandfather, to recognize the national importance of “those who have made a major contribution to the arts, science, medicine, or government lasting over a long period of time.”
It is the highest ranking among the special honors handed out by the British monarch.
For the ceremony at Windsor Castle on Wednesday, Smith wore a bespoke three-button suit from his own label made from navy wool hopsack that was sourced from Dormeuil.
Smith was named a Companion of Honor in the Queen’s 2020 Birthday Honors, but the ceremony was delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
At the time, a statement from the palace described Smith as being “a success story of British craft, creativity and entrepreneurialism. He left school with no qualifications, and went from humble beginnings in a tiny shop in Nottingham to building the Paul Smith empire, which now spans 52 countries. As chairman and designer, he is still involved in every aspect and retains a controlling share in the company he founded in 1970, affording him individuality and freedom.”
Smith said: “It was a wonderful surprise to receive the letter to say I was going to be made a Companion of Honor. It’s extraordinarily humbling to be included on such an incredible list of people.”
Smith had a big year in 2020, when he marked his 50 years in business, and published a book looking at 50 items that have defined his career, and personality, over the years.
The items he chose include the Kodak Retinette camera he received from his father for his 11th birthday, and which engendered a lifelong passion for photography; the bicycle he crashed as a teenager, which ended his dreams of becoming a professional cyclist and set him on an entrepreneurial path, and the 1966 Le Smoking that Smith had asked Yves Saint Laurent to make for his wife, Pauline.
There are less romantic objects, too, such as the Paul Smith printed cotton boxer shorts that proved a hit with English customers; the green apple, which he used for his first photographic print because of its “minimalist, confident” look, and his collection of miniature rabbit figurines, Smith’s personal good luck symbol.
Interspersed in the book are small pamphlets with sketches, tributes and letters dedicated to Smith from the likes of Tadao Ando, Manolo Blahnik, James Dyson, Bill Nighy and John Pawson.