Thursday, 30 September 2010


Last night M&I had the pleasure of attending a discussion between Sir Paul Smith and Mr Colin McDowell at Selfridges department store, London.

Over a fascinating 74 minutes the gentlemen discussed Sir Paul's childhood, his father's humour, his (brilliant) lack of 'business model' and the importance of being genuine.

The highlight for us came in the Q&A afterwards though. We asked Sir Paul to expand on his recently reported lament on the decline in craftsmanship in the UK and whether his eponymous company was doing anything to help the situation. Here is what he had to say:

'Masses of British manufacturers have fallen by the wayside, many in the 1970s, during the period that the government and many people were thinking that the new way was to do with the service industries; to do with the computer, the mass produced, robotic way. So a lot of the mills just didn't have the money to reinvest because there wasn't the tax incentives to do so. Also, unfortunately a lot of it was their fault, they had gotten complacent and sat back.

We lost our motorbike industry because Japan reinvented the motorbike by doing something called the 'moped' which young people could ride around. Triumph, AJS, Norton, all these struggled, luckily Triumph survived. Some of it was our fault, some of it was the situation.

Therefore there's very few manufacturers left. We make shoes here, we make ties here, we make tie fabric, Yorkshire tweed, Worcester and Scottish tweed. But there's not a lot personally that I can do about it. What I do do is work largely in Europe, as opposed to China. I make things like trainers or jeans in China but basically we work in Britain or Italy.

A lot of it was complacency. If you want to be in this game, it is about today and tomorrow. Nobody cares about how good you used to be.'