And Now, a Word from Paul Smith

So here’s the story: When Husband Mike and I were visiting Audi in San Francisco back in April, we spent an afternoon tootling around the Union Square shopping district. I visited my first Mango, HM drooled over the clothes (and rock star photos) at John Varvatos, and we both had a rather Alice in Wonderland-like experience at Paul Smith.

(A quick aside: I love Paul Smith’s designs. I love them from afar, but with a fiery hot passion. Someday, I’ll be able to afford something other than socks, and that day will be a happy one. Now, on with our story.)

The Paul Smith store is bright and bustling and beautiful. We strolled in and immediately began to ogle the men’s shoes and funky small leather goods and, of course, gorgeous socks, in the front area. As we made our way back towards the women’s offerings, we saw that a photo shoot was taking place in that department. Not wanting to interrupt, we scooted past.

Then a very tall, very dapper older gentleman approached us. He had wild, wiry white hair and glasses, and smiled broadly and chatted us up a bit. The back of the store was lined with small sculptures and other art works, all of which were for sale, and he commented on how it was a bit like a museum. IN A BRITISH ACCENT. And we nodded and sidled away, shy and nervous for reasons we couldn’t really explain.

And eventually he lost interest, and headed back to the shoot. And as we launched ourselves out of the store, we laughed about how that fellow was probably Paul Smith himself! Hahahaha, sure it was, it was Paul Smith, smiling and being nice and trying to engage two introverted Minnesotans in simple conversation. What a silly idea.


So after we got home and Googled “Paul Smith” and hit our foreheads and said, “D’Oh!” about 90 times, it struck me. Paul Smith is a knight. He is a bona-fide fashion bigwig. And even if you don’t care about any sort of status-y stuff, he is a brilliant and accomplished designer. And even if you don’t care for his designs, he is an astonishing businessman who sells clothing and accessories for men, women, and children, shoes for all those people, sunglasses, china, watches, fragrances, and miscellaneous gifts. He’s a seriously important dude. And he was SO NICE to us. SO NICE, people. Just a couple of regular folks, passing through, and he stepped out of some important photo shoot in his own store to chat with us. Damn.

A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that such kindness should not go unacknowledged, so I dropped an e-mail to his PR firm. Most of it is a condensed version of what I just related, but here is the conclusion:

… I SO regret that I didn’t just swallow my pride and ask if it was you on the spot, and shake your hand, and pick your brain. But I wanted to tell you how completely lovely it was to meet a member of fashion royalty and have him be so friendly and charming and approachable. I’ve been enjoying your blog ever since then, and hope that you won’t take it as an insult when I say that I am an even BIGGER fan of your work having “met” you.

Best regards,
Sally McGraw

And I’ve done such things before, and usually nothing happens, and that’s what I expected. But instead, a few days later, his secretary wrote me back and said she’d pass along my note when Sir Paul returned from vacay.

And then a few weeks later, she wrote me again asking for my mailing address because Sir Paul was so pleased with my e-mail that he wanted to write me a note. And then this arrived:

And I squeaked and jumped around a lot. Ain’t it good to know that being wildly successful and famous and wealthy and beloved doesn’t make EVERYONE turn into a self-absorbed weenie? I doubt I’ll ever have the chance to randomly hang out with Paul Smith again, but if I do, I will take full advantage of the fact that he’s such an incredibly sweet person. By chatting with him about shoes. And trying to restrain myself from hugging him.

P.S. Sir Paul’s blog is truly fantastic, and well worth checking out. The man takes gorgeous photos, in addition to being good at everything else and a really nice man.

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35 Responses to “And Now, a Word from Paul Smith”

  1. poodletail

    Wowie! I'm gobsmacked and soooo envious! It's a good reminder to ALWAYS take those few moments and write the note when we think of it.

  2. Dolores

    Wonderful story! A little over a year ago, I bought a pair of Paul Smith glasses and I don't think I've worn my contact lenses since, which is really a huge testament to how awesome his stuff is.

  3. Isisingonthecake

    Lol sounds a lot like how I reacted when you wrote back to my message πŸ˜‰ we mere earthlings take what we can get – especially when one is either in rural PA or in Boston, neither of which is particularly well known for fashion royalty!
    But in any case, I squeaked and bounced a lot. Yay for nice, nice people!

  4. Oranges And Apples

    What a wonderful story! I always thought he seems nice from interviews, its great to know that he actually is!

  5. Winnie

    Oh my gosh Sally, this is incredible! He sounds like such a lovely man!

  6. WendyB

    This is a great story! Love it! And glad it had a happy ending and wasn't just a permanent regret.

  7. Mary

    Just reading this makes me all excited for you! I can only imagine how cool that must have been! What a cool guy (with a really cool blog too– adding that one to my reader for sure).

  8. kristophine

    It makes my day to hear that not all famously successful people will become "self-absorbed weenies." πŸ™‚ Thank you for sharing that story.

  9. Nina (Femme Rationale)

    how exciting! i've always been a fan of paul smith's work, too. i never knew he had a blog. def. be reading it from now on. yay, sally!

  10. K.Line

    I just got goosebumps reading this. I LOVE that note. Your story is fantastic. You see, there's always opportunity to make a great impression. Seems both of you are experts at it!

  11. Make Do Style

    Brilliant story. He is truly a proper gent and well done for following up!!

  12. pretty face

    Sally that's so awesome and sweet!

    I love the Paul Smith store on Carnaby Street; they sure know how to hire cute shop assistants πŸ˜‰ x

  13. Hammie

    I am delighted for you Sal! We have a few pieces between us, via ebay and the beautiful people at Oxfam, Trinity Hospice and Redcross charity shops in Fulham and Chelsea.

    He also designed a really lovely bag for Breast Cancer research. xx

  14. Imogen Lamport

    Doesn't it say something about the man? I love his clothes – but that card takes the cake (as well as his chat with the regular people) to show how he understands that it's the regular people who helped make his fortune and without them, he'd not be where he is today.

    I love that.

  15. hollarback

    That is adorable. And I mean it. I adore him too and I am so pleased that he was so charming.

    Really makes my heart swell.

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us :)!

  16. Casey

    WOW! What an awesome story–definitely one of those ones that has a few twists and surprises. πŸ˜‰ I just loved reading it, because it reminded me that no matter how famous some people get, they still remain very courteous and gracious. πŸ™‚ That makes me smile that there are still people like that out there! πŸ˜‰

  17. Sheila

    How cool! You should totally frame his note and hang it in your closet.

  18. lopi

    How inspiring! This truly confirms my belief that one should always be kind and that will show later on. I'm convinced that being kind and open has played a huge part in his general success in life. A great example.

  19. fashion herald

    What a great story! This kind of personal attention does make you love the designer more!

  20. Audi

    Har! I can't believe it was really him! And to think we all dismissed the idea as too far-fetched to be true. How wonderful that he turned out to be such a sweetie.

  21. Melissa de la Fuente

    Oh! I love it! What a wonderful story and I ADORE when someone is actually nice and down to earth…especially when they are well known. How awesome, and yes, it makes me love his brand even more now! Good for you Sal!

  22. smilla

    wow-what a story!! paul smith fairytale becoming true! You lucky one.