Mr Armani Can No Do That!

Having just been on  ‘tour’ as I like to imagine it (no winnebago sadly), travelling has been top of my agenda in all forms; trains, planes and automobiles with the odd rickshaw thrown in for luck.

I try to stay focused during these times. Often I use the time to just ‘be’, feel my feet firmly on the ground (or in the air), breathe, connect with myself and focus on the moment. One such moment this week reminded me of a story I read in The Scotsman about the uber-gentleman Paul Smith. The man who has inspired so many in their creative thinking and thought processes.

Paul Smith was obsessed by cycling as a child and into his late teenage years. He joined the local cycling club; his life was filled with training and very little exposure to much else. After a bad accident on the bike he was hospitalised for a few months and being the ever amiable chap that he is, met a few good friends during his stay. A post hospital reunion at a student bar in Nottingham opened Paul’s eyes to a world of music, art, colour and interesting folk. He never looked back: met his wife Pauline and opened a small shop. The beginnings of an empire.

Paul, to this day, remains open eyed to the world around him and is notorious for his lack of mobile phone & his use of analogue mediums, handwritten letters are the norm. Sir John Hegarty (BBH) tells a great tale of Paul waiting on a delayed flight at Milan airport. Everyone  “plugs in” to zone out during the wait. Paul, however, decides to take a walk around the airport. He stumbles upon a lucky charm on the floor which inspires him to use it for a button on a new shirt. The shirt sells around 25,000 units.

Observation, curiosity and keeping grounded are, for me, Paul’s most inspiring qualities. He still remains very much “hands on” and treats all his staff and customers with the utmost respect. The story that sums this up best is the one of his cleaner (who spoke little English) at his home gesticulating that the sink was blocked. Paul was in a hurry but spent the time to try and fix the sink. The cleaner exclaimed “Mr Armani can no do that!”.

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