Top French accolade for British designer Sir Paul Smith


British designer Sir Paul Smith has been awarded France's highest honour for a career that has left an "indelible mark" on French fashion.

Sir Paul, who held his first fashion show in Paris in 1976 and went on to create an empire based around his trademark "British with a sense of humour" style, said he was "thrilled" to receive the Legion d'Honneur at a ceremony in London.

The 69-year-old Nottingham-born designer received the rank of Officier in the Order of the Legion d'Honneur award in recognition of his long ties with France.

His first shop, which opened in Nottingham in 1970, was called Paul Smith Vetements pour Hommes, and he showed his first menswear collection in Paris six years later.

Since then, every new Paul Smith collection has been shown in the French capital, which has five Paul Smith boutiques as well as the company's French office.

French Ambassador to the UK, Sylvie Bermann - who presented the award, said: "It is a great honour to be paying tribute today to Sir Paul Smith, a revolutionary figure in British design whose flair and audacity have left an indelible mark on French fashion.

"I am thrilled that this uniquely talented man chose to make France a focal point for his creativity and entrepreneurship.

"He is an inspiration to a whole generation of young designers on both sides of the Channel."

Sir Paul said: "I've had a special relationship with France for many years. I had my first fashion show in Paris in 1976 and since then I've had around 80 shows in the city. Outside of Paris I've got strong relationships all over the country.

"It's a wonderful honour to receive this accolade."

His empire now includes fashion for men and women as well as accessories, rugs, china, spectacles and fragrance - with the collections primarily produced in England and Italy and wholesaled to 66 countries.

On average, just 10 British nationals a year receive the Legion d'Honneur.