The designer, 73, on boyhood cycle racing, not going to school and the secrets of a happy marriage
Getting a bicycle and a camera at the age of 11 were big deals for me. The camera taught me to observe. And the bike taught me teamwork and competitiveness – I started racing when I was 12. My sister was eight years older than me; my brother 11 years older. I was sort of an only child.
We had a lovely family, but we weren’t very worldly. We travelled in England: Dorset in the summer, weekends in Derbyshire. I came home once and said, “Dad, I really like Jacques Anquetil,” the famous French cyclist, and my father said, “What are those words?”
I’ve never been a reader. We never really had books in the house. And I’m dyslexic, so I’m not good at concentrating. It would have been nicer to have had a better education. I left school at 15, and I was really not very good at school. I can’t even remember going to school.
Do I feel old? I went to buy a croissant recently and they wouldn’t take money from me. Only plastic. That made me feel 194 years old.
Anybody who says they don’t mind getting older is telling porky pies. Of course you mind. Your body deteriorates. You ache and ache. You’re nearer the dreaded day. Luckily I’ve still got the legs of a teenager.
I’m a happy person. I’m very optimistic. Every day is a new beginning. I don’t get depressed. I get disappointed by behaviour, mainly with all the madness going on in the world. Politics. Dictatorships.
We’re divided at the moment. So much of that is because populist leaders say things people want to hear. “I’m going to open 400 schools and they’ll all be free!” Obviously that’s not true. But so many people believe them.
I’ve been with my wife Pauline since I was 21. We’ve been together since 1967. What’s the secret? Give and take. Learning to listen. Learning to be interested and interesting. Fun. A good sense of humour. No big egos. Just normalness, really.
I’m well known in certain circles, but I don’t think I’m famous. I’m not impressed by fame or money. To put it another way: what’s the thing I’m most pleased with about the business? Continuity – always being relevant.
Pauline’s the cook and she’s a great cook. I mean, I can rustle things up – toast, beans on toast. But really I’m head of washing up and cleaning the surfaces.
Next year is the 50th anniversary of Paul Smith. The fact we’re still here, still independent, still doing OK… Think of how many bands you were into that don’t exist any more. How many brands. How many little café’s you used to go to that aren’t there any more. But Paul Smith, we’re still here. It’s very beautiful.
The Adventures of Moose and Mr Brown by Paul Smith, illustrated by Sam Usher, is published on 24 October by Pavilion, priced £12.99. Buy a copy for £11.43 at guardianbookshop.com