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.
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.