The Sitter's Tale: Paul Smith

New faces at the National Portrait Gallery: the designer talks about his 'cheeky' portrait
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The Independent Culture
It was a great delight to learn that James Lloyd had won the BP Portrait Award in 1997, as he had received a Paul Smith scholarship to work in the life room while at the Slade, something my lady Pauline - who is a painter - and I set up several years ago. It was an even bigger surprise to learn that James had chosen to paint a portrait of me as part of his prize. I'd never sat before and I'm a real fidget, and so I was nervous. With my busy life and mind, sitting still is something that I find very difficult to do.

On 17 March 1998 I arrived at James's tiny studio above a shop near London Bridge. James had read that my designs were "classic with a twist", so he worked to that. It is a fairly formal painting in terms of the way it was painted - the twist was to show that I'm a cheeky chappie, with a sense of humour. Initially I played around with how I sat as I was full of nervous energy. I picked up a roll of lino, and with a glint in my eye I looked at him from behind it. He liked the idea, but the lino had no relevance for me, so we chose a roll of Chinese silk. We chose the silk for mainly decorative reasons, but I started to worry about the fact that it was a huge task for him to paint it, but the final result was great. Remembering to wear the same clothes during every visit was hard, and one day I turned up in a blue shirt instead of a white one, which James preferred. I am wearing one of my favourite suits with my 23-year- old shoes, and a Paul Smith watch. Yuki, a Japanese life model, is the subject of a painting I bought from James's degree show which is behind me in my portrait. With James's permission, I have used part of his painting of Yuki for a new fabric, which I've used for my ladies-wear and shirt collection for this summer. I'm really pleased with the portrait, as it looks like me. Euan Uglow, who was James's (and Pauline's) tutor, looked at the portrait for a long time when it was unveiled, and said it has captured my spirit. I agree.

Paul Smith: 40-44 Floral Street, WC2 (0171 836 7828). James Lloyd's portrait is at the National Portrait Gallery, WC2 (0171 306 0055)

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