How We Met: Paul Smith & David Millar

'It was a dream come true to whiz along with David in front, the crowds cheering'

David Millar, 34

A one-time world champion road cyclist, Millar (right) is one of only four Brits to have worn the leader's yellow jersey in the Tour de France. In 2004, the Scot admitted having used illegal performance-enhancing drugs, for which he was handed a two-year ban. Since returning to the sport in 2006, he has become an anti-doping campaigner. He lives in Spain

There's a Peter Pan quality to Paul. Considering he's the head of a mega-fashion empire, you'd think there'd be a lot of ego there, but there isn't. He's more like an incredibly curious, slightly awkward teenage boy. I first got in touch in 2003, around the time when I was world champion, when I heard that he was into the sport I love. It's rare in the cycling world we get to meet someone cool, and as I've always been into fashion, I really wanted to show him my world.

We exchanged letters and emails and developed a mutual appreciation. Then my world fell apart [Millar was arrested in 2004 for using blood-boosting drug EPO]. He got in touch a few times during that period to see how I was, but he didn't judge me at all, which said a lot.

Just after my comeback, I had a court case in Paris to resolve a French judicial investigation into my team. Paul asked, "Have you anything to wear for it?" I said no, so he had me fitted for a couple of suits. It made me feel special at a time I didn't feel very good about myself.

We didn't actually meet face to face until the London leg of the Tour de France in 2007. He didn't ooze any of that intimidating overconfidence that some powerful people do; he just acted like he still had a little shop in Nottingham. I arranged for him to sit in the car that followed me and he was all excitable and nervous, which was hilarious.

He would have made a great pro cyclist – he has the build and the work ethic – but he doesn't have a lot of spare time, which is why I think he likes to live vicariously through me. He'll be like, "How was that mountain? It looked ridiculous!"

There's a nice symbiosis to our friendship, as Paul's helped me massively with my look and I feel much more confident in what I wear now. I've grown to love his simple, pared-down style; there's something quintessentially English there, yet a quirkiness too, and as I've got older, he's helped me smarten up.

Sir Paul Smith, 65

Though he is now a fashion designer, it was Sir Paul's ambition to become a professional racing cyclist until a serious biking accident as a teenager landed him in hospital for several months. Since opening his first menswear shop, in 1970, he now has outlets across the UK and 22 other countries. He lives in London with his wife

Before my cycling accident I used to ride bikes in competitions; I loved the feeling of the wind in my face and the challenge of the day. So I've been quite friendly with a lot of the professional cyclists – Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish – and I always knew of David, but it wasn't till his court case in 2006 that we properly connected; he wanted to wear Paul Smith for it, so he got in touch. When I heard about the charges I didn't distance myself from him, as I kept thinking, yes he's done wrong, but there was a reason – the pressures of the sport – behind it. He didn't make any excuses for taking the drugs and I know in his heart he never wanted to be part of it.

We started chatting quite regularly and when the Tour de France came to Britain four years ago we finally met, 30 minutes before the race. A lot of racers are quiet and focused, and don't really want to talk before an event, but David bounded up to me. He was so laid-back, friendly and, for a cyclist, a very good communicator; most of them are very insular and introverted. He let me watch the race in the following car, a dream come true; whizzing along the route with David cycling in front of me and the crowds cheering.

Over the years we've talked about tactics, teamwork, rivalry and mechanical problems. I was at the Italy tour recently when he was in the really serious mountain stages. He knew I was going to be following in the car so he really made an effort to be in the breakaway group so I would cheer him on and be proud. He just ran out of energy and afterwards he was like, "I couldn't believe it, I really tried my best Paul, but I ended up finishing in the bunch." But it's a tough sport and what he does is pretty amazing when you see the size of the mountains.

He's always been stylish and he's a good clotheshorse, too: tall, slim and handsome, and I was really pleased when he told me how much he liked Paul Smith [the brand].Hopefully I've helped him along a little more in the fashion stakes.

When he told me his new book [about his experiences with doping] was coming out, we threw him a party at our Covent Garden shop. It was packed full of cycling devotees and a lot of people who respect him; he's so determined about trying to clean up the sport and I think people see that commitment in him.

'Racing Through the Dark' by David Millar (Orion, £18.99) is out now

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m