Sir Paul Smith famously despises debt, and believes in growing his fashion business from its own resources.

Not a bad business epithet for these straitened times.

It has stood him in good stead during the recession, and allowed him to invest further in the business, with a new £10 million warehouse in his native Nottingham and a new store in Antwerp.

His fashion brand sold well in 2008, with sales up by more than 17 per cent on the previous year.

And he now has more than 200 stores in Japan where it seems they can’t get enough of his distinctive designs.

He also has stores in New York, Johannesburg, Istanbul, Milan, St Petersburg and Red Square in Moscow – all part of a business worth £300 million.

At the age of 16, with no career plans or qualifications, Paul Smith was propelled by his father into a menial job at a local warehouse in Nottingham where he lived.

Ambitions to become a racing cyclist were crushed following a bad accident and so, inspired by conversations with students at the local art college, he moved into the world of fashion.

After managing a boutique, he poured his modest savings into a shop. At the same time he took evening classes in tailoring and enlisted the help of his then girlfriend Pauline Denyer (now Lady Smith). That was in 1970. Now, 40 years later Paul Smith, aged 62, is a global fashion icon.

He has 12 different collections wholesaled in 35 countries around the world, including 14 shops in England.

His Japanese licensee, Itochu, bought a 40 per cent stake in the brand in 2006.

Sir Paul continues to play an active part in the company, being both designer and chairman. He also takes a detailed interest in the Japanese business, designing the clothes, choosing the fabrics and approving shop locations.

He was awarded an honorary Fellowship of RIBA, the Royal Institute of British Architects.