What is your architectural style? "Baroque modernism! I am only half joking. I am a modernist at heart but believe in using technology in design and manufacturing to take 'ornament' to another level. My designs reflect my passions for contemporary art, fashion and material research."
Tell us about setting up your own firm. "Growing up in Hong Kong [Leith-Smith arrived in the city when he was six months old and left aged 21] fuelled my fascination with different cultures and customs. I was fortunate to travel extensively as my father was a pilot for Cathay Pacific. After I completed my undergraduate degree, I came to work for a start-up in Hong Kong, OMA Asia, a regional office of OMA in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. This office was set up by six students of Rem Koolhaas' Harvard class. Their entrepreneurialism inspired me to do the same."
What was your first commission? "One of our first was an exhibition [of Manolo Blahnik shoes, in 2003] at London's Design Museum that I created with my then partner and co-founder Kristina Hulsebus, whose uncle, Blahnik, commissioned us. On the back of that we started designing his shops. I am now the sole principal of my practice and Kristina runs the Blahnik shoe business."
Which projects give you the most satisfaction? "Often the ones I have just completed, like a family apartment in Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, in London. We managed every aspect of the refurbishment including the furniture, furnishings and art. One of its main features is a frameless dividing glass wall that makes the most of the double aspect light and views.
"We've also just refurbished a 1950s house in a private gated mews in Kensington for a Chinese family, transforming the ground floor with a modernist full-width extension that created extensive lateral living spaces more akin to mid-century Los Angeles than London."
What have you done for Manolo Blahnik in Hong Kong? "I designed the first Manolo Blahnik concept store in Hong Kong, in 2013, at Elements, in Kowloon. This has been reinterpreted for The Landmark shop, due to open early this month. The inspiration came from the amazing forms produced by traditional bamboo weaving."
What trends do you have your eye on? "Retail and hospitality design is very exciting at the moment - it is like brand theatre! With online shopping and interaction playing an increasing role, communicating the authentic brand is paramount. Mixing and diversifying this physical experience is the trend of the moment. This could be with an unexpected artist collaboration or with a food and beverage offering. Not just capturing the consumer for longer and broadening the customer base, but showcasing a lifestyle."
What are you working on right now? "Two Manolo Blahnik shops, in Seoul and Dublin, and a top-secret hotel concept in London."