Think Paul Smith and you think colour, stripes, bags, shirts (as a matter of fact, I made one myself based on one of his prints) and much more! Paul Smith clearly represents one of the earliest lifestyle brands and the exhibition I saw yesterday, aptly but strangely named “Hello, my name is Paul Smith” for someone so instantly recognisable, was visually stunning in many ways.
It was an immersive experience which took me from the life of a young Nottingham designer in a replica of his first shop – which was basically windowless postage stamp – to the illustrious global brand that Paul Smith represents today. It’s by no means a retrospective – as clearly highlighted by the designer himself – and I walked through a series of replica spaces which represented events that shaped the designer’s career.
One of the most memorable moments was for me the visit of his office.
Seriously, I would have trouble concentrating with all that paraphernalia around me! But as far as Paul Smith is concerned, surrounding himself with intriguing fabrics and objects provides him with diverse sources of inspiration and offers an insight into his eclectic tastes and mind. You can call it organised chaos I guess!
I also enjoyed the replica of his Paris hotel room where Smith set up his first showroom in 1976. Apparently nobody came save for one buyer on the last day!
I think that Paul Smith was keen to illustrate that his business was no overnight success but the product of hard work, a sensible approach to money (he never borrowed any to build his brand), a thinking and creative mind along with key collaborations with the likes of Mini and Fritz Hansen which undoubtedly explain the success and longevity of his career today.
In one room in particular I was taken inside Smith’s brain thanks to state-of-the-art shiny Sony screens, where a building morphs into a flower which morphs into a print, representing some of the concepts that Paul Smith incorporate into his brand. Indeed technology played a major part during the exhibition as one of my personal highlights was the catwalk show displayed in the final room. It felt like a live experience to me and quite similar to the Alexander McQueen’s S/S 2008 collection that I saw during the Isabella Blow exhibition back in January.
As you leave, there is a massive post-it on the wall with a typically upbeat note to self: “EVERY DAY IS A NEW BEGINNING.” It’s obvious that Paul Smith is the type of person who easily takes interest in most things (literature, art, objects, etc.) and demonstrates that curiosity isn’t just a quality but a skill to hone throughout one’s life.
All above pictures are courtesy of Design Museum