Welcome inside the world of Paul Smith. The new exhibition called ‘Hello, My Name Is Paul Smith’ at the Design Museum, London brings you from concept to fashion show.
Starting with his humble beginnings of a 3×3 room selling his tailored pieces for two days a week, whilst earning money from other jobs during the rest of the week, a replica of the room was built at the entrance. It gave you a real sense of how small it was but it was also ergonomically used. It also showed how he has not lived beyond his means at any point during his career, making the most of what he had. It’s true that necessity is the mother of invention.
I got a well rounded view of the designer. Each room showed a different facet of his work and life. A keen photographer, the central area was a wall covered with his print and illustration collection together with ones gifted to him from friends and admirers. He inherited his photography hobby from his creative amateur photographer father. One cool image was of an 11 year old Paul on a carpet that his father then altered against an Indian backdrop to make him look like he was on a flying carpet. Read the back story from the Telegraph here.
A multi screen and mirrored room projected images that Paul has taken on his travels that have inspired him over the years. An audio of Paul describing how he works was played in the room too so you could get an idea of what catches his eye and how he uses it.
Following that was a replica of his studio. I would call it organised chaos. He collects everything and anything from old toys and books to vintage household items and figurines. I heard that his wife gives him a lucky rabbit figure before every show so it was funny to see them dotted among the show. The only part of the studio left clear is the large wooden table for meetings.
From his personal studio to the design studio where his design team all work together and bounce ideas off each other. They had examples of everything from mood boards and samples to sketches and computers. I wondered if they had anything left in the studio because so much of it was in the museum. I loved that he showed this area as many shows focus on the designer alone when it takes a team to make it work.
Paul also collaborates with other companies to add his stamp of style and personality to like minded brands. Mini saw his mini skirt printed with a mini car and asked him to design a Mini Cooper.
There was a lot of cycling paraphernalia about too as he was a cyclist before an accident put a stop to it for a few months. Those months were when he discovered the fashion scene and the rest is history. He still cycles to work and his shows as seen on the short videos plus he has had his hand in designing bikes and jerseys.
The last but largest room displayed a selection of his designs over the years for both men and women. I love his tailoring and every detail is thought of. An enthusiast for craft; appliques, embroideries and prints are used to cover entire garments. And he is not afraid of colour.
The main arc of the exhibition was how he thinks and works. His personality, as much as his design, attracts people to the label. Customers are emotionally and financially invested in Paul Smith’s work. It’s well made, witty, inherently British and timeless. Sometimes I think he’s taken for granted so it’s great to have a show that celebrates his work.