Hello, My Name Is Paul Smith at the Design Museum
Paul Smith is a collector or, perhaps more accurately, a hoarder. With a desk in his office that he can never sit at because it is always covered with things, his workspace is a hoarder’s haven of colourful objects, kitsch, toys and technology. In this exhibition at the Design Museum, two of his office spaces have been recreated in all their organised chaotic glory – fabric swatches sit alongside toy train sets in suitcases, model rabbits beside evolving Apple desktops, while paint palettes and teapots mingle with mannequins. In a corridor, the walls are covered with an eclectic array of framed prints, photographs and illustrations, from Banksy to the more banal; another wall is covered, floor to ceiling, in buttons of every colour. As an early comment reads – “the office is the equivalent of my brain.”
The viewer is first invited into a replica space of Smith’s first shop – a windowless box measuring 3m by 3m, which was located in Byard Lane in Nottingham. The brand was first shown under the label Paul Smith in a Paris hotel suite in 1976 – recreated here in a monochrome cardboard cutout – with a selection of only two jackets, six shirts and two items of knitwear. By 1979, Smith had opened his first shop in Floral Street, Covent Garden. Now the brand has stores worldwide, shows in London and Paris during fashion week, and comprises fourteen collections.
Travel, colour and humour form the basis of Smith’s inspiration – a voice-over of the designer in a mirrored cube cites street markets and traditional cultural dress, recorded by his camera that acts as a visual diary. In his personal selection of garments from the brand’s archive, fabrics are from sources as various as the Union Jack (2007) to embroidered Afghan blankets transformed into cotton jackets (2005). Space is given too to his various collaborations – from album artwork for David Bowie to Evian water and HP Sauce, a Roberts Radio and a striped Mini. Although his dream of becoming a professional cyclist was interrupted after an accident left him hospitalised for six months, Smith maintains a devotion to the sport; in 2013 he was invited to design the leaders’ jerseys for the Giro d’Italia, also displayed.
Smith describes his own aesthetic as “classic with a twist”. His sense of humour is revealed in his designs, perhaps in the unexpected bright pink lining of a sober grey suit. This exhibition pulls together all his influences, his kitsch and his clutter, but despite the objects and the thousand coloured buttons, there is an overriding simplicity and cleanliness, a sharp aesthetic, which is key to the brand’s success. This is an intriguing glimpse into the humorous and original world of one of Britain’s best-loved designers.
Hello, My Name Is Paul Smith is at the Design Museum until 9th March 2014. For further information or to book visit the museum’s website here.
For further information about Paul Smith, visit here.