The colourful mixed up stripes that are instantly recognisable only bring to mind one person: Paul Smith. If you think he makes plain, dark blue blazers, just look at their lining and think again.
The “Hello my Name is Paul Smith” exhibition at the Design Museum in London opened to the public last week, to celebrate the over 40 years of success of the Englishman.
Sir Paul Smith thanks his wife Pauline, as “without her this would have not been possible”. Taken through a tiny space (3×3 square meters to be exact), the size of his first store in Nottingham in 1970, we are invited to take a glimpse in the colourful and creative life of the man behind the genius. And even in that cosy little shop we can understand how hilarious Mr Smith really is; “I had an Afghan hound called Homer, he was the shop manager – we looked the same”.
Then we are overwhelmed with the wide large room, whose walls are covered with hundreds of paintings, notes and photographs all brought in from his Covent Garden shop. Just imagine how empty the shop must be now. Mr Smith wanted to show that you can start with a small business (tiny first shop) and eventually it will grow bigger. At the end of the room we are greeted by five copies of Paul Smith, each one in a different pose, playfully asking us to take a photo with him.
The rest of the exhibition includes a set up of his office, which is so full of interesting things it just makes you want to dig in and look for his treasures, and also to help him tidy up. But after all, it’s these objects that give him inspiration among other things.
He has a quirky, vibrant and original personality and that is why he creates classic menswear with a twist. He wants to give his –colourful– personal touch to more than just the clothes, but his shops as well; different décor for each different store. And most importantly he is open to all kinds of taste, so essentially something that might seem kitsch to someone will not to Mr Smith.
Part of the reason he is so lovable both as a person and as a designer is the way he does things. He puts his soul into them and is not pretentious, even though he is so successful. You can tell he is a real person, which is also obvious in the set-up of his first showroom, the description reads: “My first collection comprised of just six shirts, two jumpers and two suits… Only one person turned up at the end of the final day but they placed an order – that was the beginning of my business”.
This exhibition is a real insight into Paul Smith – both the brand and the person. We get a glimpse of how the creative process happens, from the objects jumbled up in his office to the sketches for the collection made by his wife. Not to be missed.
Until the 3rd of March
Design Museum, SE1 2YD