With “Hello, My Name Is Paul Smith” now receiving visitors at London’s Design Museum, we asked Britain’s leading fashion designer to tell us more about this unique exhibition, which is chock-full of the wit and enthusiasm that you would expect of Paul Smith.
Your love of design and architecture is well known, but how did this exhibition with the Design Museum come about?
The very simple and honest answer is they called me and asked and I said ‘YES!’
The exhibition claims to “take visitors on a journey through Paul Smith’s world”. Describe that world to us what should visitors expect to find there?
Rather than it being an exhibition just full of clothes, it shows my studio, my personal office, an interpretation of every single shop, a great film by SONY of a day in the life of a fashion show, lots of examples of our graphic design and photography. Also a selection of various collaborations that I have been involved with, for instance bicycles, Leica camera and much, much more.
It is definitely an interesting exhibition, one for all the family, there is something for everyone.
A neat optical trick allows visitors a very literal journey into the mind of Paul (image coutsey of smudgetikk)
The exhibition makes use of archive pieces from your brand’s history. What special items can we expect to see?
With regard to the clothes, there are clothes from different years, not in chronological order but grouped into inspiration, so inspired by travel, inspired by Britishness etc. Some really interesting detailed items of clothes. Also some of the graphic design looks books and previous advertising is really interesting to see how many different styles I have used over the years.
Was it a pleasant experience to look back through your old work? Did you discover old items and ideas that you had forgotten?
It’s always interesting looking at things you’ve done. There has definitely been some continuity of fun throughout the years. When you look at some of the clothes, we’ve done some pretty amazing stuff.
Does staging such an exhibition give you added perspective on career that you didn’t have before?
What this exhibition has done is made me realise the sheer volume of work we have done over the years and how proud we are of it.
A recreation of Paul’s London studio is stuffed with fabric swatches, imagery and germinating ideas
Is there an item on display that you would call your favourite?
A favourite is a problem for me because it depends on my mood and what I’m thinking about it at the time. The reproduction of the studio is really where it all happened so probably that is an area of most interest for everybody.
Visitors of the exhibitions will find a recreation of your very first store on Byard Lane in Nottingham. What was it like to revisit that space as it was in 1970?
It’s very goosebumpy to go there and makes me realise that from humble beginnings if you’re patient you can actually progress.
There is also a recreation of your current office. We had the pleasure of visiting you there last year, is it still a wonderful jumble of books, objects and miscellanea, or did you feel obliged to tidy up a bit before the exhibition?
Many things have been taken from the office and put into the exhibition, but unfortunately you can’t even notice any difference in my personal office in Covent Garden!
The recreated version of Paul’s office captures the creative
chaos of the original in a slightly more ordered way
The exhibition looks at the journey and growth of your brand – from a small Nottingham store to a huge international retailer. While the elements of change are more obvious, what important aspects of your business have you tried to keep the same?
The business has always had a heart, and a down to earthiness, and I hope that is still the case.
We saw this show being described as a “retrospective”. As a designer who seems to always look forward to the next project, how does the idea of a retrospective sit with you?
I hope it is not a retrospective, of course some elements of it are looking back, but it is really just an example of what I do and hopefully that will be an encouragement to young creatives in any area who are starting out.
We thank Paul for taking the time to provide some extra insight into this superb exhibition. The show will run until March next year, is also accompanied by a book published by Rizzoli and a dedicated iPad app.
For more from Paul, you can watch what happened when the BBC’s Alan Yentob visited Paul for The Culture Show. The programme, titled “These are a few of my favourite things”, asks Paul to select some cherished items from his treasure chest of an office, which are then related back to his creative process and growth as a designer.
The programme is available on the BBC iPlayer for the next 7 days.
Tickets for ‘Hello, My Name Is Paul Smith’ are available from the Design Museum website.
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