When entering the first Paul Smith shop replica - a claustrophobic space and little bigger than a box bedroom - the realisation of how much the eclectic designer has achieved hits instantaneously.
Dissimilar to most designers, Smith fell into fashion by circumstance. His ambition lay with racing cycling but when fate forbid his dreams after an accident, Smith flung himself into a warehouse job. At 17, after meetings with many of the neighbouring art college students, Smith established a keen interest in fashion, making displays for and landing a buying role for the warehouse.
The focus that falls to brand’s origins may be limited but what it lacks in capacity it makes up for in intimacy. A brief explanatory note written by Smith himself accompanies each object from the founding days, adding a touch of the designer’s personal charm that can be acknowledged throughout the exhibition.
Guided into the next room, Smith’s voice bounces around the space walled with mirrors and film on loop. “A lot of people look but they don’t see” is the line that resonates above the rest, giving a little insight into the designer’s philosophical side amidst the usual wit and charisma.
Smith’s exhibition notes wryly state, “I have a desk which I have never sat at. The only tidy surface in my office is a huge rosewood table that is always empty…The office is the equivalent of my brain.” Looking around the reproduction of Smith’s office, the remark certainly lacks any exaggeration. An archaic desktop Apple Mac sits among disjointed memorabilia gathered internationally then randomly plonked in chaos upon Smith’s desk. Books are piled high and crammed into crevices. Accumulations of vinyl records similarly scatter the floor. The array of wonderful and mysterious objects comes together to create an interesting, yet acutely chaotic, masterpiece. And it’s this masterpiece in which Smith draws inspiration from when creating a collection. The irony in which is that when contemplating Paul Smith signatures, such as a classic suit with its pop-coloured lining, you would never fathom Smith as a first class hoarder but the exhibition evidently indicates otherwise.
Hello, My Name Is Paul Smith opens up a digestible portion of both Smith’s creative and personal life to the public. It captures the very essence of his passion for photography, travel and his relationship with his wife Pauline. Fans will be elated to realise Smith admires them as much as they are in admiration of him – it’s plain to see from the collection of letters of admiration that have been cherished by the designer and subsequently plastered across the walls of the exhibition. Less may be more in most cases but Paul Smith is the exception.