A dose of New Year inspiration courtesy of Paul Smith.
Happy New Year! It’s been a wee bit quieter round here recently – following Hogmanay we travelled down to London for a few days filled with working, socialising, (window) shopping and eating. We managed to fit in a fair few trips to old favourite haunts and made some new discoveries too, so I plan to make up for this brief blogging absence with several special London-themed blogposts, which I can’t wait to share with you. High on our must-visit list – and one of the reasons I wanted to plan a trip down – was to see the Paul Smith exhibition at the Design Museum. It certainly didn’t disappoint.
I’m sometimes asked to name my favourite designer, and while at first this seems like a really difficult question (just one?!) the more I think about it, the more I have to say Paul Smith. I’ve always admired his vibrant, witty designs and skilful combination of traditional tailoring and modern details. During my year working in London, I got to know the company a little better as I did some writing for them, and was lucky enough to attend and write about the SS13 and AW13 shows. My growing appreciation for all things Paul Smith culminated when I saw the man himself interviewed by Alexa Chung at the Vogue Festival, which I reported on for Vertu (read my blogpost about it here) – a definite highlight of 2013.
‘You can find inspiration in everything and if you can’t, you’re not looking properly. Look and see – don’t just look.’ Paul’s words have stayed with me ever since the Festival, and when I heard there was going to be an exhibition at the Design Museum about all things Paul Smith, I knew I would have to plan a visit sooner or later. ‘Hello, My Name is Paul Smith’ offers a unique insight into the designer’s own influences and inspirations, from the smallest detail of collections and collaborations past, tracing the progress from planning to completion, to a full size reproduction of the designer’s minuscule first shop (above) and a fantastic replica of his bonkers-but-brilliant office.
The exhibition highlights the breadth and depth of the designer’s vision and the many and various influences that shape his world. For a self-confessed Paul Smith fangirl it was an amazing treat to obtain such an insight, dating back to the earliest designs sold form Paul’s bijoux boutique in Nottingham. The exhibition was a real testament to the designer’s visible passion for all things relating to art and culture, which I think really translates into his designs, as well as his infectious zest for life. After just a small peek into his world, I came away feeling invigorated and full of creative ideas myself.
The exhibition is honestly the best of the fashion genre that I’ve seen; I loved the Valentino exhibition (back in 2012) at Somerset House with its hundreds of spectacular gowns, and the fashion galleries at the V&A will always have a special place in my heart. But the Paul Smith exhibition was filled with such carefully selected details and genuine personal touches, which gave a true insight into the mind of the designer as well as a real sense of his character. It’s this infectious enthusiasm, passion and deeply personal approach to his vision that sets Paul Smith apart from the rest – a refreshing force in the world of fast fashion.
Paul Smith has had some brilliant collaborations over the years – a fact that is testament to the esteem in which he is held across many and varied industries, I think – and it was great to see these products up close. The companies he has worked with are incredibly diverse in terms of style and finished product, but always seem to complement his own company’s values and aesthetics. I loved the Mini collaboration – now iconic of course – as well as more recent ones, such as the colourful capsule collection with bootmaker John Lobb. I also very much enjoyed the insight into the design of Paul Smith boutiques around the world and their own personal touches: each is completely different, with its own unique features and fittings. The button wall at the Albemarle Street shop in Paris (reproduced in the exhibition) is one of my favourite design details.
And, of course, there were Paul’s own label clothes as well, fittingly displayed in understated fashion. I felt that the designs which had been selected for the exhibition really embodied the vibrancy, quality and sense of humour that has come to be associated with the company. It was great to see its trademark attention to detail up close in the fabric, finish and embellishment; this eye for detail (even the hidden ones), really does set Paul apart from others in his field I think. Here were a few of my favourite pieces – oh to waft around in Paul Smith floral smock dresses and rust coloured capes…
I hope these pictures speak for themselves, which is why I’ve included so many. It really was the best exhibition I’ve seen in a while and I thoroughly recommend a trip if you’re down in London between now and the beginning of March. I’ll leave the final word to Paul, as he really does put it better than I do. It’s something that I’ll be keeping close myself as a thought for 2014. Do you have any inspirations for the new year?