Friday, 31 January 2014

Hello, My Name is Paul Smith

Last Sunday, my friend Rachel and I had the pleasure of meeting Paul Smith...

Rachel & I hanging with Sir Paul!
We spent a lovely Sunday afternoon at the Design Museum, taking a journey through the mind and personal archive of the creative force that is Paul Smith.

It was inspiring to learn that coming from humble beginnings in Nottingham, Paul fell into fashion by accident and his global fashion empire took off in a tiny 3 x 3 metres square shop that was only open two days a week.  I didn't know that Paul has been taking photographs since he was eleven, and even though it's his hobby, Paul shoots all the photographs for his campaigns and promotional work. More than that though - Paul is always snapping photos wherever he is in the world - it's his visual diary.

I loved the central part of the exhibition, which was two huge gallery walls full of framed prints and photographs, all carefully and lovingly collected by Paul over the years.  There were illustrations, vintage movie posters, famous art works (by Andy Warhol, Hockney and Banksy), and mail sent in from Paul's fans, friends and family.  This was a a very small part of Paul's collection from his office in Covent Garden! Immediately I thought of the prints, postcards, letters and cuttings that I keep in boxes around my home - so inspiring to have them out on the walls all the time - kind of like a live scrapbook!

The Gallery Walls
Paul's collection up close
Meandering through the exhibit, highlights included seeing all the collaborations Paul has done - like the stripe Evian bottles, the stripe Mini car and Roberts radios; the photographs of Paul Smith boutiques across the world - which were all different and featured unique interiors; an entire wall of buttons (!), a parade of selected fashion looks from the archives, and specially commissioned footage showing behind the scenes of a recent fashion show and how it's all put together.

Inspiring quote from the start of the exhibition; s snapshot of the gallery walls:
showing Sir Paul our appreciation; the famous stripe Mini
Women's Country House Print Dress, AW 2006
- Love this, so chic!
Women's Sari Silk Embroidered Dress, SS 2002
A replica of the design studio; the stripe Evian bottle collaboration; a wall
of buttons; Paul's creatively cluttered Covent Garden office
I loved seeing the replicas of Paul's design studio and Paul's Covent Garden office. Both were full of items - books, magazines, fabric swatches, colour charts, random objects - in a myriad of colours and textures, which really demonstrated and echoed Paul's philosophy that ideas can come from anywhere - you can take inspiration from anything.  

A closer look at one of the design studio desks - I spy mood
boards, colour charts, fabric swatches, magazine cuttings...
My favourite part of the exhibition was 'Inside Paul's Head', a section drawing on Paul's extensive photographic archive depicting how he finds inspiring from observing - "people look, but so often they don't see".  Paul takes his camera everywhere and keeps track of the countless ideas and images that come into his head by keeping a sketchbook and filling it with sketches, words and musings. Street markets all around the world are Paul's favourite place to go.  He maintains his belief that ideas and inspiration can come from anywhere and everywhere, and advises us to "be your own person, to not spend a lot of time looking at what others are looking at, and visiting the places they go to, instead to take a unique view and make some discoveries of your own.  If you go abroad - take inspiration from people watching and seeing what the locals wear."  Sage and simple advice for living a more creative life!

In this section, there were hundreds of images fading in and out of anything and everything - and Paul spoke about what he saw and how those visions and thoughts could be channelled creatively into a piece of clothing or form the inspiration to one of his collections.  For instance, printing the unexpected onto fabric is Paul's signature - such as pictures of flowers or a photo he has taken on holiday.

Rachel and I left the exhibition, our minds buzzing with excitement and creativity...

Then came the icing on the cake - we bumped into the man himself in the foyer and took a selfie with him!!!!

Sir Paul Smith - officially the nicest man in fashion! Still can't believe we met him!!!

Selfie with Sir Paul Smith - this is getting framed!
Hello, My Name is Paul Smith - extended until 22nd June 2014, Design Museum London. Don't miss it!

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