Inside the mind of British fashion icon, Paul Smith

Design Museum, London

Until March 9, 2014

December 11, 2013
by Anna Beketov
Paul Smith, Limited edition Mini Cooper customised by Paul Smith

Hello, My Name is Paul Smith is no ordinary retrospective.

Whilst we are indeed presented with exquisite creations and exposed to particulars of the long and winding road to the spring/summer 2014 Paris show, with curation as inspired as the clothes, there is a great deal more.

Visitors to this exhibition are invited to enter the very mind of Paul Smith: his biography is presented alongside his pieces, offering insight into his process of aesthetic reasoning.

One particular room attempts to recreate the brain of the fashion genius. As you walk in, on the left there is a chamber of television screens upon which abstracted Paul Smith prints whirl to the sound of the the designer’s voice.

Almost in a stream of consciousness, he talks of travelling, beach huts, ballrooms, military uniforms and other things that have inspired him.

We’re also offered an intimate glimpse into the working life of Paul Smith via a live recreation of his office. Abundant with trinkets from his personal collection, this space is perhaps the most exciting of the whole show.

Next there is the design studio, devoid of people but alive with creativity. We hear Smith’s commentary as we pass alongside the works, informing us how to re-create his trademark stripes: using cardboard to wrap the multi-coloured yarn.

This is further exposed in detail in a number of  glossy shots on the opposite wall.

The ‘collaborations’ room is practically bursting with big names the designer has worked with, and similarly showcases his trademark stripes across a range of products from a Mini to Evian bottles.

A superbly curated selection of photographs shows the interior of international Paul Smith shops, demonstrating just how independent they remain.

Each shop is a perfectly crafted, unique home. With wrought iron staircases, rich mahogany armoires and scatterings of retro ornaments, they are work of art in themselves.

Of course, there are then the actual clothes, living and breathing: each piece screaming its originality. Organised as if on a catwalk, the display puts the viewer in the position of the model.

Walking along, we’re offered the chance to marvel at the vibrancy of his fashion: psychedelic flower prints, intricately sewn bejewelled jackets and ocean wave kimono coats all bring this hall to life.

The last room is constructed as ‘A day in the life of a fashion show’, an artfully directed documentary that parades Smith’s tailored creations in their finished form. The Paris fashion show is shown to be a roaring success.

Thirty seven perfectly chiselled models display the clothes at their finest, whilst Smith again commentates as if offering guidance to a budding designer. Away from the chaos of fashion weeks, he explains how a relaxed approach leads to the smooth running of a show.

Leaving the video antechamber and re-entering the hall, the wall entitled Inside Paul’s Head confronts you. This is a bustling collection of aesthetic muses, from film posters, inspirational quotes to collages; impressionist paintings and personal photographs.

It’s a marvel really, if Paul Smith’s head really mirrors this collection of disorganised clutter, that the clothes are so clean cut and his shows run so smoothly, perhaps we can put this is down to his combination of inspired yet systematic artistic genius.