Sir Paul Smith’s exhibition at London’s Design Museum is so much more than a few key ensembles placed on nondescript mannequins; it’s a immersive experience which will take you from the life of a young Nottingham designer in a replica of his first shop – which was basically windowless postage stamp - to the illustrious global megalith that is the Paul Smith brand in 2013. Of course there are his catwalk creations in between, but the clever addition of brand new super-HD video footage preparing for a recent menswear show through to a series of replica spaces that have shaped his career so far highlights the fact that the world of Paul Smith isn’t just about clothing, it’s a lifestyle.
The woman who was in charge of curating this major retrospective entitle “Hello My Name Is Paul Smith” is Donna Loveday. And in addition to the 28 collections per year that she sifted through, Sir Paul’s bursting personal archives provided plenty of material. One great example: his fans have always sent him inanimate objects. ‘We are astounded by the post every day,’ Paul tells WWD, ‘I just had five huge cartons of spinning tops sent to me.’ Which surely contributes to the organised chaos of his fairly messy office – something that has also been recreated for the occasion. ‘The office is the equivalent of my brain. I have never sat at the desk,’ he explains.
Paul Smith Women spring/summer 2014 [Catwalking]
Despite that frenzy, many of the museum’s rooms are dedicated to the specific: one focuses on different coloured buttons, another concentrates on collaborations, while a following space is plastered with the artwork, posters and photographs Paul has been collecting for years. You'll even see a range of snaps from the man himself, since he first picked up a camera aged 11.
Paul Smith opened his first store in 1970
Paul’s down-to-earth and exuberant nature is one that could never be questioned, but when you hear that the man of the moment could be found tidying the merchandise in the museum’s gift store, the normality of a chap behind a £4 million empire hits home: 'He said he couldn’t help himself. "It’s the shopkeeper in me," he said,' tells Donna. Keep your fingers crossed and maybe he'll return on the day that you visit...