Another ‘designer full of ego’ exhibition or not?
It’s coming up to Christmas and like always, this is the time of year when every Tom, Dick or Harry bring out a book about themselves and therefore they’re on the promotional campaign train involving 3 hour signing sessions at every book shop around the country. Normally I avoid self promotional related campaigns at all costs, especially when it involves a busy Selfridges on Oxford Street on a Friday night. It makes my commute home hell, but as a designer who is partital to a bit of Brit creative culture I simply could not resist the, ‘Hello, my name is Paul Smith’ exhibition at the Design Museum and what better excuse to break my Design Museum virginity.
Dragging James, a fellow Bulletproofer along with me, we walked the 30 minute journey along the Thames to the rather stark looking Design Museum. Greeted with the normal, ‘I’d rather be somewhere else’ staff, we made our way to the first floor where I expected some over flamboyant designer exhibition, which details the greatness of this fashion designer in a God-like sense. How wrong could I have been! A stark 3 metre by 3 metre box presented itself – this showed the size of the first shop Paul Smith opened. A shell with no windows which he only opened Fridays and Saturdays as he had to make money working in a warehouse during the week. This was clearly an introduction to the man, not the brand, and his far from glamourous beginnings in Nottingham. The exhibition is curated by Paul Smith himself, giving a very personal perspective of everything you see. You come to understand he is no ‘fashionista’ with an ego the size of China, but a laid back kleptomanic full of creative spark who quite literally finds inspiration in anything. The reconstruction of his office proves this; I know designers are notoriously messy (we call it creative chaos) but his was beyond anything I’ve seen. Tony/Nick take note and be grateful our office is not this bad – ok maybe Linky’s desk can compete!
Continuing our journey, it soon becomes obvious this is a man telling his story – a bit of a biography which leads into a brand story. His very British attitude, his love of colour (to quote: ‘there is colour and there is COLOUR’) and his talent to see the potential in anything from his surroundings, demonstrated by the large catalogue of collaborations from personal to obscure. One of them, he explains, is in this very exhibition and helped to put him on the map as a true Brit icon. Who can forget the Paul Smith Mini?!
At the end, you are shown a video of his latest Paris Fashion Week show with him narrating and giving a guided tour behind the scenes. This really sums up the man perfectly; in contrast to the chaos which is going on around him, he is calm and collective and childish to a degree. It’s refreshing to see a person who has been a creative in the industry for so long, still speak with such passion and joyful glee about his work with not a hint of arrogance or ego.
This exhibition is an underdog story and proves anything is possible as long as you put your heart and soul into it. It has also taught me not to judge a book by its cover; so maybe I will join the queues outside Selfridges waiting three hours for a squiggle….or maybe not! Oh by the way, his book ‘Hello, my name is Paul Smith’ is out now (there – the shameful plug is done).
Blog written by our lovely ‘Northern lass’ designer Jo Steele.