Visitors can take pics with cardboard versions of Paul Smith but if you’re lucky you can meet the designer in person. He frequently makes surprise visits to the museum, mingling with visitors and signing copies of his book.
The exhibition allows visitors to step into the world of Paul Smith and discover his unique and intuitive take on fashion and design. The exhibition charts the brand’s beginnings with it’s first shop in the 1970′s, footage that offers rare insight into the designer’s mind and creative process and the various stages of design and production behind a collection.
Throughout his career, Paul Smith has been collaborating with other brands long before it became the trend in the fashion industry. Some of his most interesting collaborations include designing a cover for the book Lady Chatterley’s Lover and the bottle for Evian Water.
One of Paul’s first collaborations was with car manufacturer Rover on a Mini and since then he’s designed cameras, rugs, motorbikes, bicycles, snowboards and more.
The recreation of Paul’s office in Covent Garden shows a space crammed with objects like books, bicycles, cameras, rabbits, robots, kitsch things, letters, bills, and bits and bobs all over the place. Paul says the office is the equivalent of his brain. From the things accumulated in his office, an idea will form and become inspiration for a new collection or design of a store.
Paul Smith’s first showroom was a bedroom at a hotel in Paris. His first collection consisted of just 6 shirts, 2 jumpers and 2 suits. Only one buyer turned up on the last day but they placed and order and that was the beginning of business.
Paul has been collecting prints and photographs for decades. A small part of his collection, from the wall of his office and basement, are on display including work from famous artists like Andy Warhol, David Hockney and Banksy as well as stuff sent to him by family, friends and unknown enthusiasts since the 1990′s.
Paul says that ideas can come from anywhere and you can take inspiration from anything. He keeps track of the countless images and ideas with a digital camera and a notebook that he fills with sketches, words and telephone numbers. A room in the exhibition titled ‘Inside Paul’s Head’ contains rapidly changing visuals of Paul and audio of his voice that gave the visitor real insight into how Paul thinks.
A selection from Paul Smith’s archived collections are on display. The are divided into four groups: colour, travel, British tradition and prints.
Some of the travel pieces include a Union Jack print dress, a Chinese sequinned cheongsam, an oriental coat, an Indian embroidered sari dress, a Zanzibar shirt, Afghan jackets and a snowflake jersey.
The print selection consists of florals or animal prints like a country house print dress, a print smock dress, a floral forget-me-not print mac, a butterfly print blouse, a monkey print shirt and a shark tooth print top.
Paul Smith design their own stores and each have its own character. Every store is different with a unique design approach behind each one.
The gift shop feels like an exhibition of its own with a selection of mugs, T-shirts, scarves, books, bags and perfumes to name a few.
Tickets are around £14 for adults and £8 for students. Advanced bookings are available here.