The London Museum of Design is housing a retrospect on the work of fashion designer Paul Smith.
The first object we encounter as we step into a 3x3 room -the size of his first shop: Paul Smith Vetments pour l'Homme, Nottingham 1970- is a black and white portrait of him and his wife Pauline. Underneath which it reads:
"For Pauline, without her this would not have been possible" Paul's signature below.
This sets the tone for an exhibition that feels more like an open house which comes as no surprise upon realisation that Paul co-curated the work, interweaving sources of inspiration throughout his life with the end-products of multifaceted collaborations.
Walls are crammed with framed images of all kinds, portraits, photographs, lithographs, posters, drawings; Paul has always collected images and he took to photography while still very young.
The eclectic display speaks of its author. We see Bowie and Patty Smith more than once, Frida Kahlo, Giacometti at his studio. Also, sketches, pictures from his trips, presents from friends and altogether there's texture, colour, composition, contrast; a myriad of visual information.
If the space were a book, by this stage, we have merely finished the prologue and are about to start the first chapters.
The following rooms are occupied by the fruits of his work. They are not what we would conventionally expect to see at first glance. There isn't (yet) a single garment, cyclist jersey aside. But instead, we find beautiful, desirable objects such as the Leica x2 camera in a glass case or a Stelton bike*
Paul Smith has had a number of creative collaborations with artists like the Talking Heads and David Bowie while his advertising campaigns have been photographed by some of the best: Bailey, Sandro Solano, Julian Broad and Testino.
Eventually, we come across a longitudinal room that exhibits his designs and by this point, it is clear that Paul Smith is a well-rounded designer, a visionary, and a man who draws inspiration from ordinary experiences like delving into markets.
He always has a camera with himself.
His first exhibition was held in a hotel room in Paris. It was comprised of 6 shirts, 2 jumpers and 2 suits and only one person turned up at the end of the day.
"That was the beginning of my business"
Need I say anything else?
Hanka. London 2014.
* Paul Smith had a bicycle accident when he was aged 17. The title of this blog references this event. More on his biography can be found on the link below. It is worth a read.
SHAPE, SIMPLICITY, PROPORTION
"I hate shops that all look the same. I love individuality"
"My father taught me abstract photographs"