Hello, My Name is Paul Smith
Autobiographical exhibition that tells the story of the man behind the fashion line
In an exhibition like this, which summarises both the work of an iconic creative personality and someone whose output is available to purchase off the peg, the line between celebration and marketing tool tends to become blurred. Yet, presented in touring form by the Design Museum London, it’s wonderfully curated, and the join between creativity and commerce is fortunately obscured. In its presentation, the show strives to actually be Paul Smith – all of the text is written in the first person, and there’s a mirrored antechamber which is described as being the inside of his head, in which television screens projecting abstract patterns hang from the ceiling and Smith’s words linger in the air.
The effect of this is wonderfully personable, and it gives us a real sense of Smith as a human rather than a brand. There are physical mock-ups of spaces which represent milestones in his life: a three-metre square white cube to the same dimensions as his first shop, opened in Nottingham in 1970 and ‘managed’ by an Afghan hound called Homer; the Paris bedroom where he presented and sold his first items of clothing; his trinket-swamped office in Covent Garden; and his design studio, busy with visual inspiration and Althea & Donna’s ‘Uptown Top Ranking’ on the retro radio. It all feels very London.
Elsewhere there are images of each of his bespoke stores and many promotional campaigns, as well as examples of Smith’s clothing which emphasise his personal taste in knitwear colours, lining patterns and sharply-cut suits. Most intriguing of all, however, is the room of ‘stamped objects’ – everyday items covered in postage stamps and sent to his office – which have been arriving anonymously since 1998. His wife Pauline is gratefully recognised in the show’s text, and Smith himself appears in video interviews; his designs are striking and desirable, but it’s in focusing on the personal that the exhibition succeeds.
Hello, My Name is Paul Smith is at the Lighthouse, Glasgow, until Sun 20 Mar.