Paul Smith, Design Museum

I could never honestly say that I am at all interested in fashion, so my expectations of the Paul Smith exhibition at London’s Design Museum were of a steep learning curve, or perhaps even indifference. How very wrong I was…


Nottingham-born Paul Smith is considered to be a key figure of the British fashion industry. Leaving school with no qualifications at the age of fifteen, his childhood aspiration was to be a professional racing cyclist. However, a serious accident followed by six months in hospital laid that dream to rest and led to the development of interest in art and fashion. His classic British style inspired by traditional British menswear has become internationally renowned for its simplicity, quality, and splashes of vibrant colour, floral print or the designer’s signature multi-coloured stripes.

The 2013 Giro d'Italia leaders' jerseys: pink for general classification (overall), red for points, blue for mountains and white for the best young rider

The 2013 Giro d’Italia leaders’ jerseys: pink for general classification (overall), red for points, blue for mountains and white for the best young rider

As well as classic men’s fashion and tailoring, Sir Paul Smith has kitted out the England football team, Manchester United, and my personal favourite, the Maglia Rosa, the famous pink race leader’s jersey for the Giro d’Italia.

“Stop making sense. Logic is predictable. Think differently.”

As well as fashion design, Paul Smith also has an extensive photography portfolio. A frequent traveller, Smith describes his camera as a notebook with which he records his experiences, influences and inspiration. He was introduced to photography by his father and was encouraged by his wife Pauline to seek out unique images rather than the typical tourist cliches churned out in their thousands every day. It is this quest for uniqueness that excited me, as it aligns perfectly with my own intentions. How can you possibly expect to be noticed if you produce clones of others’ work?

The exhibition at the Design Museum has proved a huge success. Originally scheduled to run from 15 November 2013 to 9 March 2014, the exhibition received massive public demand and was subsequently extended to run until 22nd June 2014. I am so glad I seized the opportunity to visit the museum and enter the world of Sir Paul Smith.

The immediate impression was of a hoard of creations, inspiration, curiosity, wit, photography and original work. The first room was the ‘corridor’ of images (see feature image above) with no end of framed works to explore. Wandering from a recreation of his Covent Garden office, through his first studio, observing the cycling culture and dipping into fashion, this is the sort of experience that tugs at the corners of you mouth and sets your creativity alight.

Mini Cooper complete with Sir Paul Smith's signature multi-coloured stripes

Mini Cooper complete with Sir Paul Smith’s signature multi-coloured stripes

My own visit to the exhibition impressed upon me the importance of not jumping to conclusions when prior knowledge is non-existent. I frequently find myself frustrated with popular writers and critics who shred artistic works or new television shows when they are clearly not sufficiently informed about the subject in question. And yet before my visit, I felt that there would be nothing drawing me to the Paul Smith exhibition but the odd pretty bike or pink jersey. I was utterly wrong in this assumption. I came away inspired and awed at the simplicity, wit and masterpieces of design displayed.

From here on, I will endeavour to pay attention to the whole spread of media and creative industries with an open mind, aware of the mind-broadening effect it can have on my own methods, aspirations and portfolio.

This morning I woke up with a head buzzing with ideas and a new designer has taken up residence in my skull. I defy anyone to visit the gallery and not experience the spread of a smile and satisfaction upon your face.

Thanks to the Design Museum and of course to Sir Paul Smith, an inspiration in both design and positive thinking.


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