Sir Paul Smith started his career in fashion at the age of 16, with a menial job in a clothing warehouse in Nottingham. At the age of 68, he has ammased a clothing empire that spans the world, with over 200 shops in Japan alone. Defined by an instantly recognisable brand of English eccentricity (think peeps of Union Jack lining, pinstripe tailoring with outlandish pocket draws, brogues with a flash of colour at the laces), the Paul Smith label is one of the country's best loved sartorial success stories. Sir Paul remains the driving force behind the 14 annual collections, as well as the prolific output of collaborations and side projects the brand undertakes. Interestingly, he is also a klepto- or clutter-maniac - with one of the most curio-stuffed offices in London. Every one of his stores is different - designed to suit their surroundings rather than sing from a uniform branding song sheet. 'I like things that don't go together' explained the designer in the exhibition preview, 'by combining odd fabrics and things on my office walls, I might get an idea for a clothing combination like tweed and silk'. This exhibition will recreate his office in its entirety, providing a key to his eclectic tastes and sources of inspiration. It will also detail his rags to riches career path - rebuilding his miniscule first store in the museum, showing archive collections, and of course, a vast number of the antiques and objects that frame Sir Paul's network of neverending ideas. Following the massively popular Christian Louboutin exhibition of 2012, we expect this showcase to sell tickets by the striped suitload. Booking opens September 22nd.
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This exhibition offers very little insight in to Paul Smith's creative process, or anything else for that matter. It really felt like an over elaborate stall at a trade show more than anything else. Certainly not worth the £12 entry fee.
Paul Smith is both the man and the global retail powerhouse he helped to create. This exhibition blends the lines a little too readily, and it’s often unclear whether we’re getting to know the individual or being taken on a ride round PaulSmithLand the theme park. The curation feels a bit chaotic and somewhat sycophantic, even for a retrospective. Recreations of Paul’s old study and of his current studio are interesting to a point but give little away. Some of the content is insightful, like the 3m x 3m mock-up of his first retail store. Much of it, however, is shameless merchandising - row upon row of ‘collaboration’ with product designers (i.e. slap your name on it), culminating in a predictably-striped Mini. The cardboard cutout ‘have your photo taken with Paul’ is particularly crass. A handful of pieces from runway collections throughout the years is enjoyable, but gives little away in terms of creative process or inspiration. Ardent fans will probably quite enjoy this, but for £12 there’s not much to write home about. For more of the latest art reviews, check out www.curatedlondon.co.uk
The Design Museum is currently playing host to actually one of the best ‘fashion’ exhibitions I have been to in ages. Being in the market for an activity on a murky Sunday and having escaped the dreaded two day hangover, I sauntered down the Thames Path with pretty minimal expectations. Golly though, it was a pleasant surprise. Paul Smith has commented on most of the exhibit, giving a down to earth and insightful look at running a quirky yet internationally renowned fashion brand. Highlights for me were the replica office and the collection of Paul’s personal art and posters. Lowlight was the half baked audio visual stuff. Three big screen tellys to capture the frenzy of a live catwalk show didn’t quite do it for me. Apart from that, don’t wait for a murky Sunday and get down there sharp ish before other people realise it is worth the trip.