Recently, our marketing department went on a field trip south of the river (gasp!) to the Design Museum to immerse themselves in the wonderful, colourful world of Paul Smith at the "Hello, my name is Paul Smith" exhibition. Our PR Manager, Marta, writes:
I’ve always been fascinated by Paul Smith. As a designer, he has managed to carve himself a cheerful niche in the sober fashion and luxury goods market. His designs are instantly recognisable and British to the core, mixing vintage flourishes like elongated 1970s inspired collars with modern textiles and whimsical prints. As a businessman, Smith is very much present in his brand. Unlike a number of designers with their names on the door but little contact with the day-to-day running of their brand, he is known for being actively involved in everything his label does, from photographing collections to putting his stamp on collaborations with iconic brands like Mini, Leica and even HP sauce.
To me, Smith’s brand embodies optimism. From his iconic striped patterns to the cheeky flashes of eye-popping bring linings against otherwise subdued suiting fabrics, he knows how to inject a little humour and lightness into very wearable 'serious' clothes.
The exhibition is as much a personal archive of Smith’s life as a visual history of his brand. The whole thing starts with trip back in time to his label’s humble beginnings in 1970, when Smith opened his first (3 metre wide) shop in Nottingham, before taking visitors on a tour of Smith’s studio and workshop spaces and ending in a recreation of the experience of a Paul Smith fashion show.
The experience feels incredibly personal. From the hand-written notes and captions accompanying displays to Smith’s narration in the immersive, abstract screen-covered room symobolising the inside of his mind, it feels as though Smith himself is giving visitors a warm welcome into his secret world.
Walking around the exhibition, a few parallels between Paul Smith’s philosophy and our culture at W+K stood out to me. Again and again, Smith says “ideas can come from anywhere”. That’s the belief here as well. While we have creatives and account handlers, planners and PAs, everyone in the building is encouraged to contribute and bring their own skills and experience to the table. Nothing feels more exciting than meetings when everyone in the room is engaged and excited, whatever their role traditionally involves.
A love of individuality is also something Paul Smith and W+K seem to share. Smith says, “Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition". In fact, this belief is written on the walls. Like our offices, Smith’s studio is what some would call 'cluttered'. Sure, every vertical and horizontal surface may be completely covered by an accumulation of memorabilia, knicknacks and whatnots, but it feels authentic and personal in a way that a cold, over-designed minimalist space never could.
The exhibition is an inspiring place to spend an hour, with hundreds of details to get lost in. Leaving the museum, I couldn’t help but feel a little more optimistic and inspired to do some creative brainstorming of my own. I’ll confess that I visited twice last week, and chances are, the next time I need a jolt of inspiration, I’ll be heading across the Thames again.
The exhibition runs until 9th March 2014.