Hello, My Name is Paul Smith serves well as a title, and this exhibition at the Design Museum does exactly what it says: it introduces who Paul Smith is, where he is from, what he does, how he does it and key moments in his professional career.
Chronicling the journey of fashion designer Paul Smith, the Design Museum has outlined the history of his work from his humble beginnings in Nottingham, to a showcase of his first collection in a Paris hotel room, to the latest preparations for his 2014 Paris fashion show. One could say that this boy who left school at 14 to pursue his dream of becoming a professional cyclist – despite a terrible accident at aged 17 which ended that dream – has done good.
Hello, My Name is Paul Smith goes beyond merely outlining the huge variety of clothes and objects he has designed over his 40-year career. The Design Museum has selected and displayed a wealth of material across a series of rooms that helps structure the narrative of Smith's life. This compartmentalising of an otherwise linear timeline serves the exhibition well, as it allows for a vast amount of content to be digested and understood. However, it is important to stress that this is not a fashion exhibition. While there are clothes there, they form only a small component of a vast variety of objects. Although a fashion designer by trade, Smith's signature twist on traditional designs have been seized upon by a diverse range of international contemporary brands such as Mini, Evian, The Rug Company, Giro d'Italia and HP Sauce to name a few. This diverse portfolio has firmly launched him beyond the stretch of the runway.
Entering through "The First Shop", you could be forgiven for not noticing it as part of the exhibition, as this 3m x 3m replica of the first shop Smith owned in Nottingham is so small, a family of four would struggle to fit in there. However, in the belly of the exhibition is a great auditorium showcasing a number of works from Smith's extensive art collection, by artists such as Banksy, David Hockney and Andy Warhol, and dominating every inch of wall space. Visitors are then invited into various themed spaces, to see "Inside Paul's Head", "The Hotel Bedroom", "The Design Studio", "The Collection" and "The Fashion Show". This approach not only showcases the final results, but also gives visitors an insight into Smith's design process and the commercial aspects of organising a fashion show. Making use of the latest Sony HD television sets, the visitor is not only treated to the physical objects, but also Smith's own thoughts, conveyed through well-constructed videos. This provides an additional layer of interest for the visitor in understanding not just who Paul Smith is but what his philosophy is and how he works.
However, it's not all high-tech: there are touches of nostalgia throughout the exhibition dedicated to his wife Pauline. One in particular, a wall of buttons dominating the entrance to "The Collection", is a delight for visitors, as we can all relate to our own experiences with sewing, or finding little boxes of buttons hidden in our mother's sewing box.
Since Paul Smith has collaborated with such a diverse range of everyday products in contemporary life, a visit to Hello, My Name is Paul Smith will leave you asking "What hasn't Paul Smith designed?" and "Who hasn't Paul Smith worked with?" A fun and educational exhibition, it will satisfy all those that visit, and represents good value for money.