Colorful and cluttered, the office bursts with paraphernalia, from stacked bicycles and piles of books on designer chairs to an apple-green iMac, a futuristic record player and a red Snoopy phone on the rosewood desk.
This is, of course, no ordinary office — it’s the painstaking recreation of the workspace used by Sir Paul Smith, the iconic British fashion designer, at his headquarters in London’s Covent Garden district.
The scene is one of a series of detailed features that takes center stage in a new exhibition which, in keeping with the famously friendly and down-to-earth nature of the designer, is simply called “Hello, My Name is Paul Smith”.
The exhibition, which was wildly popular during its 2013 debut run at London’s Design Museum, is currently touring Japan — following its stint in Kyoto, it is currently running at Tokyo’s Ueno Royal Museum before moving to Nagoya in September.
The show offers a vivid insight into the meteoric rise of Sir Paul, whose eponymously named label operates 260 shops in 83 countries around the world — with Japan being his biggest market.
Highlights include a recreation of the humble 1976 Nottingham office where it all began (a windowless space measuring just three-by-three meters), Sir Paul’s chaotically creative office and design studio, a variety of striped collaborations — from teapots and Evian bottles to Minis — as well as, of course, his clothes collections.
In a recent interview, Sir Paul describes the inspiration behind the exhibition and his favorite highlights.
How did this exhibition come about?
I’ve (often) visited the Design Museum in London since it first opened and the director Deyan Sudjic is a good friend of mine. So when Deyan asked if I’d be interested in hosting an exhibition at the museum, I said “absolutely, yes.”
Can you tell us about the title?
The name is really a reflection of my own personal character. I never assume that people will know who I am or what I do. So ‘Hello, My Name is Paul Smith” is supposed to be a sort of humble title reflecting the way I live my life.
What are you hoping visitors will take away from this exhibition?
It is really about education and encouragement for people of all ages and interests to learn more about the creative world. Hopefully, people will come, enjoy the exhibition and leave feeling inspired!
Is it exactly the same as the original London Design Museum exhibition?
The exhibition started in London and has since traveled to Belgium and Scotland and now is in Japan. Every time, we’ve added things, tweaked things a bit, so it has been changing constantly.
I’m not sure if Japanese audiences will react differently but certainly from what we can tell, people spend a lot of time in the exhibition, much more than they would ordinarily. I would imagine the Japanese will certainly be in that mold!
It all starts with your first, modest Nottingham shop space. How significant a period in your life was this?
My wife, Pauline, has absolutely kept my feet on the ground every step of the way. The business has grown very organically and so although there’s more than just me, Pauline and Homer the dog working for the company now, we still think the same way.
What are the key factors that have propelled your business to such success?
“Never assume.” That’s been the company motto for a long time and it has meant we avoid a lot of trouble.
How would you describe your approach to design? And what inspires you creatively?
I always say, “You can find inspiration in everything — and if you can’t, look again.” The exhibition certainly shows this in so many different ways. To seeing my mad office, which is packed full of so many things — some chic and some not so chic, some rough and some smooth and so on — to seeing the “Inside Paul’s Head” room, which shows something of how I work.
What are your three personal highlights from the exhibition?
Everybody loves the “Art Wall” which is covered with lots of photographs and paintings that are a constant source of inspiration for me. The actual reproduction of the studio is very fascinating and very honest. Lots of other designers wouldn’t show how they think or work in such a clear way.
Then another thing that we hope will inspire people is the little three-by-three-meter reproduction of the first ever shop, which shows how you can start from something very small and go to something very big.
How important a role has Japan played for you — personally, creatively, professionally?
Japan has played an absolutely vital role. The work ethic, the attention to detail, the importance they place on making an effort — all of it inspires the way I work every single day of my life. Japan has influenced everything I’ve done since I first started visiting there, so in that sense it’s in so many parts of the exhibition.
Finally, what are your plans for the future?
Continuity is one of the things I’m most proud of and so really I’m just looking forward to more of the same.
“Hello, My Name is Paul Smith” runs at Tokyo’s Ueno Royal Museum until Aug. 23; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily (Fri. until 8 p.m.). ¥1,500. The exhibition then moves to Nagoya’s Matsuzakaya Museum from Sept. 11-Oct. 16. paulsmith2016.jp
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