Hello, My Name is Paul Smith @ The Lighthouse


I could have entitled this post 'How Paul Smith gave me goosebumps in a Paris hotel room last night' - and not been lying. But more of that later.

For 30 years Paul Smith has been receiving a host of curious objects from an anonymous sender. Always posted unwrapped and smothered in postage stamps. Above him is a small selection including plastic fruit, a chair, surfboard and Koons-esque red metallic loveheart. 

Recalling the time the pink female mannequin torso gave the postman a few blushes, Paul says he has some ideas who might be responsible but absolutely vehemently does not want to know.

This is very Paul Smith, he talks about joy a lot and clearly delights at the quirky and seemingly frivolous knickknacks he famously surrounds himself with. You only have to look at his design studio and office over the years, two of them have been painstakingly recreated as part of the exhibition. No mean feat to accurately recreate haphazard chaos. 

The designer believes getting the balance right between commerce and creativity is vital to success. In fact, balance is something he highly recommends in all aspects of life. "Make decisions from the gut and if it feels right, do it". No 'paralysis by analysis' here then. He momentarily flinches and looking skyward, recalls a particular London refurbishment which ended up costing an absolute fortune. On the surface Paul Smith appears casually nonchalant about his status as one of the most successful UK fashion brands and claims never to have been motivated by money. I believe him.

He doesn't miss a trick and is acutely observant at all times, creating plenty of photo opportunities utilising the abundance of curios to hand and humorously scolding the paparazzi for dominating the press call, ensuring everyone gets their shot. Noticing things is his modus operandi and he advises designers to do the same. "If you look at something and can't find inspiration, look again." 

Anyway back to that Paris hotel room and those goosebumps. We approach a mocked up hotel bedroom and Smith recounts his first trade mission. It's Paris 1976 and each morning he carefully hides away his own clothes, lays a black cloth over the bed and places his small sample collection neatly on the bed awaiting the buyers. Monday, nobody. Tuesday, nobody. Wednesday, nobody. Then, on the Thursday at 4 o'clock one buyer comes and places the very first Paul Smith wholesale order. 

With this exhibition Paul Smith really wants to show just how small and modest the brand's beginnings were. Physically standing in the 3m square space that was his first shop is a mind boggling reminder that resourcefulness and perseverance can go a very long way. 

When it showed in London, 'Hello, My Name is Paul Smith' had the highest ever visitor figures for an exhibition in the Design Museum's history. Congratulations to The Lighthouse for bringing this exceptional fashion exhibition to Glasgow.

You have from now until 20th March 2016 to get inside the head of Paul Smith and discover the secrets of his success. All the clues are there, you just have to look, then look again. 

"Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way." - Edward de Bono.

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