It’s very telling that the first thing you see when you enter the Paul Smith exhibition at the Design Museum is a dedication to his wife. “For Pauline - without her, this would not have been possible”. It sets the tone of the show. He's been wildly successful, he works relentlessly on his fashion collections and other projects and travels all the time, yet he remains modest - and we can thank Pauline for that. "She's kept my feet on the ground", he says in the audio commentary in one room.
She's also the one who set the whole thing in motion as it was her who studied fashion at the RCA and came to Nottingham in the 1970s (where he was) to work as a part time tutor at the School of Art and Design. He credits her with "teaching me the importance of quality, cut, proportion and an understanding of how clothes are made". She took him to Paris couture shows and taught him the key elements of the business of fashion and encouraged him to set up on his own. Which left me thinking 'I wonder if Pauline Smith ever does interviews?'
She was not there yesterday, but he was and he seemed very affable and relaxed as he wandered around talking to journalists and posing for photographers. Here's a man who has 300 shops worldwide and his fans send him presents, many of which he has on show in his office which is renowned for being full of curious objects. It's hard not to like him.
He loves street markets - they’re one of his favourite places to go whether he's in Delhi or on Portobello Road. He takes his camera everywhere he goes, it’s his visual diary - he also carries a notebook. Pauline taught him the importance of simplicity - something as simple as his handwriting on a piece of fabric. He doesn’t like sitting still, he likes exploring new places, even when he only has 24 hours. "You can find out a lot about a city from its shops", he says. "Think laterally, be curious. Ideas can come from anywhere, you just need to look and see - most people don’t see".
The highlights for me were the wall of pictures which he has been collecting (and receiving) for years and the recreation of his Covent Garden office in all its creative chaos. Plus there are photographs of his eponymous shops around the world, which are all completely different, and not forgetting the clothes featuring his signature bold prints. Go, have a wander, it will inspire you.