Eight things I learned from ‘Hello, My Name Is Paul Smith’ at the Design Museum

Before I went to the Design Museum for Paul Smith’s exhibition, ‘Hello, My Name is Paul Smith’, I knew next to nothing about the man except he likes stripes, flamboyant suits, and that I can’t afford anything he makes. (This was confirmed in the gift shop: £155 for a scarf. Bugger that for a game of soldiers.)

I think of Smith principally as a menswear designer – although in fact he and his team produce three womenswear collections a year in addition to four menswear – so I didn’t expect to find it as interesting as I did. The exhibition tells the story of Smith, who even aged 67 is still heavily involved with the business, but the takeaway for anyone, fashion-conscious or no, is his incredible energy.

Like all famous people, Sir Paul is quite little.

Of course, it’s easy to be upbeat when you’ve got over 200 stores across the globe and a personal fortune of £280 million. Nonetheless, here are eight things that everyone can learn from Paul Smith.

1. You may not have always wanted to do what you were born to do. Smith wanted to be a professional racing cyclist but had to give up after an injury when he was seventeen. An unlikely series of events led him to found his eponymous menswear label and the rest, as they say, is history.

Hello My Name Is Paul Smith clothes
THAT JACKET. On the left. It’s just mental enough to be good.

2. Marry someone who inspires you. No trophy wives for Sir Paul; his wife Pauline, a fashion graduate before Smith even learned to sew, was the one who persuaded him to set up shop in 1970.

3. Develop a distinctive signature and use it everywhere…

Hello My Name Is Paul Smith Mini Cooper

4. But always remember that individuality is key.

Hello My Name Is Paul Smith philosophy

5. Chill the fuck out. There’s a short film that documents the day of a Paul Smith fashion show, and Smith is either on drugs or the most laid back guy in the world.

6. Play nicely with others. Smith’s collaborated with dozens of brands, from books, boots, snowboards and stamps.

Hello My Name Is Paul Smith Lady Chatterley's Lover
This embroidered copy of D.H.Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover was my favourite.
Hello My Name Is Paul Smith HP Sauce
And this was too ridiculous not to mention. Honestly. I hope they didn’t charge any extra for the stripey label.

7. You don’t need to be tidy to create things. Which is reassuring, because I’m the messiest fucker I know.

A reconstruction of Paul Smith’s Covent Garden office today.

8. Positivity. Even if you don’t have nearly £300 million in the bank, cheer the fuck up. You’ll never achieve anything if you neg yourself out all the time. 

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We visited the Design Museum on a Saturday afternoon without an advance booking and got in without any problems. It costs £12.40 per adult, though there are concessionary discounts available, and this also includes entry to the Extraordinary Stories and In The Making exhibitions upstairs. Find out more on the DM website. Hello, My Name is Paul Smith is open until 22nd June 2014. 

Address: 28 Shad Thames, London SE1 2YD (nearest tube is London Bridge). 

Author: Emily Gibson

Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.