Paul Smith on his new exhibition “Hello, My Name is Paul Smith”

Paul Smith
Iconic British designer, Paul Smith at a new exhibition celebrating his work.
Credit: Luke Hayes

Paul Smith is flitting between an official photographer and a gaggle of student iPhone snaparazzi at a new exhibition, “Hello, My Name Is Paul Smith,” at The Design Museum, London. The avuncular sixty-seven year-old has a rather impressive way of combining the eager to please affability of a local shopkeeper with the corporate nous of a global empire. While I’m waiting for my interview, groupies swarm to a gracious welcome – gosh, even toddlers get a hug.

The designer eschews the pretension of high fashion for humanism, a style that’s clear in the exhibition’s homely curation: fine art pieces flank knick-knacks from fans. Just don’t call it a retrospective: ‘I’ve got enough stuff for four or five separate exhibitions,’ he admits.

When was the last time you wore something that wasn’t designed by you?
[Laughs] 18. Although, if I’m on holiday and it’s suddenly cold and I haven’t got a sweater, I might buy a classic cashmere or something.

Do you feel guilty wearing other designers?
No, I just like my stuff. I steal it from downstairs; I nick it from the shops.

They’re trying to find the samples…
… And I’m the one who has them all.

You mentioned before that there is a level of pretentiousness and rudeness within the industry. You’d expect young people to put in the hard graft and work their way up. How do you feel about unpaid internships?
We’ve never encouraged unpaid internships. We get three, four, five requests a week for work placements. The best we can do these days is say, “Why don’t you come for an afternoon or day?”

You’re in your late sixties now, what are the problems with the youth of today?
[Laughs] I don’t think there is any problem with the youth of today – it’s just different. I think because of technology people spend a lot of time looking at screens and tweeting and doing all the things that are to do with modern communication. My only advice would be to try and get the balance right between looking at screens and just enjoying the observations of life and engaging in face-to-face conversation. And I think the last 20 years has been very much about C-list and B-list celebrity, really. Andy Warhol’s comment about everyone can be famous for 15 minutes has proved to be an amazing observation.

Did you ever want to be famous?
No. In this environment here, you expect people to know who you are, but when I walk down the street luckily I’m not a famous face, so thank goodness for that.

I noticed when I walked into the exhibition, that your first shop was tiny. It’s like a changing room.
I know. It was meant to be a shop! There was a curtain at the top of some stairs to a tiny changing room. The point of that exhibit is to show that you can start in a way that is considered very humble and then you can grow.

You’re not keen on email and computers in general. Do you think that being immersed in technology kills the creative side?
Personally, I’m not into it but I understand it. If you walk outside my room in Covent Garden there are four young ladies that help me: the PA and secretaries get about 600 emails a day, so I’m very IT savvy, as is the whole company. Personally, I find that the use of my own eyes, my photography, my notes, works for me – but each to their own. It’s about balance.

What phone do you use?
I’ve got an iPhone now. Jony Ives [Apple’s senior vice president of design] is a friend of mine, so I’m very privileged to get some very nice gifts.

You use Instagram but you don’t take many pictures of clothes. You tend to stick to more personal things.
Well, apparently you know, a lot of the big commercial brands use Instagram and Facebook but they’re just pictures of their shoes or bags or whatever. Interestingly, I’m told by my IT department that they might have a million followers but there’s almost never any comments, whereas with mine, we get 4,500, 5,000 comments. Not just the word ‘Like’ but ‘Oh, this is whatever’ or ‘When did you see that?’

You said before of the runway, “It’s £500,000 on 14 minutes.” Does it seem a bit ridiculous?
Absolutely. Unfortunately, it’s very much part of the process. A lot of the younger designers – and this is another reason for making this exhibition so down to earth – think that’s what it’s about: a fashion show and about twenty shops or whatever. Actually, it’s only a tiny part of the process. Even if you have the best fashion show in the world but you don’t make the clothes beautifully at the correct price and deliver on time and get paid, then it’s all a bit of a waste of time.

Technically speaking, you could collect your pension. Do you ever use the free bus pass and have you taken the heating allowance?
[Laughs and slaps my leg]. Don’t remind me, you swine, you. Throw this man out. No, I give it to Maggie’s [cancer charity] who we’ve worked with in the past.

What’s going to happen to your business after you retire?
It will just carry on. We’ve got a good structure and a flat management stream that works well.

Who would you like to take over?
There’s not one particular person. I suppose what I will miss is someone at the front of house – the spokesperson.

Do you intend to die on the job?
[Laughs] Yeah, I’ll do a Tommy Cooper.

 



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

US military tried, but failed to rescue journalist…

The U.S. military earlier this year tried to rescue journalist James Foley and other American hostages held in Syria ,but failed to find the captives.

National

Fate of captured beluga whales in hands of…

A Georgia aquarium went to court on Wednesday seeking federal permission to bring 18 captured beluga whales to the United States from Russia.

Local

After Eric Garner death, religious leaders meet to…

Interfaith leaders convened with city officials to discuss what the community can do to help dial down heightened tensions after Eric Garner's death.

Local

'Suspicious' Hamilton Heights fire caused by power strip:…

An extension cord overload caused the deadly fire in Hamilton Heights late Monday that killed a 15-year-old girl and injured at least 12 others.

Television

'So You Think You Can Dance' recap: Season…

And then there were six. It was a big night on stage as the Top 6 got to dance with each other, All-star partners and perform a solo routine.

Television

'Doctor Who' personality profile: the 4 Doctors

When the time comes for a new Doctor, there's always some anxiety over the big question: Who will he be? The series owes its longevity…

Television

Billy Crystal to commemorate late actor Robin Williams…

  Comedian Billy Crystal will pay tribute to late actor Robin Williams at television's Primetime Emmy Awards on Aug. 25, the show's organizers said on…

Going Out

Things to do this week in NYC, Aug.…

GAMES Hudson Common Open Aug. 21, 7 p.m. Hudson Common 356 W. 58 St. Free, www.hudsoncommonnyc.com The U.S. Open begins on Monday, but most of…

NFL

Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.

NFL

Jalen Saunders still unsure what caused car accident…

Jets rookie wide receiver Jalen Saunders spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since his car accident, but he didn't say a whole lot.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL defense (DEF)

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL quarterbacks (QB)

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Wellbeing

Metabolic syndrome could have a sugar link

Scientists in St. Louis may have found another culprit in metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  Uric acid is…

Wellbeing

Another way stress hurts your unborn baby

Mothers know to try staying calm during pregnancy, as stress has been linked to behavioral and developmental problems for their babies. But now, a new…