Finders keepers
Wallpaper|November 2020
Fashion designer and inveterate collector Paul Smith shares a few of his favourite things in a new book, and here with his friend and travelling companion Deyan Sudjic
DEYAN SUDJIC

Paul Smith, Vêtements pour Homme, as Smith called his first shop, was a life-affirming injection of wit and tailoring-with-a-twist into the cheesecloth and tank-top darkness of the 1970s. He had a tiny space, just 10ft by 10ft, in Nottingham, the English city in which he grew up. Its hours were 10am to 6pm, Fridays and Saturdays only. Along with the clothes, there was an Andy Warhol print on the wall that Smith still wishes he could have afforded to buy, and a selection of antique jewellery.

Then as now, what drives Smith is the delight he takes in discovering things, and the pleasure that he takes in sharing his finds with his customers, whom he treats as friends. Sometimes the discoveries end up on sale in his shops. He rescued the Filofax from the clutches of generations of compulsive list makers, before it became a badge of shame, a totem of the toxic materialism of the 1980s. He stocked vintage books, as well as Braun calculators by Dieter Rams.

He likes to tell you about the things he has seen. He once called to ask whether I’d been to Matt’s Gallery in London, the pioneering space for installation art run by Robin Klassnik. He had just seen ‘20:50’, the 200 gallons of sump oil that Richard Wilson had used to flood the building to spectacular effect. ‘It’s the last weekend of the exhibition, you have to go right now,’ he urged.

I had another phone call from Smith soon after he had opened his first store in Japan in 1984. ‘You have got to come to Tokyo, it’s the most amazing place on earth. Come with me next week.’ Luckily for me, I said yes and saw the city through his eyes. At Narita Airport, he pointed out the bus company staff, bowing low to a disappearing coach, a courtly gesture of respect that nobody but us would see. He took me to a tiny bar on an impossible-to-find alley in Shinjuku, where the barman served sake in unvarnished hinoki wood boxes and knew his name, and to the street full of shops near the old Tsukiji fish market, selling surrealist plates of wax spaghetti. He also took me to dinner with Rei Kawakubo, whom he ambushed with a rubber chicken.

Smith is celebrating the 50 years since he opened that first shop in Nottingham with a new book, edited by former Wallpaper* editor-in-chief Tony Chambers, that tells his story through 50 objects, salvaged from the snowdrift of stuff that covers every inch of his office in London’s Covent Garden. It’s an accumulation that has spilled over from a desk so full of things that it is no longer usable. There are tin toy cars, piles of books and magazines, Moroccan bottles, old cameras, a mountain of cycling jerseys, and a pink bicycle. There are a lot of rabbit artworks and ornaments, too. ‘I once said in an interview that seeing one brings me good luck, and the rabbits haven’t stopped pouring in ever since,’ Smith explains.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

RELATED STORIES

Never a quiet time for WFT

The dust never settles around the Washington Football Team.

4 mins read
Warpath
March 2021

Highway to History

Derrick Smith Jr. is sharing Oklahoma’s rich heritage from the back of a motorcycle.

2 mins read
Oklahoma Today
March/April 2021

Saved family letters tell of war horrors, peacetime hopes and dreams

Loving letters from long ago

3 mins read
The Good Life
March 2021

Logitech Circle View

A high–quality security camera with HomeKit support

2 mins read
Mac Life
March 2021

GH'S STEPHEN A. SMITH ON HIS NEW ESPN+ SERIES

LATE BREAKING NEWS

2 mins read
Soap Opera Digest
February 01, 2021

America's Missing Workers

Near-record levels of absenteeism could be hampering the recovery

4 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
January 18, 2021

Think Like a Dog, and “Shhh!”

Meemo’s Farm, a prime bird hunting destination in north-central Michigan, was the setting for dog trainer Ronnie Smith’s “Foundation Seminar,” a two-day introduction to the “Silent Command System” of dog training. Participants ranged in experience from those working with their first dogs to professional handlers/guides to veteran trainers with more than 40 years of experience.

8 mins read
The Upland Almanac
Spring 2021

Smith is ‘feeling more comfortable'

Starting quarterback Alex Smith when many second-guessed if the passer was even physically able to play over a younger quarterback that could be developed wasn’t a lucky guess by coach Ron Rivera.

4 mins read
Warpath
January 2021

It has been a magical ride

FROM WHERE I’M SITTING

3 mins read
Warpath
January 2021

Rivera picks the wrong passer

RIDING THE PINE Dwayne Haskins probably deserved to be benched, but with him sitting games out, the Washington Football team won't know if he learned anything.

3 mins read
Warpath
December 2020