A Day With Smithy
Team Woodhouse were lucky enough to receive an exclusive behind the scenes tour of the Paul Smith Northern Headquarters in Nottingham; the city in which it all began. From the tiny 3m square store where the British designer started selling his shirts, to the dedicated exhibition in Nottingham Castle, a true reflection of the humble beginnings and the stratospheric journey that the legend of menswear, design and fashion has been on.
First stop; head office.
Our meeting place was the Northern Head Office of the Paul Smith brand. Based in Nottingham, the birthplace of the brand. Every inch of the office space is an extension of the brand and the man himself. Eccentric, colourful, unique and striking pieces in every space. One of the first things we saw on our arrival was a bold coloured mini cooper parked in a stairwell, that’s when we knew we were in the right place.
A model of the fashion industry process is aptly positioned in a hallway complete with Paul Smith branded vans, moving conveyor belts and little workers. The epitome of the fun and playful ethos that you expect from Paul Smith and a great talking point.
From the in-house staff store (fully merchandised and stocked), to the main offices, complete with hundreds of books and magazines packed full of inspiration. The hallways walls adorned with photos from each of the 130 shops; each strikingly different and uniquely styled.
you can imagine that when you’ve been in the industry for as long as Sir Paul Smith, you start to build up quite the collection of interesting and inspirational things. Well in this case, times that by 100. Our next stop was the archives; a collection of unique and unusual objects that Sir Paul simply couldn’t let go of. It makes for gripping viewing.
Awards from Royalty, letters from the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, Roald Dahl and David Tennant to name just a few, one-off collaborations, records, magazine features, dirty old work boots (we asked – no one had a clue why they’d been saved!), football shirts, license plates, sporting memorabilia, bikes, photos, hats, shoes, dresses and hundreds of rails of old collections.
Sir Paul is famed for pulling inspiration from absolutely anything and everything and it’s clear from this collection of wonderfully weird objects that he really does mean anything. We could have spent days in there, finding new and interesting things collected and conserved by the great man.
A Fitting Finale
To wrap up our visit to the city of Nottingham, we headed off to the castle to see an exhibition on the life and work of Sir Paul Smith. From a recreation of the 3m x 3m store to some of the best and most bizarre collaborations, we got to see an eclectic and expansive curation of pieces from Sir Paul’s many years in the industry.
It seemed fitting to finish our day celebrating Sir Paul Smith in such a historic building and in a curated collection of pieces with summarise his energy, enthusiasm and exuberance for fashion. From the 90’s collection pieces in the archive, to the wall art in the offices and finally to the unique and elaborate collaborations celebrated in the castle, a sense of fun and playfulness is evident at every turn and you can see it carried into every new collection. A true British icon and a legend of the menswear industry.