STARDUST MEMORIES: It was a bittersweet moment for Sir Paul Smith on Monday as he unveiled an exhibition about his past and present inspirations at Pace Gallery in Mayfair during London Collections: Men. Smith re-created his original Nottingham shop — which measured about 10 by 10 feet — and filled it with the inspirations and the merchandise they generated.
There was a pile of vintage speedometers that inspired Smith watch designs; examples of Frank Auerbach’s dark and moody artwork, which the designer later spun into scarves; and piles of striped sweaters that took their cue from the creations of John Hoyland, a favorite of Smith’s who is the subject of a group show at Pace London, along with Anthony Caro and Kenneth Noland.
An old-fashioned squeezebox, the kind used to play tango music, sat proudly on a shelf having served as the inspiration for Smith’s colored leather concertina bag.
The two-hour show also included multiple nods to David Bowie, a longtime friend for whom Smith recently created a T-shirt. The black-and-white star shirt — which was on display at the store — marked the release of Bowie’s latest album, “Blackstar,” on Friday, the late singer’s birthday.
“He asked me to do the T-shirt, which came out at one minute past midnight on the 8th,” said Smith, who had side one of “Aladdin Sane” playing on a record player inside the tiny shop — as well as a framed picture of himself and Bowie. “The new album is just seven songs, and it’s quite dark, and it’s got a hint of jazz as well. And it’s had very good reviews.”
Smith said Bowie used to wear pieces from his collections when he was off-duty. “He liked our suits, loved our scarves and shirts. I think in the Fifth Avenue shop once he bought all the shirts in his size.”
The two-hour Pace London presentation echoes Smith’s blockbuster 2013 show, “Hello, My Name is Paul Smith,” which was the most popular in the history of the London Design Museum, and is on a tour around the world.
Smith said he wanted to do a presentation around his first shop as an antidote to all of the money and polish in the fashion industry today.
“I just think the world is getting so modernized, and so many young designers think they should be with a huge company, have a shop on a posh street, and fashion shows. I think there’s such an over-supply at the moment of everything, and over-information about everything. I just wanted to show that character and an eclectic mix and small things can actually turn into things that grow.
“You don’t have to always go down the obvious route, but you do have to be patient and you do have to be modest and down to earth and you do have to grow things gently.”