LEARNING HIS STRIPES: PAUL SMITH & THE DESIGN MUSEUM






Today’s recipient needs little introduction. Most of you will have instantly recognised the image above and will have, at one point or another, held a bag or a gift box adorned by this iconic pinstriped barcode with its trademark rainbow of multifarious colours that is universally associated with the signature logo of …




Paul Smith‘s illustrious career and exceptional impact on the world of fashion and retail is the subject of a much-anticipated exhibition this winter
at the brilliant Design Museum in London.

“Hello, my name is Paul Smith” is a major retrospective opening on Friday until March 9, 2014 that will give a comprehensive insight into the five decades of the British designer and retailer’s world, influences, achievements and working methods.


Due to the huge popularity and influence of the designer (his empire is represented in 72 countries), the exhibition is likely to appeal to a broad audience and break visitor figure records – and even the Design Museum’s own records as it already celebrated the designer in 2001 with its ‘True Brit” exhibition.




The rich visual experience curated by Donna Loveday (she of the museum’s hugely successful Christian Louboutin show last year) will take the shape of a long corridor and will chart the designer, retailer and businessman’s career throughout various media (music, photographs, artifacts, projections, films, soundbites) and approaches such as these:




a display of Sir Paul’ Smith’s daring sartorial creations from collections selected by the designer himself dating back to his first show in Paris in 1976 up to today
(the company shows an impressive fourteen different collections every year), personal archives, hand-drawn sketches and other inspirational elements that make Paul Smith’s mind tick and creativity flow, a reconstruction of Smith’s first humble 1970 shop in Nottingham famously measuring three metres square, a makeshift version of his current studio and a room dedicated to the paraphernalia he’s received from his adoring fans throughout the years, most probably from Japan where his fan base is huge.








Another area will also be devoted to his architect wife Pauline whom has had a huge influence on his work, another one will showcase the unique design behind each of his stores accompanied by selection of jewellery, books, artworks, antiques, objets and curiosités that typically complement the clothes, and of course his great, whimsical collaborations ranging from cars (Rover’s Mini), cameras (Leica) and rugs (The Rug Company) to water bottles (Evian) and bicycles (Rapha) – Smith aspired to a be a professional cyclist until a road accident crushed his dreams when he was fifteen – and a special feature giving the visitors a glimpse into the brand’s future projects.






From his impeccably smart and tailored menswear and womenswear, his inventive approach to fabric, colour and pattern to his principles of traditional craftsmanship of tailoring and techniques with a contemporary edge, and his ‘English eccentric’ twist and Brit-wit style,  A-Gent of Style has been a huge admirer of Sir Paul Smith and looks forward to entering this world of “creation, inspiration, collaboration, wit and beauty” that epitomises the man behind one of the most quintessential British labels and leading fashion brands in the world.



Paul Smith stores – interiors and exteriors

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Paul Smith Spring/Summer 2014 collection

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Paul Smith objets and collaborations

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A Channel 4 interview





A BBC interview






During the run of the exhibition, the Design Museum will be hosting a series of exciting events such as Paul Smith Instagram Takeover, Live Twitter Q&A with Paul Smith and Sophie Hicks on Designing for Paul Smith.








A book “Hello, My Name is Paul Smith” published by Rizzoli will be published to coincide with the exhibition



 

 

LEATHER SCULPTRESS: GENEVIEVE BENNETT







This is so long overdue; I am almost ashamed to be covering this topic only today. Better late than never I suppose. 

What could look like shameful procrastination is actually, in my defence, the technical problems I somehow encountered with retrieving some photos on my laptop. Hopefully, this won’t have detracted from the importance of today’s matter.




 Back in December last year, A-Gent of Style went to meet Genevieve Bennett in her studio in Islington. A few weeks before my visit, I had come across a small feature in a design magazine about the British designer’s work which triggered off my curiosity. Later, when I looked at her website, I was mesmerised by the beauty, novelty and imaginative approach of her art – leather for interiors – and immediately tried to arrange a meeting.





Genevieve Bennett creates bespoke three-dimensional leather pieces that are either embossed, debossed, etched, engraved, inlaid, layered or sculpted into wall panels, tiles and coverings which can be used on walls, floors, and bespoke furniture such as cupboards, headboards, folding screens, cabinets, bar fronts, doors or even individual wall-mounted art work.

As always, it was particularly exciting to go inside an artist’s studio and to see, feel and touch what constitutes their microcosm – in Bennett’s case: sketches, drawings, swatches and scraps of leather, inspirational and mood boards, product samples, instruments, utensils, books and other personal paraphernalia.

The charming Bennett told met she uses full grain, aniline-dyed leather with an aqueous based water-repellent, which she sources in America from Spinneybeck, a supplier of fine Italian leather. Since leather is a beautiful, natural, tactile material, her pieces will age gracefully and acquire, I imagine, a ‘lived-in’ look and antique patina over the years.



Bennett got an MA from the Royal College of Art in mixed media and textiles which led her to explore leather later on. She credits different influences to her work: 
17th C master craftsman Grinling Gibbons, 18th C Spitalfields silk designs, striking patterns, Moorish lusterware and antique plaster and stone work. I was not surprised to hear she originally trained in textiles as she seems to approach her projects as if she were designing with fabrics and making embroidery. I was even more impressed by her considering leather is a much more robust and less malleable material to work with than fabrics.

Her work is also redolent to me of children’s pop-up books, or the work of the British paper cutter artist Rob Ryan and also of the dazzling structure made mainly from laser-cut wood that was created by architectural firm WWA for the Polish pavilion at the Shanghai 2010 World Expo.




I am particularly smitten with the strong patterns and graphics of her products – floral or geometric, small or big, thin or deep, in contrasting or tonal combinations – and also their textured quality and surface relief. Like most modern crafts people, Bennett brilliantly manages to mix traditional, artisanal techniques and processes with modern technology which give her work a contemporary, innovative and intricate twist. She uses a laser machine for engraved designs but painstakingly cuts and scores sculpted panels by hand. The range of her products are available in many beautiful colours and in any size desirable.



Since graduation and before establishing her bespoke leather business in 2008, Bennett has worked extensively as a freelance design consultant for companies such as Habitat, Tom Dixon, Neisha Crosland and Wedgwood.

Working with leather is a high-skilled process and commissions can take months to realise and are aimed for the high-end market and its discerning clientèle.

As the photos below will perfectly illustrate, the beautiful and luxurious finish of Bennett’s surface decoration never fails to have the wow factor and will undoubtedly embellish any interior.











 


















Bennett has now started working with felt. I look forward to seeing her new creations very soon. No doubt they will be ravishing again.







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