The word ‘craft’ can remind us of a handmade practice that is rooted in ancient traditions and skills. It is often associated with a fairly slow evolution in favour of a rigorous practice of it’s already established (and often extremely time consuming) skills.
To combat a potentially insular fascination with just this aspect of our craft, we’re ensuring that we take time to actively look outside lutherie and into the world of other disciplines to discover parallels between modern craftspeople and designers, whatever the work. This week, it’s Paul Smith…
Paul Smith is a household name recognised on a global scale. His signature stripes are instantly recognisable, a credit to his branding and his eye for line weight and colour.
Although he started out selling t-shirts to earn a bit of extra cash as a teenager, Smith insists that his success is down to him and his wife being full of a zest for living; ‘we’ve never been motivated by money, we’ve just been motivated by the joys of life… I’ve got stability at home, which means I’m not searching for anything more.’
Smith’s exploration of bold colours and patterns in the linings of suits is perhaps what he is known best for. These patterns are often juxtaposed with the simplicity of a well-tailored and understated suit - to reflect the humble practicality of every day life - which is perhaps inspired by his philosophy of living.
In 2012, Smith was asked in an interview about what he thought luxury meant. After outlining what he believes to be the preconceived notion of luxury, ‘something that costs quite a lot’, Smith continues to say that his own definition is a little different; ‘the privilege of freedom is luxury for me. The privilege of silence, being able to make your own decisions.’ In another interview, Smith reveals that one employee said of him “the problem with working for you is that I get a stomach ache from laughing.” He calls this ‘a good complaint’. Perhaps the kind of quality Smith prioritises in his life, in all its emotive and unapologetic honesty, is symbiotic to the vibrant and evocative designs of his clothing.
In a brand that is so focused around personality, Smith himself is, to be found pottering around his own shops in London on weekends helping customers and staff alike. He maintains that the moment you lose sight of the customer who gives the pay check, the moment you lose sight of success. Brought up working in a shop, he has always felt most comfortable working hard every day and never letting complacency set in no matter how successful he feels.
Smith’s designs are carefully considered and executed, with emphasis placed on small details which unite the traditional with the modern. This jacket, externally, embraces a traditional black tailored look. However, the juxtaposed blue lining reminiscent of a wild ocean spray is an adventurous challenge to the black. To unify the two concepts, Smith places a block of solid colour across the two fabrics. Having that bold connection is a bridge between the two styles, giving the garment permission to be both flamboyant and classic.
Similarly, the fabric inside is beautifully made inviting the eye to rejoice in the production of the clothing, and the eye is drawn to the tiniest detail with carefully considered colour choice.
Leopard print holds connotations of wildness, and of being vivacious and playful. However, Smith mutes these associations with the unexpected blue background. This allows the wearer to have a quiet flamboyance and personality to reveal should they wish.
Mondrian championed an asymmetrical balance in his paintings with the employment of large spaces with bold blocks of colour. Here, Smith does the same with this jacket pocket. The weight of broken spaces balanced with the colours allow the jacket pocket to have functional and design value.
So, how can we employ these designs in terms of the guitar?
This Jens Ritter bass is an example of Smith’s philosophy being put into practice. The blocks of colour to simplify purpose and generate instructional value is central to this bass. Blue and red speak of opposites, hot and cold, ice and fire; but here they are united in their ying-yang juxtaposition.
The sophistication of design and use of colour in this bass make it visually striking and aesthetically appealing. It also could be regarded as minimalist with the absence of unnecessary features. The colours give the piece weight and value as a piece of functional art.
So what makes Paul Smith inspiring to us? Injecting personality into his designs, he holds the things dear to him that we do in our workshop. He understands that products aren’t bought, experiences are; which is why he carefully curates all of his large stores with different apparel, and why we try to be transparent in all that we do and share with you our projects and personalities. It’s these experiences that transcend the object and make it special.
Smith is also an important figure to us because he uses materials and colour to suggest where his own inspirations come from. From the bold colours of the Pop Art movement to the parallels of his work to Mondrian, Smith explores modernity in tangent with traditionalism. We have tried to do this too, by introducing modern materials and colours such as patinated coppers into rosette designs and inlays.
We’d love to hear your own insights on Smith’s work - and if you think his work is transferable into some of your own projects.
Tom & Daisy <3