Saturday, June 4, 2016

Hello My Name Is Paul Smith

Western-style glamour is Tokyo, not Kyoto.  Kyoto has an elegant sophistication, but red carpet Hollywood glitz?  Not so much.  But last night Kyoto felt very chic indeed at the opening of the new exhibition "Hello My Name Is Paul Smith" at the National Museum of Modern Art Kyoto (MoMAK) .  

I worked for Paul Smith for 10 years and saw half a dozen runway shows in Paris during my time with the company.  There is something wonderful about seeing the Paul Smith tribe gather for big events.  There is no mistaking the invited guests and employees of a Paul Smith party.  There is a distinct Paul Smith look.  But it is the individual interpretation of the clothes that creates that look.  And this is always as interesting and entertaining as the new collection.

Paul is something like a rock star in Japan.  He is politely mobbed by the Japanese.  He couldn't take two steps without someone stopping him for a photograph and/or autograph.  It is funny to see, really.  A soon-to-be 70-year-old man who has never played the electric guitar or acted in a feature film swarmed by adoring fans.

For me, fashion exhibitions, like architecture exhibitions tend to be very dry and one-dimensional.  There are the mannequins dressed in the designer's clothes; there are videos of the runway shows; there are photos from the ad campaigns.  Perhaps because Paul Smith is not that kind of designer and it is not that kind of fashion company, this exhibition is engaging, and more notably, it is fun (full credit to the curatorial team at the Design Museum).  I don't think Paul has ever taken what he does too seriously.  This combined with his delightful sense of humor shines through in this show.

Of course this exhibition is peppered with a fair amount of nostalgia for me.  "Ah yes, I remember that."  Wistful?  No.  I am grateful for the experience, but I am happy with the path I have chosen.  Ironically I would never have attended this opening party if I were still an employee of the Paul Smith company.  Anyway, it's cooler to be on the guest list.  (Hisashi Morikawa どうも ありがとう!)

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