Among the most successful fashion designers in British history, Paul Smith has been in business for over fifty years, producing collections sold in more than seventy countries. Guided by mutual trust, Smith and Maharam’s design studio have worked closely since 2003, translating Smith’s unique eye for pattern, color, and scale to over forty textiles for interiors. Here Mary Murphy, senior vice president of design, reflects on two decades of wide-ranging curiosity for the classic and unexpected.
Being in Paul Smith’s office is like being in a museum, only nothing is organized. It overflows with precariously stacked books, knickknacks, bicycles. Yet Paul always manages to put his hands on that one item he’s referencing, whether it’s a catalog of antique textile swatches, a collection of matchbooks, or a toy he finds amusing. There’s an endless supply of things that pique his curiosity.
Paul is a collector—of objects, cultural references, lived experiences—which informs the stories behind his designs. Our collaboration began after Paul encountered I Morosi alla Finestra (“The Lovers at the Window”), a 1930 window covering by Gio Ponti reissued by our design studio, at London’s Design Museum in 2002. He approached Maharam to use it as a lining for men’s jackets. From there, our design studio was excited to explore Paul’s unique approach to classic tailoring and apparel motifs at the scale offered by textiles for interiors.
For each of his designs, our studio works closely with Paul’s team to translate his flair for the unusual—mixing color and pattern in unexpected, sometimes eccentric, combinations—to textile form. Each design possesses a refinement rooted in Paul’s deep instinct for color and proportion, just as they reflect his keenly observant eye.
To honor twenty years of collaboration, we turned to another Maharam collaborator, graphic artist Andy Rementer, to help us tell the stories behind twenty designs in a book designed by Maharam Media. The rabbit is something of a talisman for Paul, a good-luck charm. Rabbits are scattered as sculptures, illustrations, and tchotchkes throughout his office, gifted by friends, family, and admirers. In the lunar calendar, the rabbit symbolizes a creative spirit, a fondness for art and design, and an attention to detail.
Paul’s work with us has been so special and long-lived because of the person he is. He is a real joy to work with—totally engaged and involved in every detail. He’s very down-to-earth and always interested in, and considerate of, other people. Warm and approachable, Paul’s team reflects his gentlemanly manners. There’s always an enthusiasm for our work and an abundance of ideas to draw from. Time flies when you’re having fun.
Andy Rementer is a Philadelphia-based graphic artist and Maharam Digital Projects collaborator.
Based in London and Saint Leonards-on-Sea, photographer Nick Ballón has documented Maharam’s design studio, operations, and collaborators since 2016.