How Dieter Rams inspired Paul Smith to be brave
The British designer admires the way the German minimalist managed to resist the allure of decoration
Paul Smith is known all over the world for beautiful clothes that play on heritage while offering a significant design detail that's always pleasingly different. However, his influences aren’t limited to well-established, ageless, paradigms; our new book Paul Smith, features 50 highly personal objects selected by the great man that, in Smith’s own accompanying words, chart his and his brand’s half century of struggle and success, from a small menswear concern in Nottingham, UK, through to a globally recognised international fashion house.
Some of these things - such as a letter opener or an illustrated book from 1915 - remind us of an earlier age of design. Other inclusions, however, point towards a newer way of doing things. The book features not one, but two works by the master of minimalism, Dieter Rams.
“Rams is a German industrial designer who worked for the Braun company,” explains Paul in the text accompanying the first of these two objects, a Lectron radio, dating from 1967. “I loved their stuff, and eventually I found out that he was responsible for most of it. We [Paul Smith’s shops] were the only place in the country where you could buy the Braun calculator, which first appeared in 1987 and became the inspiration for the iPhone. It was slim and plain, either in black or white, and we sold many, many of them. I liked the fact that Rams was brave enough to rely on form and function rather than decoration.
“It tied in with my interest in the Bauhaus approach to design. I learned a lot from his things, which worked without embellishment and were absolutely beautiful in their minimalism. One day in a design meeting I brought in a radio designed by Rams for Braun – the most pure and beautiful design, pale beige and grey, very simple. I said to the shoe design team, ‘This is a pair of shoes!’ I’ve never been sure whether they really got what I meant, but we ended up with some very nice shoes.”
You can see those shoes, as well as the Braun radio and record player Smith picked, in our new book; find out more and get your copy here. Meanwhile, for more on Rams, order a copy of another of our new season books, Dieter Rams: The Complete Works.