Sir Paul Smith, designer, on an aardvark
GB Tell me why you chose an aardvark as an object of beauty.
PS There wasn’t a great deal of thought that went into it! But I guess it sprung to mind because it’s one of the first words in the English Dictionary, which I think is really great. All of those plumbers, double-glazers and taxi services that try and compete for pole position in some sort of index by calling themselves ‘AAA Cars’ or whatever, but the aardvark still does a great job just by being who he is.
GB Have you met any real aardvarks? Did they live up to expectations? Do they have a personality type, do you think?
PS No, but I have been to a brilliant vintage shop in Los Angeles which is called Aardvark.
GB Is cuteness an important part of beauty for you? They are incredibly cute!
PS They are indeed very cute, particularly the tips of their noses. I think beauty has a lot to do with confidence.
GB Do you think your choice of an aardvark reveals anything about you personally?
PS I guess it’s in my character not to choose the obvious–a beautiful building or piece of furniture–but to choose something out of the ordinary. But it’s also my character not to think about these things too much, so I’ll stop now! I just said “aardvark” without even thinking about it.
GB Is nature a higher form of beauty than anything man made?
PS Absolutely. The mystery of how all of these things came to be is just extraordinary.
GB Is beauty an important part of your work? Do other considerations come before it, like function?
PS Everything in my life is to do with balance. It’s neither all one, nor the other. It’s the balance of form and function. If something has ergonomic qualities but also has aesthetic qualities – that’s beautiful to me.
GB Do you think ideals of beauty differ in the various countries you work in?
PS I think references to beauty vary constantly. It’s a lot like the overuse of words like “heritage” and “luxury”. Everyone has a different view on what they represent. You can get “beautiful luxury quilted jackets” and “beautiful luxury quilted toilet paper”!