Flash of inspiration

Paul Smith’s new book, designed by Aboud Sodano, is a feast for the eyes and the mind. Jim Davies enjoys a visually eclectic read

You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but You Can Find Inspiration in Everything gives you a fair indication of what you’re going to find inside. And considering there are 35 different cover variants made up of limited-edition printed cloth, that’s saying something.

Mine is a dense patchwork of richly coloured floral off-cuts, laid seemingly randomly over one another. The lower-case title is printed over this concoction in a heavy gold block, and it’s all held together in a reassuringly traditional quarter-bound style.

The ambition, complexity, unexpectedness, curious mix of abandon and restraint, the attention to detail and impeccable production values of the cover speak eloquently of the person to whom the work is dedicated – Britain’s most successful fashion designer, Sir Paul Smith.

For most people, the visual drama of the cover would be quite enough. But the guiding principle of this book would appear to be more is more. It comes encased in a white, expanded polystyrene slip case designed by Apple Computer’s Jonathan Ive – a bulky, protective shell that looks as though it’s been modelled on a comic-book drawing of an ancient encyclopedia.

In a small compartment inside the slip, you’ll discover a plastic magnifying glass with which you are invited to interact with the legion of tiny photographic images dotted about inside.

The show certainly doesn’t stop there. Design-wise the entire project is a tour de force – Aboud Sodano has managed to cram every trick in the book – from varied paper stocks and sizes, to metallic inks, mad-cap Victorian-style illustration, treated photography, esoteric posters and pullouts – even a one-off comic called The Bunny, alluding to the creature that supposedly brings Smith good luck.

The editorial content is just as eclectic, an essay by cyberpunk author William Gibson; Smith interviewed by the eminent neurobiologist Professor Semir Zeki; a bizarre short story by James Flint, author of Habit Us. In addition, there are a couple of photographic essays, including Paul Smith by Paul Smith for Paul Smith – shots of men called Paul Smith dressed in his clothes, taken by a photographer of the same name. In essence, it’s a kind of glorified scrapbook devoted to the pieces that make up the man.

While this lateral, post-modernist approach is diverting, the most illuminating moments are provided by the man himself. At times, he’s disarmingly personal, particularly in a poignant tribute to his father Harold, a keen amateur photographer whose work is featured extensively. In a section called Observations and Other Stuff, Smith gets down to the nitty-gritty of his key influences and methodology, touching on colour theory and fashion imagery, among other things.

You Can Find Inspiration in Everything left me feeling both exhausted and uplifted. It’s undoubtedly a book to be digested in small pieces, far too rich to be consumed in a single sitting. Even if you’re not particularly interested in Paul Smith (though it would help), its outstanding design and production make this a book to be kept and treasured. Ive’s contribution is not so much a slip case as a jewel box that contains a gem of a book.

You Can Find Inspiration in Everything, priced at £35, will be published by Violette Editions in early December

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