At the start of every month, it’s customary to repeat ‘rabbit’ or ‘white rabbit’ three times to bring in luck and prosperity for the weeks ahead.
This superstition can be traced back to Britain and North America. However, did you know that you’ll find lots of rabbits around the world-renowned touring exhibition “Hello, My Name is Paul Smith”, which is currently on display here at Nottingham Castle until 20 February 2022? Celebrate the arrival of September and find out more about why these cute creatures feature throughout the exhibition in our brand new blog!
Rabbits as a gift of love and luck from Paul’s wife, Pauline
Paul has often said that he owes a lot of his success to Pauline. So much so, he dedicated the exhibition to her. Pauline studied fashion at the Royal College of Art, London and came to Nottingham as a part-time tutor at the School of Art and Design. She first met Paul Smith in 1967 when he was working at Birdcage, a shop started by a friend from the art school. Pauline became Paul’s girlfriend, then his business partner and eventually his wife. She taught Paul the importance of quality, cut, proportion and an understanding of how clothes are made. When she took her students to the couture shows in Paris, Paul went along too. She taught him the key elements of the business of fashion and encouraged him to set up on his own. Pauline helped him to find stock for the shop and when they couldn’t find what they wanted, they started designing it. At first, it was Pauline who designed the clothes. They started with trousers and then went on to shirts. She would make the pattern and Paul would get them made up.
As Paul’s success grew, he hosted more and more fashion shows and for many years, Pauline gave him a rabbit as a token of good luck before every show. You’ll find rabbits of all shapes and sizes throughout the exhibition, particularly in Paul’s Office.
Paul Smith as a Rabbit?
If you look carefully, you’ll spot two images of a rabbit in a suit on the Art Wall in “Hello, My Name is Paul Smith”. These images are based on this fantastic portrait of Paul Smith (1998) by 1997 BP National Portrait
Prize winner James Lloyd. James Lloyd held the Paul Smith scholarship at the Slade School of Art (1994-6) – a fund that supports individuals with funding in London art schools. This portrait, which was painted in the artist’s studio, shows Smith holding a bolt of Chinese silk used in one of his womenswear collections.
This portrait has been shown at Nottingham Castle before, in 2010 as part of Portrait of a City: Nottingham Names and Faces from the 1500s to 2010, curated by Tristram, our current Exhibitions Manager.
As you can see, rabbits play a significant part in the story of Paul Smith. Next time you pay us a visit, why not try and spot as many as you can?
Admission to “Hello, My Name is Paul Smith” is included in the general admission ticket to Nottingham Castle. Find out more about the exhibition and book your tickets here.