It’s my obsession – Sir Paul Smith and his automotive collaborations, classic partnerships & signature stripes.

Well, as Annie Lennox once sang…

“Love is a stranger in an open car. To tempt you in and drive you far away. Ooh, love is a stranger in an open car. To tempt you in and drive you far awayAnd I want you, And I want you, And I want you so, It’s an obsession.”

That’s me with all things Paul Smith. I am like a magpie for his signature stripes.

The fellow East Midlander originally from Beeston, Nottinghamshire, started his fashion career in a clothing warehouse in 1970. 

In business for over 50 years Paul Smith had established himself as the pre-eminent British designer. He has an ability to anticipate, and even spark off trends not only in fashion, but in the wider context of pop culture. He manages to transmit a genuine sense of humour and mischief mixed with his love of tradition and the classics.

Paul Smith and cars

Mini Strip

A year after Smith unveiled the Mini Strip at the IAA motor show in Munich – described as a “radically reduced, sustainable concept car” – Paul Smith’s latest Mini is the Mini Recharged model and revisits the 1998 Mini Paul Smith Edition, which was limited to 1,800 vehicles.

Mini Recharged

Mini art car

Smith’s first automotive collaboration saw him go to town on a Rover Mini in 1997. The car was painted top to tail in 84 of the designer’s signature stripes, and even if you’ve not seen the Mini itself (just two were officially built, though several replicas have appeared since), it became a popular fixture on Paul Smith merchandise for a time.

Rover Mini

While Rover might have struggled to sell stripy Minis, it still got its money’s worth from the Smith collaboration when it released the Mini Paul Smith edition in 1998. Painted in an exclusive shade, Paul Smith Blue, the Mini got unique details such as gold badges front and rear, black Minilite wheels, and hidden lime green touches – designed to evoke the bright lining on the designer’s suits.

Jaguar X-Type

Needing an image boost for its BMW 3-series rival, Jaguar turned to Paul Smith in 2001, jazzing up the X-type with a series of longitudinal stripes. Not quite as extreme as that first Mini perhaps, but a bold effort to try and ensnare the younger audience Jaguar was seeking at the height of the “Cool Britannia” movement. The original was sold at auction for £41,000, and occasionally appears on the market for rather less.

Porsche 911 2-litre Cup

If you’re a fan of classic motorsport, you might have heard of the 2-litre Cup; a series for race-prepared versions of the early 2-litre Porsche 911s. The cars, riding on their steel wheels, are already effortlessly cool, but Sports Purpose founder James Turner commissioned Smith to put his mark on the car. Once again the theme is stripes, but this time just eight bands front to back – inside and out.


Smith worked with Land Rover and its design chief Gerry McGovern to put a different spin on the usual countryside image. The result was akin to a subtler take on those old Volkswagen Harlequin models, with 27 muted shades (well, relatively – the Day-Glo yellow touches stand out a little more) applied to the car’s panels. The seats, naturally, were striped.

Paul Smith and motorcycles

After his first foray into motor vehicles, Paul Smith then teamed up with UK motorcycle company Triumph Motorbikes. For the partnership, Smith designed apparel and a pair of heavy-duty leather boots to be worn while riding and, to promote the collection, nine custom Triumph Bonneville T100s. Due to the overwhelming response, 50 units of the two most popular models were produced commercially, both of which are hand-painted with mock-croc leather seats.

Paul Smith and bicycles

Hummingbird bikes

Paul Smith Porsche 911 owner, James Turner, has bought the only bike which matches and fits in his car, the Hummingbird x Paul Smith.

James, the owner of Sports Purpose, a rare Porsche specialist based at Bicester Heritage, created his own 1965 Porsche 911 2.0 in the Paul Smith Artist Stripe. The car raced at both Le Mans Classic and the Goodwood Festival of Speed and most recently at the Bicester Super Scramble.

Only 50 bespoke Paul Smith x Hummingbird bikes have been produced.

Mercian Cycles

Continuing the two-wheel theme, Paul Smith joined forces with the Derbyshire bespoke shop Mercian Cycles. This partnership was particularly close to Smith’s heart, before Smith even thought about becoming a fashion designer, he wanted to become a professional racer. He began cycling competitively at the age of 12, when he was just 17 he was hit by a car, putting an abrupt end to his cycling dreams.

This Paul Smith x Mercian Cycles collaboration encompasses nine custom-made frames and two styles, one city and one road-racing style. In 2019, the two teamed up again for Wallpaper’s Handmade X project in a bespoke, one-of-a-kind tandem.

As I don’t own any of the above, here are a few Paul Smith ‘arty farty’ and ‘timeless classic’ objects that I do personally happen to own….

Caran d’Ache

It is said that Paul Smith carries the Swiss pen on him at all times to take notes. A longtime fan of the brand, Smith has collaborated with Caran d’Ache on several stationary collections since the first in 2015, the most recent featured the 849 ballpoint pen and a pack of water-soluble colouring pencils in shades taken from the ‘Artist Stripe’, one Paul Smith’s signature designs.


A collaborative design project that partners German design with British fashion. Braun and Paul Smith teamed up on a limited-edition clock and watch project.


Anglepoise + Paul Smith is a stunning interpretation of the Anglepoise Type 75™ range, combining the unmistakable form and function of an Anglepoise with the quintessential style of Britain’s foremost designer. Created for Anglepoise by leading British industrial product designer, Sir Kenneth Grange, the timeless Type 75™ design provides the perfect canvas for a designer known for his mastery of colour.

If you liked this newsletter you may enjoy WDA Automotive’s article on ‘The Stories Behind The Most Famous Racing Liveries’ which can be found here



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