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Paul Smith reveals soft side in 15th-anniversary collection for the Rug Company

Paul Smith's new Paint Stripe rug for the Rug Company is inspired by midcentury modern abstract art, specifically drip painting. It retails for $145 per square foot.

Paul Smith’s new Paint Stripe rug for the Rug Company is inspired by midcentury modern abstract art, specifically drip painting. It retails for $145 per square foot.

(The Rug Company)

Known for his jaunty mix of crisp English tailoring punctuated by colorful stripes and florals, Paul Smith has put his stamp on several quirky side projects over the years, from a limited edition cover of John Le Carré’s “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” to a rugged Land Rover Defender decked out in 27 eye-popping shades. But there’s one collaboration that has steadfastly held the British designer’s interest the longest: that with the Rug Company.

To mark the 15-year partnership, Smith has produced a new collection consisting of six hand-knotted rug designs (and a wool needlepoint pillow). Fans of his usual kaleidoscope of primary brights may be surprised by the trove’s softer tones. “It’s an exciting collision of geometry and color,” said the designer, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth the same year he teamed up with the Rug Company. “I’ve taken the designs in a fresh direction -- modern with muted palettes and unregulated pattern composition -- while still retaining the spirit of my traditional design.”

Though clothing remains the backbone of his business -- there are about 200 Paul Smith stores around the globe -- the designer readily acknowledges that there are pluses to working outside the fashion industry. “Designing for fashion can be pretty quick -- if it’s a jacket or a dress, you can cut out the pattern and drape it on the stand within an hour,” he said. “Whereas rugs like these take much longer to develop, so it’s all about being patient [and] playing with the yarns in my hands, putting the colors together, building up the pattern. I love the more considered pace of design like this.”

Smith is also savvy enough to realize that going outside one’s comfort zone can up the relevancy factor. “In a world that’s so full of designer brands of every sort -- not just in clothes -- one of the ways to stand out is to do things that different and interesting,” he said. “It’s very challenging, working with different materials, working to different timescales and solving different problems, but it’s also great to open up to a wide and different audience.”

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Which raises the question: What might his next collaboration be? “There’s not all that many things that I haven’t already been offered: hotels, golf courses, the lot!” he said. “But I say ‘no’ to many more than I say ‘yes’ to!”

The Paul Smith 15th-anniversary collection is available online and at the Rug Company’s Los Angeles showroom at 8202 Melrose Avenue.

Twitter: @latimeshome

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