When you talk British design icons, it’s hard to go past Paul Smith. The fashion legend has played a hand in defining the UK as a cultural hub, thanks to his offshoot of contemporary silhouettes and fashion-forward figures. Now the Brit is turning his sights to an arguably more famous countryman. Smith has collaborated with British automotive icon MINI for the new MINI Strip, a one-off all-electric car that gives sustainable design a fashionable upgrade.
On the outside, the MINI Strip does exactly what it says. Completely stripping down a three-door MINI Cooper SE and reducing it to its structural essence, Smith and the MINI design team produced a minimalist, high-class design with a fresh and unconventional appeal.
“I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to rethink the iconic MINI,” Paul Smith said. “I know and love the existing car, but by respecting the past and looking to the future we have created something very special. I feel very privileged that the MINI team have given me the confidence and freedom to think laterally about the approach to the design of the car. Together I think we have created something truly unique, by going back to basics, reducing things down and stripping the car.”
With Smith and MINI employing a ‘back to basics’ design, the new MINI Strip is raw by nature. The body was left in its unfinished state with no coloured paint applied, instead just a thin film of transparent paint to protect against corrosion. In keeping with Smith’s concept of ‘perfect imperfection, grinding marks from the factory have been consciously left intact on the galvanised steel panels to clearly identify the car as a “functional object and robust companion for everyday life”.
Interestingly, sections of the MINI black band were 3D-printed from recycled plastic, as were the distinctive front and rear apron inserts. As for the grille trim and aerodynamic covers on the wheels, they are made from recycled Perspex, saving both weight and resources. But while the exterior is an example of making what’s old, new again, the inside is completely different.
Opening the door, drivers are met with a starkly empty interior. All trim parts have been purposefully omitted, with the exception of the dashboard, topper pad and parcel shelf, leaving little to dominate the visual. Instead of the usual multi-part design, the dashboard consists solely of a large, semitransparent section with a smoked-glass finish. There is no centre instrument, meaning the driver’s smartphone takes centre stage instead. Placed where the centre display would normally be, your phone connects automatically to the car and essentially becomes the media centre.
While MINI was pretty tight-lipped about what’s going on under the hood, the MINI Strip is based on the MINI Electric Hatch, so you can expect it has similar specs on that front. But one thing that is for certain, this isn’t a car that boasts what it has included, it’s an artwork that spruiks what’s not. An exercise in sustainability headlined by omission, the MINI strip goes firmly against the grain.
If Coco Chanel’s mantra was to look in the mirror before you leave the house and take one thing off, Paul Smith’s must be to get starkly nude. Judging by the final result, he might be on to something.