paul smith designs one-off MINI STRIP car that maximizes material reduction

Aug 12, 2021

two british design icons – MINI and paul smith – strip off carbon to wear a more natural outfit inside and out. the MINI STRIP is a custom-made, one-off model co-created by the fashion designer and automotive manufacturer with an approach to reduction. it aims to highlight inspiration ideas for sustainability in car design as well as manufacturing.

designboom witnesses the debut catwalk of the model at an exclusive preview in london with paul smith and oliver heilmer, head of MINI design.

the MINI STRIP was defined by an overarching theme of ‘simplicity, transparency, sustainability’. the design process began by literally stripping down the MINI electric to its structural essence – only vital elements remain. this use of maximum reduction created a minimalist yet high-class design that is fresh with sustainable solutions and unconventional, rally car-like in appeal.

‘for me, the MINI STRIP shows in an impressive way that MINI and paul smith share the same bold way of thinking about the future in terms of innovation and design – and together we create more. paul asked essential questions right at the start of the design process with his non-automotive and therefore fresh perspective. we are proud to have developed such a strong character statement together,’ explains oliver heilmer, head of MINI design, to designboom.

raw material defines the car’s exterior. the body was left in its unfinished state with no colored paint applied apart from a thin film to protect against corrosion. the unusual aesthetic leaves grinding marks on the galvanised steel panels proudly on display. paul smith dubs this rough-hewn effect as ‘the perfect imperfection’ of the design. screws are also left visible to showcase the car’s cycle at the end of its life. thus parts can be added-on or dismantled as needed.

‘I went to munich and asked MINI in advance to completely strip out a car and collect the materials that are recycled and recyclable. this gave a big list of various items, from boxes of rope to the seat cover and more,‘ paul smith tells designboom about the start of the collaboration. ‘this stripped out car was so gorgeous inside. it just had nothing in it. I thought that it was lovely this way and questioned why don’t we keep the MINI as close to this bare essence as possible.‘

elsewhere on the body, the MINI STRIP includes 3D-printed parts – made from recycled plastic – that add highly visual and textural elements to the design, including the black band and distinctive front and rear aprons. the blacked-off radiator grille and wheel covers are made from recycled perspex to reduce resources and increase vehicle range. recycled perspex was also used for the large panoramic roof to give unique views. unexpected details match the car’s unusual aesthetic. up close, passengers can find the paul smith stripes in a vivid composition of five colors at the door opening. a splash of neon green adorns the charging flap along with the fashion designer’s engraved drawing of an electric plug.

inside the MINI STRIP, again the car has been left bare; an exposed blue-colored body shell is dominant. all trim parts have been removed apart from the dashboard topper pad, door shoulders and parcel shelf – all of which are made from recycled cork. the main segment of the dashboard consists of one large, semi-transparent section with a smoked-glass finish. unlike other MINIs, there is no classic center instrument. instead, the driver’s smartphone takes center stage to stand and connect to the car.

‘one of the elements that we are really proud of is the use of the cork. cork, as you know, can be extracted without killing the tree. then, when you actually mould the material, its natural sap becomes the glue, and so, it realises in a very organic method. the exposed wires and plexiglass roof critics the many products that have been glued together and becomes a recycling nightmare as the recycler has to rip it into different pieces first. having the loose wires mean the users can just cut them off and recycled straightaway,‘ continues the british fashion designer.

the use of recycled, environment-friendly materials continues in the cabin, where it is apparent that no leather of chrome has been used. the seats are upholstered in a fully recyclable knitted fabric. similarly, the terrazzo-like patterned-rubber floor mats are also made from recycle materials. to paul, luxury is still delivered but in sustainability, as the term luxury depends completely on the ‘perspective of the user’.

‘the whole concept of luxury is very different. it has changed drastically in the last 20 years; it is now all about perspective,‘ reflects paul smith. ‘when richard rogers designed and built the pompidou centre and he put all the utilities on the outside, everybody was outraged. now, though, everybody finds it so interesting. as a creator it is a matter of being confident to experiment.‘

the steering wheel completes the minimalist design in the interior. it is reduced to its essentials. the rim is wrapped in handlebar tape, before three aluminum spokes run to the steering wheel’s impact absorber, whose mesh covering makes it possible to see the airbag within. the same style mesh also adorns the open door panels. visible screws also appear on the steering wheel, where there is a small paul smith fabric label that sits at the one o’clock position. quite naturally the stripped cabin feels like a MINI with its bare essence, architecture and rally-like feel.

‘the car is not a fashion statement. it’s a statement about rethinking sustainability in a more lateral way,‘ concludes paul smith to designboom.

concept info:

brand: MINI

collaborator: paul smith

concept: STRIP