When European car brand MINI asked fashion designer Paul Smith to collaborate on a unique version of the Cooper SE to celebrate the release of the new electric model, they received a surprisingly minimalist result in the form of the MINI STRIP. Using the guiding concepts of “simplicity, transparency, [and] durability, ”Smith cut down on every possible detail inside and outside the car to make“ a statement about rethinking durability in a more lateral way.
The fashion designer began with a trip to Munich, where he had asked MINI in advance to “completely dismantle a car and collect materials that are recycled and recyclable”. Smith said it provided “a great list of sundries, boxes of rope to the seat cover and more. This stripped down car looked so gorgeous on the inside. There was nothing in it. I thought it was lovely that way and I wondered why don’t we keep the MINI as close to that bare gasoline as possible.
MINI’s head of design, Oliver Heilmer, was pleased with Smith’s direction from the start. He explains that “For me, the MINI STRIP impressively shows that MINI and Paul Smith share the same bold vision for the future in terms of innovation and design – and together we create more. Paul asked critical questions early in the design process with his non-automotive, and therefore new, perspective.
The minimalist MINI STRIP has an unpainted body that only has a clear protective layer, leaving the grinding marks from the manufacturing process visible to highlight the “perfect imperfection”. Smith also left screws exposed on the wheel arches and on the steering wheel for an “essential only” look. The blue coated interior covers the electrical wires loosely with a mesh, allowing access when needed.
And whatever he replaced, Smith tried to replace with recycled or recyclable materials. The front and rear bumpers were made from reprocessed 3D printed plastic, while the wheel covers, grille inserts and transparent roof were made from recycled Perspex. Instead of using leather, the seats are covered with a knitted fabric made from reconditioned fibers and the floor mats are made from reused rubber. The dashboard and doors received a similar treatment in durable cork.
“One of the things we are really proud of is the use of cork. Cork, as you know, can be mined without killing the tree. Then when you actually mold the material, its natural sap becomes the glue, and thus, it achieves a very organic method, ”adds Smith.
The designer kept the aluminum door handles but also added bright orange climbing rope pull handles for the ‘do-do’ aesthetic. It also ditched the steering wheel buttons and switches, covering the center with a mesh to expose the airbag and wrapping the rim in handlebar tape.
The car’s iconic center console has been removed and replaced with space for a smartphone in order to provide all the necessary information. The only remaining electrical controls are the on / off button and window switches.
Smith says the MINI STRIP still represents luxury in its own way, noting that “the whole concept of luxury is very different. it has changed dramatically over the past 20 years; it’s all about perspective now… as a creator, it’s about being confident to experiment.
He adds that “it’s a way of valuing things that are generally not valued. It is the principle of doing well and getting out of it.