The Café Commission:

Alec Doherty For Paul Smith

We visited the artist and illustrator at his studio in London to talk about his designs for the new Paul Smith café at the Printemps and the new tableware collection with his witty and whimsical sketches he’s created for us.

Share this story

The Café Commission: Alec Doherty For Paul Smith


His work is characterised by an urgency and expressiveness that feels striking. “I don't really work in that traditional sense, where people make a sketch and then take that sketch and develop it into the second stage and the third stage,” he explained when we visited him at his Hackney Down studio. “I feel like that takes some of the kind of spontaneity out of the work… It’s all about immediacy. No bullshit, basically. I don’t like redoing things; I feel like you lose something when you do it.”

Like Paul, Alec’s also got a sense of humour which shines through in his work ­– and the concept he dreamed up for the Paul Smith Printemps café is no exception. “I think that humour in the world is really necessary,” he explains. “We all take ourselves quite seriously. I think having something that is kind of whimsical or a bit daft is great. I want to see that more in the world. The world's a very serious place, so it's nice to have stuff that kind of makes you smile.”

More than anything though, Alec wants people to interpret the work themselves. “I think it's good to let people find and make their own narrative out of it,” he explains. “Hopefully there's enough room in it where the person that enters the cafe can make their own stories up… I just hope that people have fun with it and it becomes a talking point for the people that are enjoying a croissant and coffee with friends, sitting down to lunch or even trying to get a bit of work done from the café.”

He’s also especially pleased with how the tableware has turned out, and how it reflects his trademark spontaneous style. Made entirely in the UK, in Stoke-On-Trent, one of the historic centres of ceramic production in the country, each piece is top quality. “I think it's really important to have things that are made locally, especially since there's a real dying tradition in this country,” Alec says. “But the thing that's really beautiful about them is that you've got this slight relief in the line work. From the pencil to the final piece of the pottery, there's a real link. They look like they've been freshly drawn onto the plates.” Mission accomplished, we’d say.

The limited-edition Alec Doherty For Paul Smith tableware collection is available to shop online and in selected stores now.

Discover More


Step Inside The Paul Smith Café Vert At Printemps Paris

Now open in the iconic Parisian department store, the new Paul Smith café is inspired by the colours of the instantly recognisable Signature Stripe. Go behind the scenes on the making of the café now.



Meet The Maker: Alec Doherty Jewellery

The Dalston-based illustrator and jewellery designer sits down to talk 1990s nostalgia, how jewellery design is a lot like therapy, and why we’re all magpies in search of the next shiny thing.


Sign Up For Updates

Enter your email

Words: Molly Isabella Smith

Photos: Ozzi Sanderson

Film: Joe Mercer-Holland