Paul Smith had one thing in mind as he created the Instagram-famous Pink Wall; to be as recognizable and appreciable as the Eiffel Tower. Trademarked with Pink, the Iconic Wall stands vibrant and forever “Instragamable.”
Droves of people flock and keep leaning against the dazzling pink wall of Paul Smith’s Flagship store on Melrose Avenue. A group of friends, all women, wearing heavy makeup, dressed in expensive mini-skirts and stylish bucket hats, leaning into each other. They pose, putting on their best model faces as a group member extends her long arm to get that perfect We-fie.
Another woman in her early twenties, influenced by the latest pop culture, dressed in fancy sweatpants and baseball hat, strikes a pose tilting her head to the side, throwing up the popular mini heart gesture as her friends takes pictures of her.
Well, it turns out the women have come all the way from South Korea to do their own pink wall shoots. Makes you wonder how on earth they discovered Paul Smith’s iconic Pink Wall.
Fortunately, “Instagram,” they yelled simultaneously while giggling to their heart’s content.
It’s estimated that there are at least 100,000 or more people who journey to the store’s pink wall a year, all to take grandiose shots and upload them on Instagram. With how famously celebrated and globally recognized it is today, the pink wall is truly only second to the Great Wall Of China in terms of being photographed, as Paul Smith claimed.
But while the iconic “pink wall” may as well be the center of attraction, Paul Smith’s own Flagship store, which sells suits for men and houses a collection of photography and sculpture for dreamers and art lovers alike, lies beyond it.
“I actually thought it was a makeup brand. Boy was I wrong,” exclaimed the clueless young adult from China who was so familiar with the “pink wall” yet had no idea what the store stood for. But can you blame her? Most people just come for the aesthetics and leave as soon as they take their picture. Would they be surprised if they discovered that it’s one of more than at least three hundred retail store locations representing Paul Smith’s menswear label since his first store in 1970?
It’s known that the brand hasn’t exactly embraced nor done much to have reached this height of popularity, other than a few comments you’d find on various social media platforms. But one thing’s for sure, they have always refused to comment further.
While the brand wouldn’t have predicted that its iconic “pink wall” would’ve blown up on social media a decade ago, Paul Smith already had dreams of this building becoming a social media phenomenon.
“From all sides, Paul always wanted a building that would be remembered like the famous Eiffel Tower,”- Richard, Paul Smith’s assistant manager.
Paul Smith’s assistant manager added, “He is an intense Mexican architect, Luis Barragan’s admirer, and the color for the pink wall comes as an inspiration from Rosa Mexicano, Barragan’s signature pink.”
The Famous Rosa Mexicano is splashed across Mexico City and at the museum, which once was the former residence of Luis Barragan. Still, the thing about beauty is, it is without imperfections! No photographs are allowed inside the museum.
Even the man Luis Barragan himself was known to be color blind, and his lover/assistant chose this shade of pink, making the color even more special. It’s been said that the shade was specifically chosen to bring light to the surface, which was an old visual trick that lit up buildings that relied on skylights and windows for light.
The inspiration wasn’t taken for granted since Smith’s work was up to his icon’s class; picture takers can easily create the perfect depth they aspire on their photographs, moving forth and back.
“Our iconic pink wall has the perfect vibrant background and is placed perfectly facing the sun and light’s direction, making them hit faces while capturing moments.” Richard adds. “The brand’s color pink, pink ladies, is also trademarked meaning it cannot be ordered from any paint stores without a code which only I have”
The Birth of Instagram shortly came after five years into Paul Smith’s move to Melrose Avenue, and by then, the pink wall had garnered all the attention since picture takers glowed spectacularly on their posts.
“The pink wall was meant for great heights and basically reached it overnight,” Richard explains. “It’s a gift and a curse that most of us in retail never get to experience, not that we hate it, but the cons outweigh the pros.”
The man Smith basically spends, give or take, $60,000 a year to maintain and preserve the iconic pink wall. It’s been said that they have to repaint it every three months, and since the wall needs cleaning and hosing it down is not an option, their janitor, named Patrick, cleans it by hand.
With all the money spent each year and the attention it attracts, anybody in their right mind would think that the brand worships the wall and is used as the greatest marketing tool ever, and yet it couldn’t be further from the truth.
While the pink wall may be getting all the attention, the store is practically empty. But it’s not shocking since picture takers are generally teens and younger adults who can’t afford luxury clothing. Most of the shoppers are fancy car owners who walk straight into the store and back without giving any clout to the iconic wall bringing a whole new level of a gift and a curse.
“I’m that person the janitor calls at any time of the day with literally any issues, so if there’s an act of vandalism and such, I’m the first on sight,” says Richard. “Since the multiple graffiti incident and other issues that needed fixing, we’ve started taking measures to stop it from happening again.”
A street artist who went by the name Thrasher had graffitied the wall multiple times, and the last incident took place at 2 am in the morning on the 12th of September 2018. “Go Fuck Your Selfie,” was the words sprayed all across the wall.
The meaning behind the graffiti that Thrasher so violently sprayed was to empower and tell young women that they didn’t need any approval from social media or society. The idea, in a nutshell, was, “You’re all beautiful, don’t let no individual tell you otherwise.”
“Paul received an apology by Thrasher’s manager, and they even offered to pay for all the damage they’ve caused,” Richard says. “Although Smith refused and said that he wouldn’t be taking anything from them except their promise that they wouldn’t do it again, he followed it up with criticism.”
“No man should be telling a woman what is acceptable.” Richard added as he gave a quick laugh.
To prevent any such incidents, the brand established a couple of rules to protect the iconic pink wall and hired security personnel to enforce these rules. Some of the rules the wall strictly enforces are individuals are not allowed any props, costumes, or professional cameras and prohibits any feet from touching the wall.
There’s a sign put up that lists all rules, and with it, it has the Instagram handle of the brand, their preferred hashtag, and geotag. “We need to live by rules if we want good things to stay good,” Richard adds.
“The popularity and success the famous pink wall has gained throughout the years are monumental, and to leave without a picture leaning against the wall would disappoint culture.” With a rough estimation, Richard states that the visitors in the majority, approximately 70 percent are from across the pond.
Given the number of international visitors, it would be a shame to just stick with expensive clothing; even though some tourists, who appreciate Paul’s work, are delighted to purchase goods, most visitors don’t. So to cater to all types of tourists, the store decided to sell various souvenirs and other merchandise and dish out free postcards and pins.
Even the hospitality shown at the store knows no bounds. “In good faith, the brand’s staff provides water to people taking pictures at the Instagram-famous pink wall if they come inside and certainly allows each one of them to use their restrooms.”- Yelp comments.
With people from all over the globe visiting this iconic pink wall, the traffic the street attracts is truly glorious, and all the other stores surrounding the wall have claimed that they reap the benefits as well.
“Been working at the Carrera Cafe for years now, and one thing I can positively say is that having the pink wall near your business is frankly a blessing in disguise,” says a barista.
But the attention couldn’t be more well directed since the picture-takers visiting the monument, pink wall, have free Wi-Fi, bathrooms, and a place to charge phones at the cafe. It’s almost like it’s heaven for models and influencers blooming on various social media platforms.
While there have been myriads of offers for Paul Smith to advertise various brands on their wall, they have been adamant on turning each one down.