At first glance the MINI Strip seems like an lightly modified F56 Cooper S with matte paint. But go hands-on and you soon realize how radically transformed this car has been. And then you realize who’s behind this transformation; none other than fashion and design icon Paul Smith. Yes the Paul Smith that created one of the most iconic special edition Minis ever. He’s back with a collaboration that points to the future of MINI design itself.

We had a chance to have a walk and talk with Paul Smith and hear how the MINI Strip came about and the ideas behind such a radical transformation. The video was a one-take, off the cuff recording that Paul himself encouraged us to publish as he felt it was the best way for the public to understand the car. That is coming from the man himself.

The MINI Strip Concept

As Paul Smith explained the first call with MINI didn’t go that well. But once MINI understood his vision (and realized that Paul wanted total control) it was game on. The result is the Paul Smith MINI Strip it points to the brand’s much more sustainably focused future. While this is a one-off, the MINI Strip is interesting in context to the brand’s transformation over the years. Guided by the overarching theme of ‘Simplicity, Transparency, Sustainability’, the concept showcases inspirational ideas for a more sustainable method of automotive design. 

The collaboration applied the concept of maximum reduction to produce a minimalist design inside and out. The exterior is full of interesting applications of that concept creating a unique aesthetic. Raw materials are a very deliberate part of the exterior design. This meant the body was left in its unfinished state with no coloured paint applied, but instead just a thin film of transparent paint to protect against corrosion. Grinding marks from the factory have been consciously left intact on the galvanized steel panels to clearly identify the car as a functional object. This intentionally rough-hewn effect was also dubbed “the perfect imperfection” by Paul Smith. These are details that are hard to appreciate in photos but in person come to life.

Sections of the familiar MINI black trim are 3D-printed from recycled plastic and their basic material qualities have been left exposed, like the metal panels. Taking a cue from bikes, you see visible screws in the add-on parts, which show how simple dismantling would be and how easily the vehicle could be reincorporated into the raw-material cycle at the end of its service life. The functional and distinctive front and rear apron inserts were likewise manufactured in a 3D printing process, which produced their striking texture.

The MINI STRIP holds true to the motto of ‘Simplicity and Transparency’ on the inside, too, courtesy of some radical stripping-back. All trim parts have been purposefully omitted (with the exception of the dashboard, topper pad and parcel shelf), turning the bodyshell into the dominant visual feature of the cabin. It has been coloured blue at the explicit request of Paul Smith, producing a particularly eye-catching effect. The exposed basic material and intense blue tone give the interior a raw yet functional aesthetic.

Instead of the usual multi-part design, the dashboard consists solely of a large, semi-transparent section with a smoked-glass finish. Taking its cue from MINI design’s traditional use of circular elements, the geometry has been greatly simplified with a far more graphical interpretation. There is no classical centre screen just an area where the driver’s phone would be mounted. The only physical controls in the interior are located lower down in the centre stack, where the toggle switches for the power windows and the start/stop function can be found.

The concept is rather straightforward in that it’s a MINI stripped down to its core. That means the only thing here are components deemed absolutely necessary. And trust us, photos don’t do this car justice. The details are inventive, unique and functionally beautiful. If this points to MINI’s future, count us in.