Crafting Textiles with Tradition and Modernity: A Glimpse into GP&J Baker’s Latest Collaboration with Kit Kemp

In the vibrant setting of Design Centre Chelsea Harbour during its celebrated Design Week, Design Insider Editor Alys Bryan had the pleasure of sitting down for an in-person conversation with Ann Grafton, Managing and Creative Director at GP&J Baker.

Amidst the creative buzz of the event, they delved into the intricacies of GP&J Baker’s latest design launch, a captivating collaboration with the renowned designer Kit Kemp. This collection, a testament to craftsmanship and design ingenuity, reflects a unique fusion of tradition and modernity.

From Alys and Ann’s conversation, you’ll gain insights into the inspiration behind the collection’s patterns, the meticulous process of blending artisanal craftsmanship with contemporary design, and how this collection stands as a versatile tool for interior designers.

Ann Grafton, Managing and Creative Director at GP&J Baker

Please could you introduce your new collection?

Our exciting GP&J Baker launch this season is a fantastic collaboration with Kit Kemp, the wonderful director of Kit Kemp Studio and founder of Firmdale Hotels. We have collaborated to bring to market beautiful decorative collection of printed and embroidered fabrics and wallpapers. This includes a fantastic stripe collection, which I love, and wonderful plain linens, all in really delicious colours.

Kit Kemp, Creative Director of Kit Kemp Studio said of the collection ‘This has been such a wonderful meeting of minds and love of fabrics and textiles of every kind.’

Is this your first collaboration with Kit?

Yes, it’s the first time we’ve collaborated, though she has extensively used our fabrics and wall coverings throughout her hotel properties. This collaboration, which has been two years in the making, began when Kit brought us an exquisite Indian document, inquiring whether we could transform it into wallpaper for the corridors of her new Warren Street hotel in New York.

Collaborating closely with Kit, we developed a stunning wallpaper that has become a highlight of her project. This process sparked the idea that the design could also be adapted into a fabric, laying the foundation for our collaboration on this collection.

What is it about the details and designs that you have at GP&J Baker that resonate so much with Kit and her projects?

Knight’s Tale is a classic 1920s GP & J Baker design refreshed with six modern colourways including Chocolate

Kit loves textiles and she layers them in all her hotels. Our fabrics, wallpapers and particularly our stripes mix beautiful and it’s our mix of rich colour palette, pattern and scale which lends them perfectly to a layered, interior design approach.

In designing our collections, we always prioritize scale and application, offering a variety of small motifs alongside larger, more ornate patterns and weaves. This diversity ensures that our customers find ease and flexibility in their designs.

Can you tell me a little bit more about the inspiration behind some of the other specific pattern designs within the collection?

Many of the designs were inspired by elements that Kit adores or by artisans she has collaborated with.

Robina’s Dinner Party which transforms ceramic plate art featuring friendly creatures

One notable inspiration came from a skilled ceramicist, Rebecca Jack, known for her exquisite ceramic plates adorned with unique depictions of animals, lines, and birds. Kit, having worked with Rebecca, shared a selection of these plates with us. Our design team skilfully translated and unify these motifs into fabric and wallpaper patterns, integrating a sense of craftsmanship into the collection as well.

I appreciate how you’ve integrated the craftsmanship of the original ceramics with your designers’ artistry, as well as the expertise involved in producing each textile and wallpaper. Can you share more examples of craftsmanship in the collection?

Indeed, another example of craftsmanship in the collection is our collaboration with Melissa White, an artist commissioned by Kit to paint a stunning mural for a hotel on Charlotte Street. The mural’s design was inspired by a heritage textile that Kit cherished, leading her to bring the concept to us. This resulted in “Tall Trees,” a design now available in various colourways as both wallpaper and textile wall panels.

Tall Trees is Kit Kemp’s iconic large-scale fabric panel and wallpaper mural, available in several colourways

During the pandemic, Kit’s studio experimented with potato prints, drawing inspiration from Joe Tilson, a contemporary pop artist Kit admires. We received the studio’s potato print samples, and our designers meticulously arranged these before crafting a repeating pattern for both fabric and wallpaper.

Potato Print is a graphic tribute to pop artist Joe Tilson, reflected in a unique fabric design

We also decided to incorporate a piece from the GP&J Baker archives into the collection. The chosen design, originating from 1920, was inspired by a 16th-century needlepoint document. Our team refined “Knights Tale” by streamlining the original design, adding modern colourways to blend traditional charm with contemporary appeal, resulting in vibrant hues like fuchsia pink and bright green.

Knight’s Tale is a classic 1920s GP & J Baker design refreshed with six modern colourways, depicting a pastoral scene with deer

This creative journey has been a source of inspiration, pushing us to view design from fresh perspectives.

Moreover, our collection includes a superb stripe series, crafted in India, featuring stripes adorned with hand-guided embroidery. These elegant stripes serve as a cohesive element within the collection.

It’s interesting that you mentioned the colour palette for the Knights Tale design, could you tell me more about the wider colour palette of the collection?

We wanted the palette to be a reflection of kit’s iconic decorating style, part of her decorating style is the use of bright colours and we wanted the collection to reflect her vision for the textile collection.

Kit Kemp said of the collection: ‘This collection combines my love of tradition, not as a pastiche of the past, but an up to the minute presence of colour and excitement…’

While we incorporated familiar colours from our existing palette, our primary goal was to craft a collection uniquely representative of Kit’s aesthetic. She shared her preferred colours with us, which greatly influenced the collection’s palette, making it a true reflection of her style. This is evident in the installation we’ve curated for today’s launch.

It’s wonderful to see how the collection mirrors Kit’s unique style, brimming with personality and originality. Given Kit’s background in hospitality design, how do you anticipate other interior designers will use the collection in their hotel projects, possibly diverging from Kit’s aesthetic?

Incorporating stripes into the collection was a deliberate choice to offer designers versatility in colour and decoration, enabling them to create interior settings fitting their own style. For designers who prefer a more subdued approach, they have the option to pair our plain linens with a striped design or opt for one of our unadorned papers.

GP & J Baker x Kit Kemp Stripes are artisanal weaves collection, including ‘Bunty’ with textured stripes and embroidery. Shown with Wriggle Room wallpaper

The stripes are particularly versatile, complementing virtually every element in the collection. Two key stripe designs, Tweak and Wriggle Room, serve as subtle yet impactful patterns, offering a touch of embellishment without overpowering. These designs are vibrant and joyful, adding a lively burst of colour and pattern to any space.

This collaboration has been a wonderful journey for our team, and we’ve relished the process.

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About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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