GP & J BAKER
With an incredible archive and a fascinating family history, British fabric brand GP & J Baker makes heritage designs to love forever
‘The GP & J Baker archive is a great commentary on interior design through the late 1800s to the 1900s’
The GP & J Baker story is one that spans continents and centuries, and centres around an extraordinary family. George Baker, a passionate horticulturalist, travelled to Istanbul (then Constantinople) from London to design the gardens for the British Embassy in 1847. A natural entrepreneur, Baker began importing Belgian linen – a favourite among the ladies at the embassy – and at the same time, started to export the handmade textiles produced in the nearby Turkish villages. Baker married and fathered nine children – two of whom were George Percival and James, who developed their own love of flowers, nature and exotic fabrics.
In 1874, aged 18, George Percival (right) was sent to London to manage the British side of his father’s business, and James followed him shortly afterwards. The brothers bought a print works in Kent, which came with the added bonus of a collection of English printed textiles dating back to 1750 – a key addition to the family’s ever-growing archive. In 1893, the brand began designing its own prints. ‘GP Baker was a leading light in the Royal Horticultural Society in the 1920s and 30s, and so our archive has a lot of flora, fauna and beautiful bird designs,’ says Ann Grafton, creative and managing director of the brand today.
The archive currently contains around 3,000 pieces from 1560 and onwards – as well as two Peruvian textiles that date back to around 100BC! An eclectic mix, it includes Chinese wallpapers, Italian velvets, Indonesian batiks and very early English toiles, reflecting industrial printing from its origins to the present day. ‘ We have a record of everything we’ve printed through the years, so the archive is a great commentary on interior design through the late 1800s to the 1900s,’ explains Grafton.
The collection makes for astounding viewing. It’s so alive with vibrant colour that it’s a struggle to believe the designs are often hundreds of years old – update the aged pages and it could be a new pattern book from this season. Carefully preserved in hundreds of enormous bound volumes, most of the family’s collection is presided over by two archivists at the brand’s headquarters in ➤