What's Your Bag: Frith Kerr

Frith Kerr wearing an Ally Capellino bag

A key creative player in the art and culture world, Frith Kerr of the eponymous Studio Frith, been described by the New York Times as “the go-to graphic designer for creative clients.” Her studio’s client list is a Who’s Who of iconic brands, including fashion legends Hussein Chalayan, Roksanda, Erdem and Michèle Lamy, designers David Chipperfield Architects and Michael Anastassiades and hospitality destinations such as Ett Hem and Hotel Il Pellicano. Her work within the art world includes Frieze, Guggenheim Museum NY and Musée des Arts Décoratif and in publishing, Violette Editions and Rizzoli. Frith is not afraid to shake things up.

Bird flying

Frieze Art Fair Campaign by Studio Frith

You once said ‘find clients that let you fuck with things.’ How do you tell people that they’ve messed things up and need your help?

The use of an expletive is deliberate. It gains attention. I made it in a lecture theatre that sat 2500 people, to draw attention to the fact that to make interesting work, you need to take clients with you on the journey. Your work is only as good as the work you persuade people to allow you to make. A point I often make to both clients and people wanting to come into the industry.

Michael Clark Monograph

Michael Clark Monograph 

Published by Violette Editions

Can you talk through how you work with clients and persuade them to break the rules and get out of their comfort zones?

Comfort zones tend to be what people have seen and accepted as the standard, terms of style, but they don’t have much to do with what things are really about. We try to search for a truth, underpinning everything we do with research. A lot of it. We believe that if you have a solid foundation, it allows you to go much further out into unexplored territory - taking clients with you is a vital part of that journey and if you go one step at a time it never feels like a jump. I am a huge Truman Capote fan {In Cold Blood} and always believe that truth is stranger (and more interesting) than fiction. 

With a top-notch roster of fashion clients, including Roksanda, and Erdem, what does your own wardrobe look like?

Like an amazing party without enough elbow room. I have a lot of very large skirts that would probably go out on their own as they love dancing. They love dancing to records played at friends’ houses. I've given up heels now and wear trainers with everything - I have always been a fan of high and low. In everything.

Erdem Logo

Erdem Logo by Studio Frith

Erdem Mayfair shop designed by Philip Joseph. Photography: Tom Mannion

One of your identity projects was London restaurant and bakery, Jolene. It was set up by the team behind the much-talked about Primeur and Westerns Laundry. The Jolene logo was hand drawn by your son Igor. How did that come about and did you give him any pocket money?

I've been eating at Primeur since it opened and founders Jeremie and David have a unique way of combining the joy of eating extremely good food with the satisfaction of being completely relaxed. 

It’s a real gift to be able to pull off both those things and make it look easy. When Jeremie and I started talking about Jolene, he told me it was all about being simple and taking care of the future, the idea of using a child grew out of that. Fortunately, Igor was about the right age to write! We didn’t pay him as such… Although I think we have more than compensated him over the years with Lego. That said, we recently found out that a chef at Jolene has had the logo tattooed onto her forearm. Igor found this incredibly exciting - so perhaps the real payment was made in other ways. 

Jolene Tattoo

Jolene logo by Studio Frith

Photography and Tattoo courtesy of Rita Paradis

You recently completed work with Hotel Il Pellicano, a glamorous hang out on the Tuscan coast. It first became famous when the 60s jet-set were photographed there by Slim Aarons. How did you take to lounging with the beautiful people? What is all this ‘dolce fa niente’?

Hotel Il Pellicano in Porto Ercole is an beautiful place with an incredible history, a kind of deep luxury that has been honed by years of experience. It has a very seductive setting with hidden coves and dramatic rocks, alongside a peninsula surrounded by lagoon. Slim Aaron stayed  and took lots of pictures of 'the good life’ there, the epitome of European glamour. The hotel has an extraordinary archive of pictures, so when we started working with them alongside Violette Editions, we wanted to find a way to bring its heritage into the present. We commissioned Juergen Teller to tell a modern story of European glamour and play. This grew into several books, including a fabulously obscene cookbook, during which we discovered 'dolce fa niente' or 'the art of doing nothing’ and were thrilled. More and more this is something that is missing in our lives as time gets squeezed from all directions. The human being’s ability to stop and do nothing is something we should safeguard. Last year, Il Pellicano opened another hotel, the Mezzatore, on the island of Ischia. It sits just below Visconti’s villa on an idyllic cove and is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. 

Pellicano Hotel book

Eating at Hotel Il Pellicano, Design by Studio Frith, Published by Violette Editions

As a curator of the ‘Ahead of the Curve’ exhibition at Erno Goldfinger’s 2 Willow Road, can you tell us a bit about the architect’s circle of friends?

This is a micro story that shows how immigration is such an important cultural force. Many Jews, including Goldfinger, left Eastern Europe after the First World War and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire, moving to Paris. As the subsequent wave of fascism moved westwards across Europe in the thirties and forties, a small but not insignificant number of artists and thinkers ended up in Hampstead. Freud was one of them, alongside a number of surrealists, poets etc. Erno and Ursula Goldfinger’s house was a place where many of them gathered.

We imagined the kind of conversations that took place there and sought to continue those. Art makes conversation live forever. I invited six designers — the fashion designer Roksanda Ilincic, the designer and founder of Studioilse, Ilse Crawford, the illustrator Nina Chakrabarti, furniture and installation designer Gitta Gschwendtner, the ice cream confectioner and founder of La Grotta Ices, Kitty Travers, and the perfumer Lyn Harris to create works in response to the works in the house. Conversations in ice cream, furniture, textiles, music and scent that act as a portal through time and space.

"Ahead of the Curve — Women Artists at 2 Willow Road” for the National Trust

"Ahead of the Curve — Women Artists at 2 Willow Road” for the National Trust

Installation view of Frith’s response to the surrealist painter Rita Kernn-Larsen’s surrealist manifesto where she imagined a woman in Paris whose hand stretched all the way to Trafalgar Square.

Photography: Arianna Lago

Are you an AC bag wearer and what brought you to this little beauty?

I’ve been a huge fan of Ally Capellino for years. My mother used to wear Ally’s clothes and then when I was at the Royal College of Art, I used to spend many hours hanging out at Metro Imaging in Wardour Street waiting for transparencies to be processed (remember slides?). I would stop by Ally’s Soho shop. I loved browsing, dreaming of wearing the clothes and accessories.

For many years now, I’ve been an Ally Capellino bag wearer, and fortunately the older I get the less I carry (there's probably a graph to describe this process somewhere!). Either way, I love my Lockie Boundary bag. It is small enough to carry as little as possible, with a robust structure to keep its shape while the world turns crazy around it.

Ally Capellino Bag
Kiss My Genders Poster

Kiss My Genders at Hayward Gallery, Exhibition Typeface and Poster by Studio Frith, Image by Zanele Muholi

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