Return to the fold: G.F Smith crafts a paper palace in London
In an increasingly digital world, a company like G.F Smith is a testament to the enduring and unique appeal of paper. Founded in London in 1885, the Hull-made paper brand has spent 131 years building its reputation on quality and service to become the UK’s largest specialist paper company. This month, the opening of its first ever showroom, sees the G.F Smith brand turn the page to an exciting new chapter.
Located just off Oxford Street, the new 4,000 sq ft space promises to be more than just a showcase for the brand’s paper collections, framing and binding services; an ever-changing backdrop of displays and exhibitions across its two floors will also educate and entertain. ’We wanted to create a space that challenges, inspires and wows,’ says John Haslam, joint managing director of G.F Smith. ’Students and creative directors alike will be welcome to visit us; we promise innovation and education with our ever-changing curated installations and showcases.’
A view inside G.F Smith’s new Show Space
To design the Show Space’s interior, G.F Smith called upon long-time collaborators Made Thought, who conjured a crisp-lined backdrop that allows the paper to take centre stage. Realised in a palette of soft grey matched to one of the brand’s most popular Colorplan shades, the space revolves around a 14m-long collection wall that presents visitors with every G.F Smith paper ever invented and spans all 50 Colorplan shades.
In the window, an air-inspired installation sees rods of coloured paper swoop across the store front while inside, an exhibition tells the story of the development of a signature saturated green paper for British fashion brand Mulberry. Running for three months before being replaced by another paper-led project for a different partner, the ‘Mulberry Green’ showcase includes the screening of a specially commissioned film about the process, directed by Ben Stevenson and narrated by Mulberry creative director Johnny Coca.
Show Space’s air-inspired window installation
Downstairs, the ‘White Space’ gallery, opens with an installation by Made Thought called Tidal. This undulating paper seascape is the ocean-themed G.F Smith contribution to Jaipur’s Kyoorius Designyatra festival, which marks the launch of Colorplan in India.
’Every brand today uses a multitude of media – digital and paper in combination is a part of its strategy,’ says Ben Parker, Made Thought’s creative director. ’What’s clear is that paper does not compete with digital; paper offers something digital cannot. Paper can be used to create standout, difference and a more innate and deeper connection through touch and feel. So paper, print and creativity is a new branding frontier in the 21st century – it feels really exciting as people understand paper’s value again.’