Kuball & Kempe
Get to know our favourite shop in the Provence
Kuball & Kempe – Porcelain dragons, smurfs et le savoir-vivre
Kuball & Kempe are style and brand consultants, tastemakers, interior designers, fashion journalists and also the owners of a charming boutique for tableware and interior design in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in the south of France.
“You can’t study or learn this at school. You are it, you live it and you want to do it. Even if, as in our case, we have completely different tastes,” explains Peter Kempe.
We meet him virtually at their boutique, surrounded by a collection of objects that derive entirely from direct collaborations with manufacturers. Or not quite entirely. If you look closely, you’ll find sudden exceptions, like a Smurf, a Snoopy or a Bart Simpson figure among all these aesthetic objects. Small and tongue-in-cheek, they round off the mix with a quirky sense of fun.
But Kuball & Kempe’s journey did not begin in the South of France, however, it started with their own shop in Hamburg in 2000.
“Following several years in the fashion industry, we both felt that after the innovative decades from the 1960s to the 90s, the upcoming millennium would be a chapter that would primarily be about returning to previous eras and reinterpreting them,” says Kempe.
So, while the famous Colette Roussaux was setting up her concept store on Rue Saint Honoré in Paris, Peter and Thomas defined their very own style universe in the north of Germany at the same time.
Yet it was never just about the curation of beautiful things. Wherever they saw potential, Peter and Thomas confronted the manufacturers with their detailed ideas of contemporary design and interpretation of a particular brand. For example, instead of dutifully filling in the dealers’ order list for the Meissen Porcelain Manufactory, Peter and Thomas brought an old Meissen hand-washing bowl with a traditional blue onion pattern that Peter had inherited from his grandmother to the factory.
“At first they were pretty miffed that we were demanding our own products and our own design,” Kempe notes with a mischievous smile. It then turned out that only 20 of these particular bowls remained in the warehouse and the moulds needed for production had to be created again. In the end, the great success of the bold bowl request and various other Meissen products made especially for K&K proved the duo right.
What worked for Meissen was successfully transferred to various other traditional brands and has established Kuball & Kempe as influential brand consultants.
“I’m interested in historic brands that truly represented cultural institutions of their time. It brings us an enormous amount of joy to revive them and to reinterpret their roots and their specific codes in a clever way,” Kempe emphasises.
The same approach is also offered to private customers who are looked after by Thomas Kuball. “Thomas is unique in that he pays particular attention to incorporating the history of a person or a family in the design concept. After all, the inside of a house should show who lives there, not who the interior designer was.”
But as much as the concept store adventure and their establishment as style and brand consultants succeeded, the deep connection to fashion remains unchanged.
It’s a passion that has been shaped by in-depth industry insights and regular exchanges with the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Christian Lacroix and many more of the Haute Couture world to date. A deep connection that also led Peter Kempe to co-found and co-create the men’s fashion blog Horstson, which was launched in 2010 and has become an institution in fashion journalism.
Wouldn’t it excite him to revive one of the old, vanished fashion brands, we ask Peter. “We only work with and for people we like and who understand that luxury takes time. In the current day and age that’s a rare species in the fashion and luxury industry,” replies Peter diplomatically.
The decision to relocate to Saint Rémy still feels wonderfully right after sixth years in France. The German and international clientele has remained loyal to the duo and new customers, especially from the immediate neighbourhood, have joined them along the way.
Among them many Parisian families with a second home in and around the beautiful village or, for example, actor Hugh Grant, who has fallen in love with this paradise of beautiful things just as much as we have.
So, if you would like to join our K&K fan club, alongside Hugh, check out The Educated Cool’s special ‘Postcard from Saint-Rémy’. Every fortnight we’ll showcase on a Friday a unique product from Peter and Thomas‘ boutique…. extra rays of sunshine from the South of France included, just for you!