Style | The Aesthete

Kit Kemp talks personal style

Kit Kemp is co-owner and designer of Firmdale Hotels, which include the Soho and Haymarket Hotels in London and the Crosby Street Hotel in New York.

May 11 2010
Maria Shollenbarger

My personal style signifier is my jewellery. I tend always to have some statement piece on – possibly more than one at a time. Right now I’m wearing a necklace by Ayala Bar; she uses fabrics, stitching and strange little bits of passementerie. I have many pieces by her; they add that little twist. +972-3510 0082;

The grooming staples I’m never without are my Miller Harris bespoke fragrance – it’s a jasmine-based scent, and it just makes me feel calm and good – and Giorgio Armani make-up, specifically Face Fabric, its amazing foundation. Giorgio Armani Face Fabric, £28, 020-7318 2486; Miller Harris bespoke fragrance, £8,000 per formula, 14 Needham Road, London W11 (020-7629 7750;

The last meal that truly impressed me was at Karriere Bar in Copenhagen, which is the coolest place I’ve been to in ages. It’s this bar-restaurant-art space that’s full of great contemporary art – and the most extraordinarily beautiful people. The menu is sort of do-it-yourself; you pick meat or fish and a selection of sauces and preparations. I had fresh, delicious fish, but truly it was the space that impressed. Flaesketorvet 57-67, 1711 Copenhagen (+4533-215 509;

An object I would never part with is a picture, or really a postcard, that I take everywhere with me, of someone called Hilda Brent. In the picture she’s in a panto, Cinderella or something. She’s not very attractive, but she must have been some kind of leading woman. When I look at it I always think, “Go for it, Hilda; you’re no shrinking violet.”

The last item I added to my wardrobe is a fitted, studded leather jacket by Alice Temperley. When she’s on form, she’s absolutely amazing. 2-10 Colville Mews, Lonsdale Road W11 (020-7299 7957; and stockists.

The books on my bedside table are Leaving the World by Douglas Kennedy and Trespass by Rose Tremain. And for when I’m feeling really fragile, I keep some Alexander McCall Smith around; right now it’s The Careful Use of Compliments. He is so gentle and tells such comforting stories.

The site that inspires me is the Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna. It’s full of beautiful things. And the National Library in Vienna too; you could just lie on the floor and look at the ceiling. Vienna’s so inspiring. It’s full of important furniture and textiles. Austrian Museum of Applied Arts, Stubenring 5, 1010 Vienna (+431-712 8000; Austrian National Library, Josefsplatz 1, 1015 Vienna (+431-5341 0464;

An indulgence I’d never forego is the countryside. We have a house in the New Forest, and New Forest ponies; I went for a three-hour ride recently and didn’t cross a road. The only people I see are pairs of bird-watchers. It’s utterly rejuvenating.

The best gift I’ve given recently was a hand-held sewing machine. It’s one of those things that looks as if you could use it like a professional, effortlessly making curtains, dresses, everything. I’m not sure if that’s the reality! But we’ll see.

And the best one I’ve received is a lamp made from a calabash. It’s been carved, halved and fitted into a metal base. It was given to me by a man called Anthony Hunte, who has a public garden in Barbados, where he plays opera on an old record player on Sundays. He’s terribly eccentric but so stylish. This lamp represents him to me, and he is divine.

A recent “find” is Paula Rubenstein in [New York’s] SoHo. It’s essentially a junk shop but, god, it’s the best junk in the world. I have oak chopping blocks and silver jars from there. You’ve got to be willing to trip over things, but there’ll be letters from France in the 1930s, fabric remnants, a whale’s vertebrae, just... treasure. 65 Prince Street, New York, NY 10012 (+1212-966 8954).

My favourite website is The Sartorialist. There will be some wonderfully ancient crone wearing an enormous pashmina and royal blue socks. I like to see people in their individuality. I love that it’s not all about youth. And I love even more that it is humane.

See also

People, Interview