Chances are that you’ve heard of Canadian textile and product designer Gloria Wall. And even if you haven’t, you’re likely to have come across her brand, Kate & Birdie Paper Co. Gloria’s trademark style is in full evidence in Kate & Birdie’s latest fabric collection, Wonder.
The Wonder collection is quintessentially Kate & Birdie, with soft pastel shades, lightly checked textured backgrounds, and delicate prints. As a designer, Gloria Wall has always gravitated towards neutral and classic textures in her work on paper and fabric. And she says her inspiration behind the Wonder collection came while photographing one of her prior collections when she placed a pile of ribbons next to one of the fabrics.
“The cotton ribbons were all pretty pastel shades, and they looked so beautiful next to this soft sky blue. I had never imagined sky blue as a colourway for baby before, but it was perfect.”
The colours—mint, sky blue, pink, taupe and very pale grey—then expanded into a fantasy theme, inspired by Gloria’s son, Sam, and the stories he liked to tell. The prints include small leaves, trees with blossoms blowing in the wind, planets and stars, clouds, dots, crosses, and more of the linen-like texture.
In all, the design to production process took just over a year from concept. “The first print I designed for collection wound up not being selected for the final line, but it did spark the whole direction for the remaining prints,” Gloria says.You can spot one Kate & Birdie print—the cloud print—in the TV show New Girl, indicating the designer’s growing popularity. But Gloria says her favourite print from Wonder features flowers, leaves and butterflies, which was the last print to be designed. She says it took the addition of the butterflies to bring the design together, and for her to be truly satisfied with it.
A surface designer living in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Gloria originally designed and manufactured products for the paper and gift industry. After being discovered by Moda at a trade show in 2012, notebooks and gift wrap made way for fabric design. Since then, she has devoted herself to design and licensing while becoming a mom of two.
And the name Kate & Birdie? In the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie You’ve Got Mail, Kathleen (played by Meg Ryan) is a bookstore owner, and Birdie (played by Jean Stapleton) is her quirky bookkeeper and assistant. But rather than the romance between Kathleen and Joe, it was the way customers were considered close friends, and how employees were treated like family, that really “struck a chord with me,” Gloria says, thereby inspiring the name.
Gloria’s designs are sensitive to the latest trends, with a subtlety that gives them longevity, as well. The designer, who grew up intending to have a career in interior design, also strives to create fabrics that fit naturally into existing home decor and make beautiful gifts that people would treasure. “I want the fabrics to feel beautiful to look at every day, and to stand the test of time. I wanted to create the fabrics that I always wanted to see in the market but felt like [they] were missing—classic tones, soft textures, pretty designs, and imagery that can be loved forever.”
Kate & Birdie fabric is tried and true: Gloria has quilts and cushions throughout her own home made from her collections by her mom and mother-in-law, and she’s tried her hand at some no-sew fabric pinboards, too.
She’s keen to know what others are working on as well; she says she loves to look at all the projects tagged #kateandbirdie and #kateandbirdiefabric on Instagram. And although she hasn’t sewn since she was in grade nine herself, she has a deep appreciation of all things quilty. “It’s delicate, precise and intricate work quilters do. It’s an expression of art in its own form, and one that I know requires a great deal of patience.”