November 2011

Modern Paper

In a digital world, these entrepreneurs aren't prepared to give up on the ancient tradition of paper just yet

Wylis Chiu
Design Director of Flare Paper n' Style

Launched in Hong Kong in 2008, Flare Paper n' Style has established a reputation for unique wedding invitations and bespoke stationery service. Design Director, Wylis Chiu, says that though paper may seem old-fashioned, there is still a place for specialised products.

“I trained in graphic design, and after working at an agency for various projects, I started my own company and became more involved in retail and branding design. I love color, patterns and paper, and so it has been my dream to have my own stationery brand. With Flare Paper n' Style, I combine my two passions – a love of paper and a love of branding. I want Flare to be synonymous with elegant, sophisticated and inspiring designs, made from specialty paper and adorned with handpicked embellishments.

Although many of us increasingly rely on online communication, when it comes to formal events like weddings and silver anniversaries, a formal, printed invitation is a form of respect and sincerity. We all love a personal touch, we like to feel and sense it. For events that only happen once in a lifetime, people won't settle for the lesser option. We are currently offering our service in Hong Kong and Singapore but are hoping to explore the mainland China market soon.”

Penny Lee
Co-founder and CEO of Ipluso

Shanghai's Ipluso stationery stores are stocked with stylish notebooks, leather business accessories, bags and more. CEO Penny Lee says that traditional stationery can be a “special experience.”

“We set up our first store in Shanghai five years ago to test our products for this market. The traditional writing experience can be comfortable and sweet, and I initially started making notebooks to entice myself to continue putting pen to paper. One thing led to another, and we started making stationery as fashion accessories and for people to use on business occasions. Our brand name 'Ipluso' – short for in plus out – also makes corporate gifts for international companies. Sometimes work is not always fun for everyone, so we hope Ipluso stationery items can perk up their day – our motto is, 'Happy working, happy living.'

"All of our stores had been designed by an Italian-Australian architect and our products are designed by artists from different countries and different design backgrounds. We like to work with people who are passionate about living but also choose to live responsibly and beautifully.”

Lan She
Founder of My Landiao

This Guizhou native was inspired by her travels around her home province to open a store that would display the beautiful and increasingly rare minority crafts she discovered along the way. One of the most popular art forms is an ancient method of paper-making.

“I am always looking for beautiful, handmade things. Nothing in my store is machine-produced. The paper we stock is traditionally made, with no change in the method for 1,000 years. Artisians will go into Guizhou's mountains and pick bark from the paper mulberry tree, then soak it in water. It takes up to one month to complete the process of making a large sheet of paper. This is much better than modern paper because it uses all natural materials and can last forever. The art and craft of making paper is being forgotten and only a few people today know how to do it. We will keep buying from local producers so they can continue make a living with their traditional crafts. People who buy paper from us are often artists who use the paper as a base for their artwork. Our products are also popular as wrapping paper, to hang on the wall as artwork, or to make into lanterns.”

Elke Martini
Founder of Elke Martini Designs

German-born, US-raised Elke Martini began her stationery design business by turning her photographs into greeting cards. Her products now include cards, as well as notebooks, invitations and more.

“I've always liked paper products. Two years ago I started Elke Martini Designs with two different products and noticed it was very difficult to get any sales volume. Paper products, at least the ones that I sell, are not that common in Shanghai. My products appeal more to foreigners who live in Shanghai for a few years and want to take some of these images back to their home countries. While my first range of products was based on Shanghai street life, the new products are more whimsical but still have an Asian or Shanghai-based theme. I have a range of products that use recycled paper, and I also sell a line of hand-knitted organic cotton toys by Sanya Bounce. Not all my products are 100% recycled or use organic cotton, but I would like to be more eco-friendly in my business. If I can use recycled paper and soy-based ink then I will. I guess what I really like is to have a beautifully designed product line that people enjoy giving as much as receiving.”