In the digital era, how many of us still write postcards, letters, or simply still take notes on paper? Actually, more people than you think. Nostalgia for things of the past is a feeling that fills people’s of any age heart.
Writing notes on writing paper, where fountain pens glide smoothly, the ink dries properly, and the thickness of paper preserves the notes forever, has no price in today’s world ruled by smartphones. or actually, it does have a price, the price of a Le Carnet Thibierge.
Retail in Asia had the pleasure to interview Emeric Thibierge, the founder of Thibierge Paris.
RiA: How did it all begin?
Emeric: When I was young, I wanted to become an architect. Today, I am a sort of architect for paper because as an architect, you can design something beautiful, but technically, it has to be very reliable. The idea is one thing, but execution is key.
I have been working for luxury brands for many years, and I noticed that these high-end brands had limited knowledge of paper and stationery, which indeed, were my expertise.
Because of that, we decided to create our own brand, Thibierge Paris, five years ago. We created the first French luxury stationery accessories brand based on my expertise of paper and stationary.
RiA: What is special about Thibierge Paris in terms of choice of material?
Emeric: When I first designed the notebook and its paper, I was wondering, “does it make sense to go on using a paper that is made of trees of a forest?”
We considered the option of using recycled paper. However, recycled paper is not high quality. It does not make sense to have your notes or sketches that you may expect to last for centuries on recycled papers that have only a few years of life.
After investigating, I remembered that in the 19th century, paper was made from rag, i.e. cotton and linen. Linen is an extraordinary sustainable fiber, harvested every summer in Normandy.
It does not require any irrigation apart from natural rainwater, almost no chemicals and it is local. It became obvious to me that we had to create a writing paper using linen fibers exclusively.
RiA: In Thibierge discourse, there are a few terms always coming up such as “luxury,” “sustainable,” “made in France,” what are the values behind Thibierge Paris? In which way is it connected to this very strong country of origin in effect?
Emeric: Yes, Le Carnet notebook is designed in Paris and made in France. I think the most important value to me is being authentic. When I speak about the storytelling of the brand, it is only my true story: how I invented my job of paper designer, how I ended up to design paper and notebooks.
Authenticity and contemporary are key to me, there is a duality between inspiration from the past and the future vision. The design of Le Carnet Thibierge notebook shows this dimension of contemporary quality and sustainability. They are key for the future generations.
Producing in France is also a must. We are based in France and have such a great expertise of paper, stationery and craftmanship.
RiA: What are the features that make Le Carnet Thibierge a luxury accessory?
Emeric: I think writing and stationery are signs of refinement. Writing is very much linked to culture. People who write are people who read as well. There are numerous people today that keep on writing because it is part of their life and culture.
For the younger generation, writing is a clear sign of refinement and distinction. Le Carnet Thibierge is dedicated to them.
Most of the notebooks, maybe all notebooks, produced by, or designed by luxury brands, use “printing paper”, just because they do not know that writing paper may exist. The paper industry stopped producing writing paper decades ago, after the digital device started pervading people’s life.
When I first met the paper mill, explaining that we wanted to create “a writing paper,” the mill manager took me as a foolish guy, saying “woah! You want to make a writing paper in the digital era? This is a nonsense!”
Besides, being given “a foolish”, I strongly believed that the moment when people can feel the fountain pen gliding on the surface of the paper, is just a magic.
RiA: Everyone thought a notebook would be regarded as outdated, but actually we are witnessing a comeback. Where do you see this going?
Emeric: I will mention what Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, said a couple of years ago: “keyboard will disappear, interaction between human and machine will only be voice or writing”. I think writing has a long life ahead.
RiA: What is your current status in terms of Asian expansion?
Emeric: We started two and a half years ago in Paris and Tokyo, at the same time. We were introducing the Thibierge Paris notebooks on a Saturday, at the Bon Marche in Paris, and the following Wednesday, we started with Isetan in Tokyo.
Many people wondered why we were starting in Japan, such a complex and far market. There are many reasons. The first reason is that Japanese consumers are well known to be highly demanding on quality of the products.
For us, it was interesting to encounter these customers, to see how good or not our product was such demanding consumers. Particularly, when you know that Japanese consumers are experts in writing, with calligraphy, and they are also experts in paper.
We thought that if it worked in Japan, it could work everywhere. I was surprised to discover that, a couple of years after we started, we had zero complaints from consumers, which in Japan is absolutely unbelievable.
We started with one permanent corner at Isetan Men’s in Tokyo, and now we are enjoying five permanent corners. We are now introducing Thibierge notebooks in Hong Kong and in other markets, including inflight and duty-free sales, particularly because the Thibierge notebook is doing very well in the gift market, including business gifts.
In Europe, we will start soon in Italy, Germany, and, of course in the US. We are a small team, and we go step by step, but that is how the near future steps fall for our brand.
Recently, we created the Saint Laurent x Thibierge Paris notebook. The well known fashion house has been appealed by our expertise of paper and stationary. We see that sort of collaboration developing in the near future, as luxury brands tend to develop their product range of stationary.
RiA: What is the retail concept for Le Carnet Thibierge corners?
Emeric: Our brand identity is white, pure and horizontal.There are two dimensions. First of all, paper is a synonymous of purity: it is white, it is plain, light, pure. It is also horizontal because a notebook, or a page of paper is horizontal.
RiA: What is your customer profile?
Emeric: That is an interesting question because some people in the past have forecast that we would only sell to my generation, but the reality is totally opposite to that.
More than half of our customers, are less than 39 years old. Our customers range from 28 to 50 or 60, and half of them are between 28 and 39, so pretty young customer profile. If we consider an average between Europe and Japan, our customers are split equally between men and women.
RiA: Thibierge, positioning itself as an accessory, releases two collections throughout the year. Where do you get the inspiration to innovate such a classical product?
Emeric: There is no recipe as to get inspiration. Inspiration comes when you are not prepared. You can only create a favorable environment.
Personally, I visit contemporary art exhibitions and I never miss a fashion exhibition in Paris. There is also a place where I like to go, which is the Natural History Museum of Paris.
Also, I like walking and discover different gardens in different seasons. Inspiration comes from everything. It could be just a dream, an emotion, a specific design or piece of art.
RiA: Thibierge produces notebook, how do you plan digital campaigns around
Emeric: We use both print and digital media. We communicate on social networks, as it makes sense to reach our target audience. Instagram, of course, for lifestyle pictures to show the product in different situations and inspire our customers.
We also use Facebook and blogs to provide information. The last issue was an interview of a talented calligrapher, explaining how she decided to become a calligrapher.
We will also work with paper artists, paper sculptors. I have a number of connections with Japanese artists and they are very interesting. We will introduce them on Instagram, regularly, by presenting different works of paper sculptures.
The idea is to draw the attention of our customer targets to our website and to bring them to the stores. In the stores, we want the customers to enjoy the real experience.
Writing on Thibierge paper is a key step because when the customer feels the fountain pen gliding on this incredibly smooth paper, it imprints the mind of a customer a very strong emotion, as well as the softness of the cover itself and so on.
It is a combination of digital content and customer experience.
Stay tuned to follow Thibierge’s expansion plan into Asia.