As the digital age rules over our lives and writing is considered as a thing of the past, a Parisian esthete specializing in paper has decided to create a design notebook at the apex of luxury.
Writing words on a paper, where fountain pen glides smoothly, the ink dries properly, and the sheet 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 notebook.
Retail in Asia had the pleasure to interview Emeric Thibierge, the founder and designer 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 paper 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 high-end brands had limited knowledge of paper and stationery, which indeed, were my expertise.
Therefore, I decided to create our own brand, Thibierge Paris, five years ago. The first French luxury stationery accessories brand based on my knowledge of paper and stationary.
RiA: What is special about Thibierge Paris in terms of choice of material?
Emeric: When I first designed the Le Carnet Thibierge notebook and its paper, I was wondering whether “it would make sense to create a paper that is made from forest trees wood fibers?”
Of course not. We considered the option of creating a recycled paper. However, recycled fibers are not high quality material. It does not make sense to have your notes or sketches that you may expect to last for long time on recycled fibers that have shelf life of few years only.
I remembered that in the 19th century, high quality paper was made from rag, i.e. cotton and linen. Linen is an extraordinary sustainable fiber, harvested every summer in Normandy, and perfect for extremely light paper. It does not require any irrigation apart from natural rainwater, almost no chemicals and locally produced. It became obvious to me that Thibierge writing paper would be made of 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 Thibierge notebook was designed in Paris and is made in France. I think the most important value to me is authenticity. When I tell the story of our brand, it is only my own 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 future generations.
Producing in France is also a must. We are based in Paris and have access to great expertise of paper, stationery and craftmanship.
RiA: What are the features that make le Carnet Thibierge a luxury accessory?
Emeric: I think writing is a sign of refinement. Writing is 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 pleasure. 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 our intention to create our “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 writing is part of our culture and that people would seek quality paper.
RiA: Everyone thought a notebook would be regarded as outdated, but actually we are witnessing a comeback. Where do you see this going?
Emeric: Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, said a couple of years ago: “keyboard will disappear, interaction between human and machine will only be voice or hand writing”. I think writing has a long life ahead. It is an essential part of human being.
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 le Carnet Thibierge notebook at Le Bon Marché in Paris and at Isetan in Tokyo the same week.
Many people wondered why we were starting in Japan, such a complex and far market. There are many reasons to that. The first reason is that Japanese consumers are highly demanding on product quality.
Furthermore, it was motivating to encounter consumers experts in both calligraphy and paper. We thought that if it worked in Japan, it would work everywhere else. I was surprised to discover that, a couple of years after we started, we had received no complaint at all from consumers. Which in Japan, is absolutely noticeable.
We started with one permanent corner at Isetan Men’s in Tokyo, and now we are enjoying five permanent corners. We will soon be introducing le Carnet Thibierge notebook in Hong Kong and in other markets, including inflight and duty-free sales, as le Carnet Thibierge is doing very well in the gift market, including business gifts.
In Europe, we will start soon in Italy, Germany, Russia and, of course in the US with the opening of Nordstrom Manhattan and Net-a-porter.
Recently, we created the Saint Laurent x Thibierge Paris notebook. The well known fashion house has been appealed by our expertise and design skills. We see such collaborations developing in the near future, as luxury brands are willing to extend their stationary product line.
RiA: What is the retail concept for Le Carnet Thibierge corners?
Emeric: Our brand identity is characterized by whiteness, purity and horizontality. There are two dimensions: paper is a synonymous of purity: it is white, plain, and light. And horizontal, when writing.
RiA: What is your customer profile?
Emeric: That is an interesting question because if some people have forecast that notebooks could only be sold to matured generation, reality is totally different. Our customer profile ranges from 28 to 50 or 60, half of them being in the 30’s, between 28 and 39, a pretty young customer profile. Equally balanced 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 is everywhere and comes when you are not prepared. You can only create a favorable environment. I often visit contemporary art exhibitions or never miss a fashion exhibition in Paris. I also like to visit the Natural History Museum of Paris or the Palais Galliera, dedicated to fashion.
I like walking, discovering various gardens in different seasons. Inspiration comes from everything. It could be just a dream, an emotion, a specific shape or a piece of art.
RiA: Thibierge produces notebooks, how do you plan digital campaigns around your products?
Emeric: Le Carnet is both stationary and connected via its app. In the same way, 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 blog to provide information. The last issue was an interview of a talented calligrapher, explaining how she became a calligrapher.
We also work with paper artists, paper sculptors. I have a number of connections with Japanese artists and they are very interesting. We will introduce their original artwork on Instagram, by presenting different paper sculptures.
The idea is to catch our target customers’ attention and draw them to our website and then to the stores. In the stores, we want the customers to enjoy the authentic experience of writing on Thibierge unique writing paper. Feeling the fountain pen gliding on this incredibly smooth paper imprints into your mind a deep emotion.
It is a combination of digital content and customer experience.
Thibierge Paris can be considered as a precursor in the rebirth of the handwriting era.