Sunday, 9 November 2014

What We Save, Saves Us

As we hurtle towards the season of out-and-out consumerism, I'm heartened to see messages spreading among my friends and peers about supporting independent businesses, designers, and makers. It's easy to walk along the high street and buy everything in one fell swoop but if you want quality, sustainability, and beautiful design then you need to venture elsewhere. 

One such brand that perfectly reflects these values is Thisispaper, a Warsaw based online store launched in 2013 whose beautiful motto is the title of this post. While Thisispaper began as a magazine in 2011, and then grew into a creative agency in 2012, the online shop was opened "because of a need that we had long felt but failed to satisfy elsewhere. The need to be sure what we buy is made with care and skill, that it will last for years without losing its beauty or efficiency, and that neither the environment nor the makers suffer harm in the manufacturing process". This ethos is a breath of fresh air in the face of fast paced production and the ever-quickening turnover of seasons and micro-seasons making us feel that we need more, new, now.

The brand has quickly expanded from a 'modest collection of textile accessories and homeware, to include magazines, gardening tools, knitwear and more'. All products are either sourced from manufacturers and craftsmen in Poland or made by the Thisispaper team at their Warsaw studio. 

The studio is, by the way, an absolute dream. Their website features a section called 'The Process', which allows us in to explore their workspace and take a look at their careful, considerate manufacturing process. The images are very evocative - you can almost smell the leather and hear the clicks and whirs of the sewing machines - and offer an intimate insight into what is clearly a happy and creative working environment. This is something that is hugely important yet is often greatly overlooked, but here it shines through in the brand's imagery, their language, and their product. 













Thisispaper share their message of sustainability without preaching. While their ethics are strong and made clear throughout their website, their approach is gentle as they allow the products speak for themselves. This brand doesn't care for swaying to trends or chasing low costs, they care about providing high quality with the lowest possible impact on the environment.

The A/W offerings all adhere closely to the values the company has built itself around. Their range of bags and rucksacks are all manufactured from materials sourced in Poland and are made to be functional and long lasting. Natural sail cloth and linen makes up the shell of the bags, which are then lined with soft but durable cotton and embellished with vegetable-tanned, high quality leather details. 






Adding to their existing range of bags, the brand have recently launched a new line, 'Regulars', everyday essentials which revisit designs from Thisispaper's first collection. Made from thick cotton and denim for durability (which, of course, are made in Poland), the bags take inspiration from their city and are emblazoned with the line 'Handmade in Warsaw' in 14 different languages to proudly spread the message to all who see it.






The pride in their hometown is evident in Thisispaper's collaborations. They currently have two limited edition knitwear lines in stock. First up is Thisispaper x Córka Rybaka. Córka Rybaka (Polish for Fisherman's Daughter) is a Warsaw-based brand who have developed three new exclusive styles of hand-knitted hats, all made from 100% Peruvian wool. With only 60 hats being made in total by Monika, the maker behind Córka Rybaka, this certainly is limited edition. Quality, and support of local craft, over volume. 

The second of the knitwear lines is a beautiful, simple, and impossibly cosy looking range of of gloves and slippers. In another act of support for both their city and local craftsmanship, the gloves and slippers were all handmade by Pani Czesława, a Warsaw native who Thisispaper describe as a master knitter. 

The team have worked hard on perfecting the shape and fit of the gloves and slippers, which is clear when comparing them to designs from previous seasons. I particularly love that the mittens come to a point at the fingertips; a sweet, unusual design feature. They are also wholly unapologetic when it comes to the nature of their 100% wool composition: "The sheep's wool may itch a little at the beginning, but the itching is a natural feature of wool and will go away after a while, leaving only the feeling of pleasant warmth". Just as certain metal or wood weathers and develops its own unique patina, natural fabrics wear with you and reveal their individual characteristics. 

20 hats available in each colour

Thisispaper x Córka Rybaka


Slippers and gloves handmade by Pani Czesława

Thisispaper's aesthetic is all about functionality and design without excess. But this doesn't mean they come anywhere near the territory of being boring. Take the product photography on their website for example. Simple, yes, but beautiful, tonal, and considered. Despite their minimalist tendencies, this is a brand that exudes warmth, and that welcomes its customers into the studio to see where their bag or slippers are being made. If they haven't made it, they tell you who did; they tell you where it's come from; they tell you, where possible, how many have been made; they tell you exactly what it's made from. They are transparent and open to the end, all so as to stay true to the principles upon which they were founded.




Product photography

To take this back to my original point of eschewing mass production and seeking out designers and makers who don't put money and volume on a pedestal above all else, I think the what Thisispaper have written about their 'Studio Culture' can be placed at the heart of this issue: "When businesses grow and their production scope expands, the satisfaction that comes from the process of making might get lost, turning what has once been a passion into a mundane duty. To not let that happen, we're very cautious to preserve the pleasure we take from making products that will be cherished by their users, and to stay true to our original intentions. Refusing to be rushed, we have established a studio culture of patience and carefulness that fosters balance between hard work and well-deserved rest. The waiting time for our products can sometimes seem long, but it is only due to our desire to stick to our ethos and be honest to our customers - in other words, to practice what we preach".

When companies make cuts in material costs, in standards, in taking the time to treat their staff with respect, and so on, simply so they can 'pass those savings onto the customer', it comes at a price. Unhappy staff don't care about the customer; cheap materials don't last; fast production leads to mistakes and exhaustion; cheap production paves the way for exploitation; mass production depletes the Earth's resources. None of this leaves anyone better off. 

Thisispaper's commitment to their values, and particularly their honesty that they're willing to preserve this even if it means you can't get your order as quickly as you might elsewhere, might be unconventional in an age where instant gratification is the bedrock of retail and customer service but it's completely necessary. Sustainability doesn't just apply to materials and resources, it applies to people and business models too. Our attitudes and expectations aren't sustainable and Thisispaper are actively changing them, swaying those who buy from them towards a viewpoint based on patience and respect for the process. 

It's a big issue, and one that many don't even know where to start with but what better way to start than with a nice pair of slippers?




Homeware. All images throughout, courtesy of Thisispaper.