AUTUMN//WINTER 2018 17 16 AUTUMN//WINTER 2018 Brands from Japan, Korea and Taiwan, and European stationery inspired by their cultures, are taking the UK by storm. From the new Japanese pavilion at Top Drawer to Japan House London, which opened its doors earlier in the year, it seems design from East Asia is on everyone’s design radar. Japan House London’s bestselling items include postcards made from washi paper, and an exquisite glass pen invented in the 50s by a wind chime craftsman. In April, stationery boutique Quill London sent out a ‘Japanese’ newsletter and its founder Lucy Edmonds wrote a blog post giving her top tips for stationery shopping in Tokyo. Social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are accelerating the trend by fuelling our appetite for stationery from these countries. Why is it so popular? It’s not just about looks. Asian stationery’s soaring popularity has as much to do with quality as Instagramability. Devotees of Taiwan brand Ystudio, for example, love its artisanal and traditionalist production values. Simon Stone, managing director From pens to planners and from manga to kawaii, JULIA FAIERS examines the current western fascination with Asian stationery. of Stone Marketing Ltd, distributor of Japanese brands mt Masking Tape and Tombow, says: “The Japanese as a nation have a wonderful obsession with stationery and are responsible for producing some of the best and highest quality stationery items around the world.” Quill London’s Lucy Edmonds adds: “I think what makes Japanese stationery so covetable and unique is that, just like Japan itself, on the one hand it’s all about attention to detail in design and packaging, and on the other it can be super cute, mini and bonkers.” The figures alone attest to this explosion of interest, with switched- on stationery retailers identifying it as a growing sector. Sales of Japanese washi tape, for example, are sky rocketing. Simon Stone reports that sales for mt Masking Tape and Tombow have doubled in the last two to three years. Retailers are saying the same, with online stationery store Fox + Star revealing that roughly half the brands they stock are Japanese or Korean, and that washi tapes are one of their core bestsellers. Stone adds: “mt Masking Tape has a huge cult following in Japan, and we are starting to see its popularity steadily increasing in Europe. As a company we run workshops in retail outlets and at events across the country, which is assisting in the growth of sales in the UK.” Search on Pinterest for how to use washi tape and you will be overwhelmed by a mind- boggling number of ideas, from creative to purely practical. Beloved by scrapbookers and bullet journalers, it can be used to make greeting cards, sculptures or large wall decorations. Use it for nail art, or labelling cables so they don’t become mixed up. Cultural exchange A mutual love of stationery means that sometimes European and Asian brands collaborate to create new and innovative products. Ariane Holford, owner of online stationery boutique Fox + Star, says: “A great example of this would be the collaboration between the washi tape line Masté and the famous French patisserie Ladurée. Their dessert-patterned washi tapes show how European design and Japanese manufacturing have come together to create some really unique stationery.” Taiwanese brand Tools to Liveby offers an enticing mash-up of vintage British design and Taiwanese artisanal craftsmanship, including beautifully packaged paper clips and stylish scissors. These products are being snapped up by UK stationery retailers who are keen to offer something a bit different to their loyal clientèle. Popular conceptions Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are the principal sources of stationery appreciated and bought in the UK. I asked distributors and retailers to share their views about the unique qualities of the stationery from these countries. Ariane Holford of Fox + Star said: “Often, Korean stationery brands have an aesthetic look that really resonates with people and communicates very well visually. Japanese stationery brands tend to focus on high-quality materials and the small details. For example, for its notebook line MD paper, Midori uses an off-white paper that contrasts nicely with standard ballpoint pen ink and that’s easy on the eye.” Michael Owen, director at Lime Stationery & Art, says they often look Paper clips fromTaiwanese brandTools to Liveby Washi tape by Korean brand Livework from Fox + Star Writable sticky notes and editor’s memo pads from Japanese brand Stálogy by the Nitto Group 365 Day notebook by Stálogy by the Nitto Group Wamon mt MaskingTape from Stone Gift Washi paper postcards from Japan House London Asian Revolution