AUTUMN//WINTER 2018 19 18 AUTUMN//WINTER 2018 to Asia for products, but that their choices are determined by popular perceptions, which he says are still “pretty rigid”. He adds: “I have noticed that some countries are doing a better job of changing our perceptions, though. Japan is always high quality, cool, premium price, and stationery from Japan is always well received. Our expectations of Japanese products are also huge. South Korea has a great reputation for cool products, nice designs and a more reasonable price. Taiwan has a fantastic emerging stationery offer. I have found many well-made, well-designed products from Taiwan recently. The normal perception of Indian products is also being challenged – it is still the place to go for good-quality, good-value leather products.” Keiko Uchida, UK operations director for Stálogy, a Japanese brand from the Nitto Group which launched in Britain in August, comments: “The UK public appreciates quality, good design and craftsmanship in stationery. Stálogy embodies these traits effortlessly. The fascination with Japanese lifestyle brands in the UK has created an appealing and promising market for us to expand into.” Fujiwara Taichi, manager of The Shop at Japan House London, hits the nail on the head describing why we are so in love with Japanese stationery: “To my understanding, Japanese stationery is popular because of its very high quality, durability, efficiency, and cuteness, but also because of a fascination with Japanese culture, extending to even the novelty characters that are a part of daily life in Japan and now becoming known around the world.” Which brings us to the wonderful world of kawaii… Kawaii This Japanese word – pronounced ‘kaw-eye-ee’ – means ‘cute and pretty.’ Kawaii fuels a multi-billion dollar global industry. Arguably one of the most famous kawaii characters is Hello Kitty, created 40 years ago by Sanrio in Japan. The Hello Kitty brand is now a global business worth $5bn per year. The concept of kawaii has transformed since its inception, when it was aimed primarily at children in Japan. In the 1980s Japanese adults started to respond to the style’s charms IT SEEMSTHAT BRITAIN JUST CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF STATIONERY FROM OR INSPIRED BY THE COUNTRIES OF EAST ASIA. and by the 1990s kawaii characters like Hello Kitty were finding new markets in the US and beyond. Kawaii-inspired characters have reached the mainstream in the UK and are now part of popular culture. Paperchase, for example, launched the Kawaii Kool Cloud range of stationery earlier this year. Such is the allure of kawaii that fans can even get a monthly fix via subscription services like Scribble Geeks and Some UK start-ups have built their whole brand around the concept. Fuzzballs started life in 2013 as a comic on Tumblr, featuring a pizza-loving cat, a mischievous bunny and a clumsy tiger. Its creator, Marc Sach, previously a video-game artist, has turned his drawn characters into a super-cute stationery brand. Sach reports his business has grown 64% since this time last year. The reason for his success? Kawaii characters resonate with old and young alike. Sach tells me: “Kawaii fans come in all ages, but they’re often in the 12-35 age bracket. These include adults who have money to buy what they want and surround themselves with things that define them and what they love. Why have a boring notepad when you can add some colour and joy into your life?” Kawaii’s universal appeal is backed up by new UK brand Yo Boki, a London LaunchPad winner earlier this year. Founder Farayha Fayyaz created ‘Boki’, a kawaii little pink heart, as the focus of the brand’s debut UK collection of greeting cards, giftwrap, notebooks, stickers and pin badges. Farayha comments that “kawaii is very fluid. It isn’t made for a specific target audience. It’s more about the messages the kawaii characters are bringing into the lives of their fans.” Kawaii Kool Kloud range from Paperchase Pop Manga Mermaids colouring book from GMC Distribution Sase glass pens from Japan House London Limited editionAstro Boy notebook by Moleskine Manga and anime European brands are frequently looking to the design and character attributes of Japanese manga and anime to adorn their stationery collections. Moleskine’s new Astro Boy range of notebooks features the boy robot designed by the ‘Godfather of manga’, Osamu Tezuka, for a weekly magazine in the 1950s and 60s. It was Tezuka who first drew the large, expressive eyes now common to most mangas. Astro Boy, one of the most successful manga and anime franchises in the world, continues to appeal because of the character’s message of humanity and kindness. As the stationery collections of adults and children in the UK swell with washi tape and sticky notes from Korea, super-cool Taiwanese desk accessories and exquisite Japanese glass pens, it seems that Britain just can’t get enough of stationery from or inspired by the countries of East Asia. My Pawesome Planner by Fuzzballs Love Express activity book byYo Boki