• Retro Hong Kong caff interior at Matchbox Cafe
  • Spot the fake in Mong Kok malls. @christopherkanestudio HK style
  • Hello Birdy
  • Just got lashes @paperself - ed at @openingceremony #openingceremonytokyo 1st year anniversary party
  • Mega cute stuff from new brand @littlesunnybiteyoppy

Tim Blanks: For all its speed, fashion is a lot kinder to legacy and heritage than any other business I've worked in.  Definitely much kinder than movies and publishing.  And it respects the voice of experience.

Jo-Ann Furniss: There's a weird kind of etiquette.  It's actually a very formal etiquette.  Who sends thank you notes anymore?  The fashion industry!

I definitely had to chuckle at Jo-Ann Furniss' statement above when we had our round table discussion for Bon Magazine when on an average week, I myself receive maybe ten or so thank you notes in the post.  The preservation of etiquette and sentiment in the fashion industry is nothing but endearing, especially when the thank you notes come on lovely crisp Smythson stationery.  Weirdly, during one week I received nothing BUT thank you notes printed on Smythson stationery, which is perhaps symtomatic of the London fashion industry's loyalty to good old Smythson.  

Some of you may know that I was featured in Smythson's A/W 11 Journal and have been contributing a few posts to the Smythson blog for the past few months so I've been getting properly acquainted with all of their wonderful leathery and papery goods.  I vaguely remember having a conversation with a friend who felt embarrassed for admitting that her parents made her send Thank You notes to everyone who gave her gifts for Christmas.  This in turn made me ashamed that my parents hadn't instilled the same polite set of values.  Therefore, I'm trying to atone with my first set of Smythson correspondence cards and so I've fleshed out the post I did for Smythson, which tracked my journey from Smythson's stationery salon (yes, there is such a thing…) on Bond Street to their printing workshop in Wiltshire.  

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Smythson‚Äôs stationery salon is a quiet haven of rustling cards, tissue paper inlays and lovely die-stamped letters and a bulging catalogue of motifs for you to choose to head up your cards or stamp your envelopes with.  I love the motion of going through ring binders stuffed with fonts and papers.  I settled for a grey border, grey tissue lining and pink text and motif combination, which is sort of a reference to an old Style Bubble design colour scheme but in general, I just love the dullness of grey and the hotness of well… a hot pink.

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I did resist the urge to go for a motif that was ultra literal and slightly cheesy….

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Instead, I chose a camera motif, which wasn‚Äôt actually in the catalogue but was a never-before used motif from the archive.  Smythson did have very obvious 'fashion' motifs – a stiletto heel, a handbag – and they also had quite cute animal ones – foxes and owls and so forth (they're the fashionable animals – nobody wants a mole on their card which is a bit sad…).  I'm not exactly sure why I went for a camera seeing as I'm err… clearly NOT a photographer but I guess I didn't want anything too literal either.  

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I was then lucky enough to visit Smythson‚Äôs factory in Wiltshire where decades-old machinery have been printing their stationery for years with the traditional methods of copperplate printing.  I know, I know – another demonstration of in yer' face craft as a commodity.  Still Smythson's methods are stubbornly manual, which is something to be commended considering half the machinery in the printing press can't actually be bought new.  

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A negative image is put through a copper plate etching machine to achieve the final plate that will be used in the printing press, a process that has thankfully been speeded up but would have taken hours to achieve just one plate, when done by hand in the past…

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The plate is then loaded into the printing press and once the rollers are inked up, each piece of paper or envelope is individually placed there and stamped with the motif or text.  It‚Äôs an eye bogglingly manual process, one that requires a knack of timing and an in-depth knowledge for how the machines are run.  The stamp results in this raised de bossed effect which is amazing to touch – something that can't be conveyed in a picture alas.  I think at this point, they also excitedly showed us a menu from Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding, which Smythson were in charge of printing – no pics allowed but apparently the design was done by Kate and actually, I have to give a thumbs up to her.  Very nice indeed. 

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We then moved on to the section where borders and gilding of card edges are done.  It‚Äôs another highly skilled manual process that isn‚Äôt governed by science but by simply knowing by eye, how the paint or gold/silver leaf will hit the card.  

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The application of this gold leaf on to the edge of these cards was pretty stunning to watch.  The cards have to be stacked and angled correctly to apply the gold leaf… 

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GOOOOOOOOOLDDDDD!

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Then I watched my set of cards get their grey borders and was amazed at how evenly spaced the cards were in order to be sprayed with precision.  He did this all by eye. 

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Even the envelopes were made up by hand with the all over tissue lining being something of a Smythson signature.  I had a go at gluing together a few of them but I don‚Äôt think I got the full hang of it.  Hopefully nobody actually receives my duff envelope in their stationery set‚Ķ

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I got a bit of Christmas panic when I saw these Smythson boxes piled high as they were gearing up for the Christmas card and gift rush… I've actually not even bought mine yet… 

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Smythson keeps all their plates archived and never throws them away.  It was pretty special going through the ‚ÄòCelebrities‚Äô drawer stuffed full of luminaries‚Äô names‚Ķ

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Me thinks, Margaret Thatcher isn't going to be needing this plate anymore… 

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Et voila!  The finished product…

I‚Äôve not yet sent one out yet but after the Christmas period, I‚Äôm sure these will be winging their way, complete with my childish scrawl, to some grateful recipients (hopefully!).  

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Comments (20)

  1. mrdavidPOP says:

    I absolutely love these diaries the quality is just insane. I think i’ll just have to wait till the sale because i’m sure they don’t do student discount lol.
    http://www.thefasionphotomoto.com

  2. Polly says:

    What a wonderful insight – thank you!

  3. celyne says:

    very interesting post! visit my blog, post a comment :***
    http://www.celyneglam.blogspot.com

  4. Kate says:

    So cute! I still insist on writing thank you notes…is there anything better than getting a lovely bit of stationary in the mail? And what proves a bit of heartfelt sentiment better than a bit of proper post? :)
    Kate
    http://www.thrillofthechaise.com

  5. Aja says:

    I love, love, love these posts where you tour factories. They’re super interesting! Hope your holiday season is warm and bright.

  6. Marie says:

    I absolutely love it! Handwritten thank you notes speak volumes and are quite thoughtful…especially now that everything is super quick and digital. I love the shots you’ve shown…the process behind the scene…love it! Thanks for sharing…your cards and envelopes are beautiful!
    http://www.happypaperplace.com/

  7. Serdane says:

    that is an amazing work, I love this process that you showed, Amazing I love it !!
    http://www.younglington.wordpress.com

  8. Duck says:

    One day I too hope to receive a monogrammed note from Sophia…

  9. vasilieva says:

    wow, amazing, absolutely fascinating
    http://www.vasilievablog.com/
    x

  10. Katherine says:

    This post is incredibly interesting. Thank you!
    http://alittledestruction.blogspot.com/

  11. wow fantastic! I’m addicted to papers and colors, your card are so creative but also chic! amazing <3
    http://silviainvenice.blogspot.com/

  12. Great post! Love Smythson and have always appreciated the traditional thank you’s.
    http://www.designers-artists.com

  13. Romina C says:

    cards are the best! I love reveiving them so much more than emails! Amazing work
    x Romi
    http://blaastyle.blogspot.com

  14. Hannah Jane says:

    What a glorious adventure you had! An endearing post with intricate detail. Enjoy your new note cards. X

  15. Alexander says:

    Do you really think that your comment concerning Lady Thatcher’s plate is appropriate. I think that it is incredibly inappropriate to mock an old lady in her decline. I have had my plates at Smythson for many years and I am surprised that they let you take a picture of other people’s plates.

  16. susie_bubble says:

    I’m not mocking this an “old lady in her decline”. I was merely making the point that she is no longer in power therefore she won’t be needing a plate that says 10 Downing Street on it because err… she doesn’t live there anymore…
    I think you misunderstood my comment.
    I did not take pictures of other plates and this was the one that they did allow me to take.

  17. Alexander says:

    Hi Susie,
    I liked the post very much, the problem is that she is still a member of the House of Lords, which is the plate you took a picture of. If that was a Downing Street plate I would understand the point, but that letterhead is still current. She is also still a member of the Privy Council and a peeress of the realm so why wouldn’t she use that plate?
    Good post tho and I love your stationary!!
    x

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