If you think Pavilion's stationery designs wouldn't look out of place in a modern art museum, you wouldn't be far off. The duo's stylish stationery is a hit with a range of retailers and renowned gift shops, owing to its unique and contemporary designs. We speak to founders Robert & Jan about their journey together from the world of fashion, to making their mark in the stationery world.
Both yourself and Robert began your journeys in the fashion industry. Could you tell us a bit about what your inspirations were back then and how you met?
We met back in 2005, I (Robert) was working as a stylist mostly for fashion editorials, and Jan as a print designer. We actually had quite a different outlook on our industry but what always linked us was a love of colour, its infinite combinations and the moods they could evoke.
What was your experience like in the fashion industry?
We both loved the pace of it, and by its nature, the everchanging trends and perspectives on dressing. We like to think we have brought these elements into Pavilion, each season we try to look at things from a new angle and although our styles are wide-ranging, there are always constants that bring a brand identity to the company.
How did you decide to collaborate together, and what made you take the leap from fashion to stationery? What inspired you to start your business?
It’s quite the leap to work together with your partner but we felt that each of us had different strengths that would strengthen a brand. As we were both passionate about stationery it was the natural progression for us, and after many years in the fashion industry, we were looking for a new challenge.
What is your working dynamic at Pavilion? Who takes care of what? What does a typical day look like?
There is no typical day at Pavilion, and it would be easy to say that Jan does the artwork and I take care of customer accounts, but it’s not that simple. Although we naturally have fallen into some roles, so much of the day-to-day running is collaborative.
Your designs range from the very abstract and minimal, to busier and more playful. Could you describe your creative process? From inception to creation, how long does it take, and what are your inspirations?
When designing new ranges we individually gather inspiration from hugely varied sources such as fashion, art, graphic design, magazine layouts, packaging, and even our home and garden. We then come together to work through our ideas and passions for that season. Once we get an overall feeling of where we are headed Jan begins the artwork, be it hand-painted or computer-generated. Then we assess, correct and fiddle with the design until we’re both happy. This has happened as quickly as one day or has stretched to weeks.
What is our approach to marketing and promoting your business?
We use Instagram mainly to promote Pavilion, and have advertised on there once or twice. Most often we have found that retailers come to us after seeing our cards, notebooks, gift wrap, and pencils in places such as The RHS, The Hayward Gallery, The Lowry, and the many other lovely independent shops all over the world we are lucky enough to be stocked in.
What has seen your biggest challenge so far with running Pavilion?
Strangely getting started was not particularly difficult as we were both so passionate about it, but as Pavilion started to take off we found streamlining the business to move forward to the next level a challenge. Demands on our time became a problem which meant we had to speed up with administration and packing orders. Sometimes this required investment which we would never have considered early on, but we found that to move forward we had to put the money made straight back into the business and we hope that shows.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Without a doubt it’s the design process, we are always itching to move forward and always come to design meetings with way too many ideas, and as designers through and through it’s the creative outlet that we need.
How did the pandemic affect the business and what did you learn?
I have to be honest and say that the pandemic literally stopped the business overnight, we are mainly a wholesale company and as the shops were shut, orders stopped and in some cases were returned to us. What we learned was that we were determined to come out of it all stronger and better, and it gave us the time we hadn’t had before to diversify into a second brand ‘affiliate:107’ (available on Creoate). The concept of which was much more individual than Pavilion with a more curated feel, on new papers, different techniques, and new products like pencil sets. I doubt without the pandemic we would have ever had the time to achieve this, and it was such a positive thing to come out of such a difficult experience for everyone.
What aspects of stationery design would surprise someone outside of the industry?
I think we were amazed by just how big the industry is, and the appetite for newness from the retailers, which suits our approach perfectly.
As stationery specialists, what are your preferred methods of organisation when it comes to running your business, and in your personal life?
I’m the ‘write it down anywhere’ type of person, and Jan is more organised. We are both big list makers, this really inspired us to design the multifunctional notebook for affiliate:107 with a design layout that could be used in many ways, plus go-to pages for quick scribbles. It definitely is an improvement from writing on the back of envelopes.
When/why did you decide to start selling your products wholesale, and how did this affect your business?
We felt there was a gap in the market for what we were offering and always imagined Pavilion to be a wholesale business, although we do sell direct through our own website.
What has been Pavilion’s proudest achievement?
I remember how excited we were when The British Library started stocking Pavilion in its very first season, and we’re so proud that the relationship is ongoing and now also with affiliate:107.
What would you recommend to artists looking to take the leap into commercializing their designs?
Research the business side of the industry but don’t look too hard at what everyone is doing design-wise, have your own voice and keep moving forward.
Thank you both so much for speaking to us. You can shop Pavilion Prints wholesale with CREOATE, and follow them on Instagram here. Not registered with CREOATE yet? Sign up now and shop wholesale with us today.
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