Founded in 2010, Katie Leamon designs luxurious cards and wrap from her London studio and manufactures her beautiful range in the UK. Every print is a reflection of Katie’s love of typography and vintage curiosities, delivering simple and beautiful designs that evoke a sense of nostalgia.
We chat to Katie Leamon about her journey and inspiration, the importance of manufacturing the range locally in the UK and what’s next on the horizon.
Katie, your love of design, typography and stationery is evident throughout your entire range. What inspired you to start the business in 2010?
I have always loved paper: from hotel matchboxes, treasured letters from loved ones or favourite business cards… I’ve always kept beautiful, inspiring papers. This is really where it all began. I had a collection of drawings, and typography designs and the most natural step for me was to apply it to cards and notebooks.
I wanted to work for myself, I wanted to build a brand and make my own stamp on the design world, which really inspired me and spurred me on.
My brother and I started to make stamps in our studio as a bit of a project, and then I just continued to play and developed a range of cards that were very personal and tangible.
What has been your biggest business achievement or favourite moment to date?
I think I have a couple… My success at the Liberty of London Open Call Day led them to be my first stockist, which was a very overwhelming proud moment. Along with the day we built and opened our first production studio. We had a little opening and I was really proud of how far we had come and what we had achieved.
The company is now seven years old, do you still hold the same responsibilities as you did when you created the company, or has this evolved?
My primary role in the company is to design the collections. Obviously at first this was alongside absolutely everything else that goes with starting a company, but now I have an incredible team behind me so although I still have to oversee a lot of the general running of things, I do have more time to concentrate on the design side of things.
It’s exciting to know that most products are predominantly hand printed. How do you manage this process? And how important is it for you to create your range in the UK?
Initially I printed all the cards myself, I still love printing myself but don’t get as much time to get my hands dirty anymore. We have two printers in the team that set up the hand operated presses and spend their time printing all our cards and ensuring stock levels are always healthy and new designs are being sampled as necessary. It was a very hard part of the process to hand over initially because it was so integral to the brand but luckily they came from print backgrounds, are as particular as me with detail and work really hard to achieve the best we can.
It’s really important to me to know your production chain. So for us, this means UK production is easier to manage, supports local and national business but also means we can see the work in progress and watch it along the way and ensure its all being produced to the standard I expect. It would be much harder and longer to achieve this if we moved production overseas, and it’s harder to ensure your standards and expectations are being met, not only in terms of the product but also the morals and values of the team producing things.
Can you tell us a business (or life) lesson you have learnt since starting your company?
I think the one thing that keeps coming back to me is to ensure you keep moving, keep fresh and keep motivated. Even if sometimes it’s hard to make a decision it’s crucial to make one. Trusting in my gut is essential for me but also ensuring that you make a decision, even if it’s the wrong one, will teach you something and it will get you moving, a side step is better than no step.
Do you have a favourite collection (and why this one)?
Generally, I like the most recent one I have designed, during the process I see so much of a collection that shortly after the actual official launch, I am ready to move onto the next! That said, I still love the Petit card collection, I love that they are a little smaller, use the bespoke marble envelopes and are a soft pastel and neutral palette, which I am always drawn to.
Do you hear from your customers? What sort of people are they and what appeals to them about the Katie Leamon range of cards and stationery?
Yes we hear from customers quite often, which is lovely, it makes it all worthwhile! A lot of that is via social media and I think people are drawn to the aesthetic and sentiment of the designs along with the whole ethos of the brand.
We have a predominantly female following with a keen interest in design, and people who appreciate and treasure the written word in the modern world we live in. They appreciate the high-end finishes and packaging.
In terms of our wholesale stores, we have a huge amount of independent stores that are striving for the same tangible things in a time when online shopping is so popular, so they are really hands-on, have a very personal approach to their buying and generally lovely to work with.
What other designers or brands do you admire?
There are so many strong brands in the industry, some of my favourites are Moglea, Yellow Owl Workshop, Appointed, Wrap, Chase & Wonder, Dear to me, Knot & Bow, Ola.
Outside of the stationery industry, I love the fashion brand Teatum Jones; in a similar way to us they use a strong narrative throughout their collections, which I love.
What is the one stationery item you couldn’t live without?
My sketch book. I carry it with me everywhere and am constantly noting down ideas, sketching things out and sticking in any inspiring things I find.
What is next for Katie Leamon? Is there something exciting to look forward to?
Well I’m actually 8 months pregnant, so the next step is having a baby!! In terms of the brand, I will be taking a back step for a few months but have already got some exciting new cards and stationery that I have made ahead of time!
We have got some really exciting things on the horizon, including a brand new product line, which incorporates another love of mine, but it’s in the embryo stages so can’t say much more! Alongside that we are doing a huge push on the retail side of our business and we are going to be launching a very personal story based side of the site. All will be revealed in good time!