Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Stationery Store Series: Paperchase

Paperchase is a big stationery store chain with its own range of notebooks, journals, address books, diaries, pens, pencils, folders and much more. Its three-floor flagship store in Tottenham Court Road, central London, is not only a stationery shop: it's a lifestyle. It is a lifestyle that my younger self would have adored, but one that my older self is dubious about.

At the ground floor there are stacks upon stacks of florid, colourful notebooks that appeal more for their attractive covers than for the quality of their paper. The variety is dizzying. There are notebooks and diaries for children accompanied by matching pencil cases, pens, water bottles, food containers, folders and lunch boxes; expensive looking photo albums in all shades; journals and address books, plastic-bound, cloth-bound, velvet-bound, leather-bound, paper-bound with magnetic clasps, rings, elastic straps vertical and horizontal - in all imaginable graphic designs and colour/pattern combinations. Wrapping paper, gift tags, gift boxes, Paperchase pens and pencils, pencil cases and in a corner a Moleskine and Rhodia display stand with a few specimens of the renowned brands.

In Paperchase, stationery functions more as display. First impressions are important. The insides of notebooks are secondary. The second floor pretends to cater to the stationery gourmet. Glass cabinets with what appear to be "serious" paper products and designer decorative objects; a long glass display holds the more expensive writing instruments: Cross, Waterman, Lamy, Faber-Castell, Parker. One has to ask to handle the preciousness. Photos (I am promptly informed) are not allowed.

The third floor is dedicated to the artist. Not an exhaustive collection of artist supplies but everything is neat and well-placed. It is flooded by natural light coming from the large windows. No messiness here - rather, there is order and a clean design. As if the stationery or the ink or the brushes or the pens are not meant to be used but admired. Put on a pedestal and suffer the worshiping gazes of their adoring users. One carries them carefully to the cashier's point and half-expects them to be wrapped in muslin.

The paper collection is vast. Indeed the best feature of the whole shop is its vast stock of paper. Paper to die for. It has to be seen to be believed. Card, cartridge, plain, patterned, handmade, weaved, recycled - glorious paper. It, too, appears exclusive. One is tempted to define oneself by means of paper alone. Paper for every mood and occasion, for every purpose and intention. I can see it plastered around my walls or hang from the ceiling and fluttering in a breeze coming from an open window. Or I can see myself spending my evenings touching it. I know it verges on the perverse.

However, I do not buy any paper. The Paperchase notebooks would appeal if I was buying for a teenage girl's birthday. The pencils are all novelty and colour and not much substance. I venture to the artist's corner and pick up a Daler Rowney Artists Graphic HB and an Artists Sketching Watersoluble HB. There is Conté pastel pencils to be had as well.

Paperchase is all about affordable, innovative design for the masses. It is flamboyant with a hint of practicality, commercial with a hint of exclusivity, luxurious with a hint of affordability, childish with a hint of adulthood, adult with a hint of playfulness. I do not know if I must shun it or embrace it. Maybe a bit of both.

Paperchase has an online store for the UK only.


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  2. Imperfect as it might be, the store beats what many of us have local access to - thanks for sharing this with us!