Liberty Bespoke is a South African stationery and gift brand so gorgeous, you’ll want to reach out, touch it and take it home. Use it to pen letters from faraway destinations – and up the envy quotient!
I met founder Dagmar Palmer, who is a graphic designer, at the Liberty Bespoke studio in Parkhurst, Johannesburg. Being surrounded by rows and rows of beautiful paper – embossed, rose gold foiling, herringbone motifs, bright pops of colour – I had an eye-glittering, kid-in-a-candy-store moment. There’s something about the neatness of beautiful blank pages and unopened journals that suggests a playground of possibility – a clean slate waiting for words to be penned; an unwritten future.
The studio is right next door to their design company Titanium Room, an award-winning through-the-line agency (it won the World’s Leading Hotel Website award for the Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa at the 2014 World Travel Awards) which Dagmar and her husband Steven opened 14 years ago. “Titanium Room is our day-to-day business and Liberty Bespoke has become our love business. And that’s where I like to design because with clients we always have to align ourselves with their branding guidelines, whereas with this we can create and play, and it’s so lovely,” says Dagmar.
They have just released the Antler range, the third one which was preluded by the Blossom range with its pretty botanical theme and the boldly colourful East range. “We wanted something for the men, although women will still like the range. We’ve used classic designs again – such as houndstooth – but we’ve brought in all the foils that are trending: the rose golds and metallics. We’ve also added the Saville Row envelopes in purples and browns,” explains Dagmar.
At the heart of the business is a passion for paper. “Liberty Bespoke was borne out of our love for paper because we work with paper daily at Titanium Room. Even though we work on websites, the brand still starts on stationery,” she says.
The best paper quality is also where the company splurges. “We have our local mills which offer environmentally friendly papers, but very little in comparison to what’s available internationally. We source papers that are post-consumer waste papers, so it’s good-quality recycled paper. Then we also use the Saville Row papers in the different colours, which is not something that our local mills offer so we need to import them,” she says. However, they have been in talks with local paper houses with regards to papers for new ranges in the future and they will also have the environmental stamp.
In terms of her inspiration, Dagmar says: “Every day inspires me – walking through the streets, flowers, my garden, trends, interiors… I’m always looking at decor magazines; I love them. My daily life inspires me. Having said that, I always go back to the classics. I don’t want to create something that’s trendy, but will be out of fashion a year down the line.”
She says her daughters (seven and 10) still write letters to their friends. “It doesn’t matter that they can’t spell properly. I think it’s great that we don’t lose that sense of personal communication. Our world is so big, so enormous and so busy that we do tend to go back to something that is smaller and makes more sense to us.
“Digital is our life; it’s what we know. Digital is dynamic and impacts us, but at the end of the day, we get home and cook a beautiful meal, we buy veggies that are organic, we buy flowers from a local market, we hunt for something that’s bespoke, not mass produced. Hence the stationery, because it has smaller runs. It’s unique, it’s thoughtful.”
In terms of the future of paper and print, does Dagmar think there’s a strong future? Absolutely. She firmly believes paper will never leave us. “I still buy books for my girls. I still buy magazines. The tactility of paper is beautiful. I think the digital age has taken us by storm and turned us on our heads, but we need to get back up and decide where we’re at. I think it will make a full cycle. I think paper is here to stay.”
So what’s next for Liberty Bespoke? “I’ll give you a hint,” says Dagmar, “it’s definitely celebrating local. South Africa has beautiful print designs – just think of our shweshwe cloths – and vibrant colours. The Antler range will wrap up the season beautifully. So the new range will be released early next year.”
Get in touch with Liberty Bespoke on tel: 011 327 1001. The stationery is stocked at selected boutiques and you can buy directly from their website. You’ll also find the stationery at various markets like the Wishbone Christmas Market at Katy’s Palace Bar in Kramerville, Johannesburg.