Feature & Interview with Irma Kurbisty, Associate Editor at Thisispaper
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In ISSUE 03, we have had the pleasure of speaking with Irma Kubisty, Associate Editor at THISISPAPER - the Warsaw-based design studio, online shop and print publishing house. Founded in November 2011 by duo Alexander Zakharov and Zuzanna Gasior, Thisispaper has evolved into a selling platform for beautiful Warsaw-crafted products, a digital space for showcasing innovative ideas and a publication to intrigue and inform its creative audience.
In this exclusive exploration of Thisispaper’s incredible creative works, we speak to Irma about the Thisispaper online shop, their unique approach to production and process, their print publication Thisispaper Magazine, their unconventional studio culture and honest approach to craftsmanship. We also showcase the organic lookbook photography of their recent collections, captured by Warsaw-based photographer Kuba Dąbrowski.
In founding Thisispaper, Alexander and Zuzanna wanted to create a digital space to fill with whatever they pleased. Regularly posting online content about all disciplines of design and ideas that interested them, their unique approach to digital publishing allowed their blog to attract a reader-base of likeminded creatives. Whilst their written and visual content was their predominant focus, they were passionate about the design aesthetic of their website – using this to enhance their opinions. Turning their full attention to the creative venture after leaving their full-time jobs, the duo launched Thisispaper Shop. The later launch of Thisispaper Stories (online) and Thisispaper Magazine (print publication) caused the company to accelerate. The established team now work to develop on both existing and new ventures.
Irma says, “We are currently a dedicated team of five; the founders Alexander and Zuzanna, myself (Irma) and our two interns (workshop intern Daria and editorial intern Monika). We work with a knitter, a pattern-cutter, a leather craftsman, and a seamstress that are not permanently at the studio with us but we consider them parts of our team. We also have Julia Kubisty on our team, who contributes to the printed publications, but is working from London.”
Established in May 2013, the Thisispaper Shop prides itself on the online sale of beautifully handcrafted, honest and functional products that meet the real needs and wants of the valued customer. Whilst trying not to define a target audience, Thisispaper believe that everyone can appreciate their products. They channel designs that attract conscious creatives from around the world. Irma notes, “As an online shop, we only have insight into where our customers are based and don’t get to meet them in person. We guess that, like us, they enjoy simple and functional products that are made in a transparent way.”
Through simple product design and locally sourced materials, Thisispaper collaborates with local artists and craftsmen to manufacture and deliver the highest quality products. Over the years, the team have introduced more and more new designs, worked hard to improve old ones, improved production craftsmanship and found better suppliers.
“At Thisispaper Shop, we obsess over each step of our manufacturing process. We’ve made it our aim for all Thisispaper Bags & Rucksacks to be local, honest and made entirely by us in our Warsaw studio, and we’ve arrived at a process that makes it possible.”
“So how do we do that? First, we source all materials from Polish manufacturers: all-natural heavy cotton sailcloth and linen for the shell of our bags; soft, but durable light blue cotton for the lining; and highest quality vegetable-tanned natural leather for the details. Once we have the materials, we fold, cut, sew and combine them together to create products of own design: lasting, functional, carefully crafted bags and rucksacks. We apply the same principles to the products that we sell at Thisispaper Shop, but don’t make ourselves. They are all sourced from Polish manufacturers, or made especially for us by local artisans as limited editions.”
“At every stage of the production process we aim to minimize waste and our environmental footprint, and maximize support for local community and suppliers. We take great care to make sure that every detail of the product has been crafted to serve its purpose gracefully for years. We only use genuine vegetable-tanned leather and durable cotton and canvas, sometimes waxed for water-resistance. Instead of decoration, we go for simplicity, function and sustainability.”
Studio culture is a very important to the Thisispaper team, priding themselves on their honest attitude and heavy reliance on both worker and customer satisfaction. “We’re very cautious to preserve the pleasure we take from making products that will be cherished by their users”, says Irma. Whilst this may occasionally increase waiting times for online orders, this established studio culture of patience and carefulness creates a healthy work-balance of consistent productivity and well-deserved rest that is honest to the company’s ethos.
“At Thisispaper Shop, we source and make items that are lasting, sustainable and well designed, which we believe should be a norm, not luxury.”
But timeless designs and sustainable products are not the only focus of the team. “We’d been dreaming of printing a magazine ever since we started the blog”, says Irma. “It took us over a year before we made this a reality. We collected the money for printing the first issue through pre-order, because we didn’t want any advertising or sponsors inside.”
Launching their first print issue in November 2013, Thisispaper Magazine targets likeminded creatives, providing a collection of good reads and visual artefacts for readers around the globe. The interdisciplinary publication focuses on the interaction between timeless forms and movements in contemporary arts. Thisispaper Magazine follows one simple idea - modern spirit is sensual, emotional, social and harmonious. “As with the shop, [our magazine is read by] a very international group of people who share a kind of conscious, slow lifestyle and appreciate a quality item, in this case a book of stories.”
“Issue Two is about stepping into the world of unique individuals, contemporary or historical, in a lot of different ways. Quite literally by visiting their studios or metaphorically by exploring them through their visual work”, explains Irma. “Whatever the way, we were seeking sincerity, passion and thoughtfulness. And we found them.” Shedding light on the work of Polish artists that Thisispaper felt deserved the international recognition, Issue 02 included interviews with Faustine Steinman, 6A Architects and the Italian duo Studiopepe.
“We want to keep publishing the magazine every six months,” says Irma, “and the content will evolve with us. We’ll always be writing about what is interesting for us at the moment.” The full print edition of Issue Two is available for purchase online in the Thisispaper Shop.
Whilst their lookbook photography is important in projecting the brands honest ethics and simplistic aesthetics, Thisispaper rarely integrate this within the printed publication. “We sell our magazine through our shop, but that’s as far as the integration goes,” comments Irma. “We wouldn’t include an editorial with our products in the magazine. The purpose of the magazine is to provide our readers with interesting stories about other makers, not us.”
Regularly working with Polish creatives, Thisispaper launched three Autumn/Winter collections in their online shop. Showcased in the wonderful lookbook photography by Kuba Dąbrowski, the AW14 product line included the well-known Thisispaper classics and three entirely new designs: Officer Bag, Boxy Bag and Athletic Bag. Organically photographed in different locations around Warsaw, the lookbook imagery combines architectural landmarks and shabby back streets to sentimentally embrace the raw inspiration of the Thisispaper brand. “We don’t travel to shoot the lookbooks”, says Irma. “They are all made here in Warsaw, [like our products]. This is where we are based and where we take our inspiration from.”
Other product collections, that are also currently available through the Thisispaper Shop, include recent collaboration with Warsaw-based brand Córka Rybaka. Directly translating from Polish to ‘Fishermans Daughter’, this delightful brand of hand-knitted hats have recently joined the shop and created three exclusive new styles. In three on- trend Autumn/Winter colours, all of the hats are handmade from 100% Peruvian wool by Monika, the passionate maker behind the brand. Made of 100% sheep wool, Thisispaper have also launched a collection of limited edition knitwear in collaboration with Pani Czesława.
Another recent introduction to the brand’s online product line is Regulars by Thisispaper. Having revisited the designs from their very first collection, the brand have created an urban line that takes inspiration from the city of its origin.
“Regulars are an ode to utility and moderation. They are stripped down essentials, designed for easy everyday use, in simplified form and with an honest goal: to best perform their function. Short and precise, their names promise just that. Shopper, Sack, Backpack and Cylinder.” The Regulars line is available to purchase online, alongside their other product collections, through the Thisispaper Shop.
When asked – “What’s next for Thisispaper?” – Irma shared: “We have some adventurous new projects in mind for the future, but we can’t share them yet.” She continued, “For now, we’re really focused on perfecting our products and our shop – we want it to be better each season. We’re definitely heading for more collaborations, ideally with Polish makers, but we’re not excluding collaborations with international partners. Our main goal now for the shop is curation, as we want to make it into a gathering of products where every single one is a unique piece.”