Paper Love with Katie Leamon, founder of Katie Leamon
I met Katie at Stylist Live back in October 2015 and was instantly struck by her beautiful design and genuine warmth. So, I invited Katie on the blog to talk to us about her brand, her work and her creativity.
Welcome Katie. Why not introduce yourself?
I’m Katie, the founder of Katie Leamon; A luxury greetings card and stationery business based in London. I started the brand in 2010 with a small collection of hand printed cards and notebooks. I now do all the design for the business as well as the business development, help handle our key accounts and suppliers and manage the everyday running of the company.
How did the brand Katie Leamon come to life?
It grew very organically – I wanted to design for myself and start a brand that I believed in and that was a piece of me. Initially I was just working on a lot of things then when I began working on applying designs to cards and stationery it all slotted into place and made such sense for the designs. It was then, in late 2010 that I began to focus on building a brand identity and target people which led to getting our first stockist, Liberty of London, through their open call day.
What have been your biggest lessons in your business so far
To ask for help when you need it. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, we all are and we need to be able to recognise it and when needed respond to it.
I’m still learning this one, but finding time to try and switch off. My brain goes into overload quite easily and its no good having a successful brand if I can’t cope with the demands; you need to take time to remember you’re only human, and can only do so much.
Finally, that there are always going to be things that try and bring you down in life, I have always been quite positive and very open and kind in the way I do business but I’ve learnt that that’s not always the way everyone else works, but stay true to yourself and don’t lower yourself to the reactions and behaviors of others. Despite what comes up along the bumpy journey of launching a brand, stay true to your principles and treat situations with your heart and gut instinct.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to set up their own creative brand / business?
It’s good to be prepared but allow some leeway for things to evolve and develop naturally. Be sure about your brand identity, it’s hard when your starting out to remember that you are building a brand and that all the little things are important in the message you are sending so be sure about what you want that to be, i.e. your market before you embark on too many big decisions. Also, be prepared to work hard, and devote a lot of time and love to it for it to be a success.
Undoubtedly my boyfriend and family. My brother was the biggest influence at the start and in taking that initial plunge, and my sister and my mum now run our whole production studio. Without them I really couldn’t have achieved as much as I have. My mum is a constant source of support and has been there every step of the way. My boyfriend joined the company earlier this year and has really helped share the responsibility of running a small company, and been such a rock throughout the highs and lows that come with it. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have them all.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given about your life / work?
To not hold back a decision. Even if it’s the wrong one and you take a side step or a step backwards, it’s better than staying still and not making any progress. Not being afraid to make mistakes is critical but something I still struggle with daily.
Who do you collaborate with most, and why?
We are currently in the beginning stages of a collaboration with Links of London for some exclusive Valentine’s Day lines, and we have a few brands we would love to work with but as yet have not done any formal collaborations. One day I would love to collaborate on some homewares, and some fabric items.
What’s been your proudest moment professionally?
I think the day we opened our production studio was a big day for me. I had all my friends and family over that had supported me along the way and hosted drinks and food for them all. That and the day I got into Liberty through their Open Call Day, I was so in shock and so happy that I called my mum when I got out and couldn’t stop crying – it was my first proper stockist and the beginnings of it all.
What inspires you so much it makes you cry / laugh / your heart quicken?
I love good design. I genuinely get excited by beautiful art and design. I love to touch it, use it and be around it. Whether it’s a beautiful interior space, beautiful stationery or an exhibition, it really moves me. I also have a strange fascination in trickery of the mind and the mind’s power – I love people like Derren Brown and Colin Cloud – I love to see as many as I can in my free time!
My friends and family are the ones that make me laugh or there for me if I cry. I’m such a family person, and spending time with the people who mean the most to me is when I am at my happiest.
What does being creative mean to you?
For me it’s allowing my brain to go on a journey and see where it takes me. Exposing myself to inspiring things and seeing how my brain absorbs it and recycles it into a product or design. I think everyone is creative in their own way.
When are you most in flow creatively?
When I am relaxed and allow some free space in my brain to let thoughts evolve. It’s a hard thing to achieve when you are really busy, so I am trying to learn how and when I need to take myself off to concentrate on finding some head space.
What’s the one thing you just can’t do without?
My sketch book, I am constantly writing notes, ideas, lists, doodles, new ideas and brain storms of new products. It comes with me everywhere.
What’s next for you and Katie Leamon?
We have some exiting new business developments happening over the next few months in the US. Its meant less time on my design work but should lead to some new and exciting opportunities over there.
Katie launched Post in October this year; a side line to the main range and is a stationery subscription company that sends monthly surprise boxes of stationery to you every month. It’s beautiful.