Meet the Brand: Calepino

Calepino: from the French word 'calepin'. A pretty word, and so much easier on the ear than 'notebook', which is the English equivalent. And the products are as easy on the eye as the brand name is on the ear, for Calepino's offerings are just exquisite.

Calepino was established in 2011, in Nantes, but the original little notebook that was the inspiration for the whole business was around a lot earlier than that, as it belonged to the father of Fabrice Richard, the founder of Calepino and the brains behind the beautiful designs.

Fabrice's enthusiasm for minimalist Scandinavian design is evident in his creations: there's nothing frilly about Calepino. And his desire to be as environmentally-friendly as possible is reflected in the fact that not only is transport kept to a minimum by basing the majority of the production locally in Nantes, the raw materials are 100% recycled and the ink used for printing is vegetable-based.

Each notebook is hand-made - and in the case of the larger notebooks, hand-stitched as well - a truly rare thing in these days of frenzied automation. The workforce is small, and works in partnership with skilled and talented friends. Together, they make cardboard-covered 'calepins' in sizes that are perfect for handbags, manbags and - of course - back pockets, offering ruled, squared, blank and even dot grid pages. With rounded corners, which are far more resistant to wear than square ones, and 90gsm paper that is thick enough to take the punishment from whatever writing implement you choose to use, they are designed to be carried anywhere. After all, who knows when - or where - inspiration will strike?

They also offer pencils made by the only remaining pencil factory in France, with wood from FSC-certified forests. Naturally. And Calepino's 'marque-lignes', or line markers, are a simple but effective alternative to bookmarks, sticky notes or highlighters, and so much more stylish. Who wouldn't want a subtle brass page-marker in their copy of 'Les Miserables' instead of a bit of old envelope? Or a sleek stainless steel reminder of a meeting in their diary instead of a sliver of fluorescent paper?

Fabrice's passion for his craft is as plain as his 'calepins' but what inspires him? 'It could be an exhibition,' he says, 'a photograph, talking with friends or family. It could also be meeting new people, new creators.' Three years ago he had in mind a new product to add to the Calepino range, but couldn't find the right material. Then a year ago, he talked to the founder of a French company that creates bags and together they managed to find out how to do it. Says Fabrice: 'I couldn't have created it by myself only. In this case the inspiration came from both.'

This is certainly true in the case of the beautifully-named 'Éditions Éphémères' - or limited editions - that appear every season. Fabrice works in conjunction with new artists and designers to create notebooks with uniquely illustrated covers that - rather than detract from the innate simplicity of Calepino - only serve to highlight their 'je ne sais quoi.' The next collection is named 'Komagoma' by French artist Isabelle Boinot.

The original notebook, the catalyst for Calepino, 'was caked in sawdust, from being placed regularly between the wood plane and the discarded chips… With his big red pencil he would draw, trace and plan out his designs, then slide the pad into the back pocket of his overall.' Inspired by the timelessness of such a simple object, Fabrice has succeeded in producing a series of traditionally-crafted notebooks that fit seamlessly into our modern world, but have the resilience you'd expect from something that has been lovingly made by hand.

3 February 2015


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