"If you write by hand," Jérôme Bacquias says, "you write only for yourself, others cannot read it." For the founder of Paper Republic, a notebook is a partner for life. He believes in the purity of writing one's thoughts on paper, concealed between pages and covers.
But this was a purity and immediacy he did not experience while working as a corporate consultant. In this world of technology and business, we rush. We compromise. We do our parts, building invisible systems in exchange for invisible money. We turn like cogs in a metropolitan machine, driving ever forward to a destination we rarely know.
You end up with a Powerpoint
"As a business consultant, it is very rare to see the concrete result of your work," Bacquias recalls with disdain. "You optimise processes, reduce overhead, change strategies or relocate staff, but the only thing you end up with is your Powerpoint presentation. I wanted to create real, tangible, beautiful things that I could physically have in my hands and share with others. I wanted to truly believe in what I do, without any compromise."
Leaving his rapid-fire life in the US behind, Bacquias headed for Europe on a search for meaning and purpose. His journey did not take him forward, but into the past — to his collegiate years studying European Affairs in Bruges, Belgium. "It was a truly amazing experience," he reminisces, eyes gazing out into the memory. "Two hundred students from all EU member states, studying and living together. Unity in diversity… It defined me as a European."
Revisiting his halcyon days, Bacquias realised it was this — the unity, the optimism of his youth — that he wanted to somehow share with the world.
Though he considered himself a digital person, he had always loved and used paper notebooks. And now, at the precipice of a new beginning, he could think of no better expression of his philosophies than this.
So, in the winter of 2012, the world saw the advent of the Paper Republic.
A new European Republic
Having truly embraced the idea of Europe after his time in America, Paper Republic was to embody the spirit of Mitteleuropa, bringing together the best of France, Germany, Italy, Austria — and Sweden, to the north.
Bacquias reached out to artisans, designers and craftspeople across Europe to realise his dream of creating beautiful, tangible things. He would select only the best materials, sometimes waiting for months to find just the right ingredient for his creations.
Chrome-free, vegetable-tanned leather that bore just the right appearance and aroma — leather that would age gracefully with time. Artisan-milled, FSC-certified, acid-free paper with fibres that absorb the ink and meet your fingers with a smooth texture. Fully recycled cardboard and premium Japanese ribbon. All sourced from partners who uphold traditional papermaking, printing, bookbinding and leather crafting techniques.
A paper travel companion
The place where all this was to come together couldn't be any more European itself: Vienna, Austria. At this ancient European crossroads, the street signs point to Munich, Prague and Budapest. For centuries, it was the centre of the Habsburg Empire — rulers of large parts of Europe.
It is here, from a small co-working space situated by the water in the city's Jewish neighbourhood, that Bacquias and his team connect with tanners, printers, paper mills, leatherworkers and box-makers throughout Vienna and Central Europe.
Together, they craft simple, elegant objects to accompany people on their journeys through life.