In the vibrant Mokotow district (see page 272) of Warsaw, headquartered in some amiably minimalist offices, an ambitious team are attempting to change how the country views its homegrown design and craft. And, in turn, how the world sees Poland. The group behind Thisispaper are doing all this with some old-school tricks: backing the makers of locally produced goods and publishing their own magazine on handsome paper stock. It is not a foolproof method but they are pulling it off with style.
“It all started with a design blog,” says Alexander Zakharov, the studio’s co-founder and creative director. “We craved quality design and since there was a lack of it in Poland our concept was to look for good examples elsewhere and point to them.” Zakharov was born in Siberia, close to the Russian city of Omsk, and has been living in Poland for many years (as confirmed by his flawless Polish).
“We worked on our projects after hours, juggling freelance commissions to make a living, before we launched our online store about a year ago,” says Zuzanna Gasior, the magazine’s co-founder. “Since then we have been able to focus entirely on developing the studio.
“Our product range consists of mostly bags, rucksacks and slippers designed and made in our studio. We also sell enameled steel mugs and kettles produced in Poland and brushes made by local craftsmen. While our outreach is global we want to remain local.”
Once the shop turned out to be a success, Zakharov says they knew they wanted to take the next step and start a magazine. “We held a crowdfunding event on our website, setting the goal of 250 subscribers in 30 days,” he says. “It worked; although the cover price is not low at €18. But we don’t have any sponsors or adverts and we enjoy our independence.”
In a time when many media outlets are shifting all their activities online, it was the team’s abiding affection for typography, layout and the tactile experience that drove the decision to launch a paper magazine. “Paper is timeless and we don’t want to give up on it,” says Zakharov.
Sisters Irma and Julia Kubisty, who serve as the magazine’s associate editor and editor/photographer respectively, provide most of the written content. “The magazine’s third issue is scheduled for November,” says Zakharov. “We’re also working on adding new products to our portfolio, including a clothing line.” Thisispaper hits an international market with as much as 98 per cent of its products shipped abroad: the main destinations are Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and Japan. But the team also plans to further bolster its outreach in Poland. “The market for publications like ours is still lagging behind the West in Poland,” Gasior says. “But most people give up after their third or fourth attempt; we are stubborn.”