In conversation with

Holly Chapman

Head of Brand at Papier



Holly Chapman loves the challenge of launching brands into new markets. Especially with no budget. That start-up, scale-up energy through and through. She did it with the Dutch brand Bloomon (who eventually sold to Bloom and Wild) and more recently in 2022 with Papier in the US (who now have over 60% business revenue from American consumers). She’s learnt a lot. Taking the successes with the hiccups, and luckily for you, sharing them with us all here. Over coffee at The Standard in Kings Cross we talked about getting to know your American customers and the value of PR; her perspective on shifting your tone and message for a new audience; and reiterated just how good Americans are at personal brand. We can learn a lot from them. And a lot from Holly. Notebooks at the ready.

Question and Answer

Can you give us your five learnings (successes and failures) from launching a brand in the US?

1. Be curious about the new market & learn as much as you can before launch. Deep market research is crucial. Investing time in understanding the US market’s preferences, behaviours, and cultural nuances. This helped us tailor our messaging and product offerings to better align with local expectations. Initially, we underestimated the regional differences within the US. What works in New York might not work in Texas. We learned to approach and connect with the diverse regional tastes and preferences.

2. Build Market Relevant Partnerships. Local influencers, media, and complementary brands boosted our credibility, reach and relevance in the market.  For Papier, collaborating with US-based artists, partnerships with brands like Headspace and Our Place,  and collaborations with iconic institutions like The Met offered us authentic storytelling opportunities.

3. Establish Long-Term Influencer Relationships in the markets. Engaging with influencers for long-term collaborations rather than one-off campaigns proved highly effective and allowed us to build authentic relationships. In the US, we worked with a creator in residence on retainer for three months, generating relevant content with our products that resonated with our audience on organic and ad channels. Early on, we experimented with numerous short-term influencer campaigns, which often lacked depth, consistency and authenticity, wrongly believing we were “saving money”.

4. PR is an underestimated tool for brands in a new market. Securing coverage in US publications significantly boosted our brand’s visibility and, most importantly, credibility. Press features in well-known magazines, newspapers, and online platforms helped us reach a broader audience and establish trust. For Papier, features in design and lifestyle magazines validated our brand’s quality and appeal. I also recommend connecting directly with editors, especially initially, and asking them for product feedback. They are often so well connected and tuned in that they offer really helpful recommendations.

5. Don’t rush to commit in the early days. I didn’t move to New York to drive brand growth for Papier until 3 years after our products went live in the market. Lots of brands accelerate hiring and commit to office space, often through excitement. There is such value in market immersion, but there is often no need for that commitment. In the first instance, we learnt so much travelling back and forth to the US before moving.

When it comes to storytelling, are there different approaches that you’ve found work in the UK vs the US?

There’s a distinct difference in tone and style between the UK and the US. British audiences tend to appreciate wit, subtlety, and a slightly understated approach. Whereas American audiences generally respond better to direct, enthusiastic, and emotionally engaging narratives. Stories that emphasise personal growth, success, and optimism are effective, especially in campaigns featuring our diaries and journals. Bold, aspirational messaging that highlights personal achievement and future possibilities tends to captivate US consumers. Overall our brand message “endless possibilities of a blank page” resonated with both audiences as it captures the magic and growth that can come from ideas in your notebook.

“Bold, aspirational messaging that highlights personal achievement and future possibilities tends to captivate US consumers.”

How much did you have to change the tone of voice and messaging of Papier when moving into the US?

We tweaked our tone slightly and leaned into our Britishness, for example, “Designed in London,” to captivate a US audience. We subtly moved from talking about our design process to focusing on storytelling around creativity, self-expression, and customisation of our designs. The biggest change was localising our brand and promotional moments to include American Holidays to ensure we’re relevant to the customer.

Papier is a french name, a British brand, now with a huge market in the US. How much do you play into those nationalities and how do you make that decision? How do you know when you should shout about your Britishness as a brand?

For a brand to lean into a nationality it has to feel really authentic for us and our teams we are so inspired by London that it felt more true to us as a brand to celebrate that than ignore it. It highlights our commitment to quality and timeless design, which resonates well with American consumers. Our customers do sometimes struggle with the pronunciation of our brand name as it’s French – we see it most often in influencer unboxing videos and we actually created a campaign around that I know other brands have done something similar like Loewe with their spelling bee video.

Americans are great at really promoting themselves at work. Shouting about their successes. Building a personal brand. What have you taken home with you?

Immersing myself in American work culture whilst I lived in New York was such a great lesson in the importance of confidently showcasing your career achievements and cultivating a strong personal brand. When connecting and building relationships in the US, I really learnt how to work more visibility and enhance my credibility. It was a huge opportunity for my professional growth. It’s inspired me to be more proactive in articulating things I’m proud of and also taught me a lot about effective networking and the opportunities that come from that. Embracing a more confident mindset has been invaluable in my career journey.

“When connecting and building relationships in the US, I really learnt how to work more visibility and enhance my credibility. It was a huge opportunity for my professional growth.”

What were some of your favourite US brands that we might not have heard of in the UK?

Donni – an LA brand focused on elevated essentials.

Dorsey  – a lab-grown jewellery brand with

Erewhon – an LA grocery store frequented by celebs

Rhode Beauty  – Hailey Bieber’s brand that’s everywhere at the moment

Shiffon Co – their pinky ring is worn by Megan Markle and they give  50% of profits directly to funding female founders.

Doen – another fashion brand known for floaty romantic pieces

Cool Stuff NYC is a newsletter that I still follow for all the best new openings (galleries, restaurants and brands) in the city.

Internally you’ve said Papier looks at brand perception as much as brand awareness. How do you want the brand to be perceived and what are some of the key things you’ve done to craft that perception?

To me, brand perception is a more important metric than awareness because it goes beyond recognition or familiarity and looks at the deeper connection between a customer and a brand. Brand perception lays the foundation for growth, allowing us to evolve, expand into new markets, and introduce new products with confidence that our consumers will continue to be excited and embrace the brand.

We ultimately want the Papier brand to be seen as relevant to the modern consumer. Stationery could be described as a “traditional” or sleepy category, and we want our customers to understand that we are different and to aspire to have a Papier notebook, not just any notebook. Something that has been key to driving the perception has been working on the impactful press, working with tastemakers, and launching partnerships that drive relevance and insert the brand into the cultural zeitgeist and conversation.

What drew you to Papier as a brand in the first place?

When I first joined Papier, it was a small start-up. I was drawn to the product, particularly the possibilities stationery offers for self-expression and creativity. I was also drawn to the unique environment and challenges that come from working at a start-up and the ability to learn and grow as the business grew.

Why do you love your role as head of brand?

There are so many reasons I love my role at Papier. I thrive on the creative challenge to drive relevance and resonance in a crowded and busy D2C landscape. I love collaborating with different departments to drive brand growth and with many external brands and partners. There have been so many changes throughout my career in the social, influencer and press sphere it feels exciting to be working in a role that’s at the forefront of that. But what I find most rewarding is storytelling—crafting compelling narratives that truly connect with our audience and bring the Papier brand to life in meaningful ways.

The Storylist


  1. Trouping by Reva Luft
  2. The Earl Earl by Laurel Pantin
  3. Maybe Baby by Hayley Nahman
  4. Your Utopia by Bora Chung
  5. Lenny’s Newsletter for Marketing


  1. Honestly by Bari Weiss
  2. The Ezra Klein Show by NY Times Opinion
  3. The Daily by NY Times
  4. The Business of Fashion Podcast


  1. Boy Mum by Ruth Whippman
  2. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  3. The Prophet by Kahill Gibran
  4. Blue Sisters by Coco Mellers
  5. Ninth Street Women
  6. Soldier Sailor by Claire Kilroy

Social Accounts

  1. Deux Moi
  2. Pulp Kitchen
  3. Top Jaw


  1. The Atlantic
  2. The Fence Magazine
  3. Noble Rot
  4. MARFA Magazine
  5. The Guardian (On Saturday)
  6. The Sunday Times
  7. The FT Weekend
  8. Vogue

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