Seven Questions: russell+hazel

Pierrepont Hicks co-founder Kat McMillan is a woman of many talents. She designs great ties. She makes beautiful kids. And, as anyone who’s been to one of her co-curated NorthernGRADE pop-ups can tell you, she’s got a hell of an eye for quality brands and products. So, when Kat emailed me to tell me about the latest label to pique her interest, I knew, even before clicking the link, that my interest was about to be piqued too. They’re called russell+hazel, and they’re a Minneapolis-based paper goods company whose US-made offerings combine “pleasing design with loads of functionality.” This weekend, russell+hazel, along with Pierrepont Hicks and other MN locals Faribault Mills and martinpatrick3, are holding a men’s accessories event at the r+h flagship store. Wanting to know more about what the two brands had cooked up, I asked McMillan if she’d be game for interviewing r+h founder Chris Plantan. And, lucky for us, she was. Here’s what she turned in.

I met with russell+hazel recently to plan an event for men at their flagship store in Minneapolis. The merchandising is insanely gorgeous. The products even more so. I left with a bag full of goodies, and felt totally inspired to be more creative and organized.

russell+hazel was started by Chris Plantan in 2003. Since launching, the brand has established itself as one of the most highly regarded in the industry, a feat that’s due as much to the quality of their goods as their goods’ design.

As an entrepreneur, I’m inspired by Chris and what she’s done with her brand. And it was my absolute pleasure to be able to interview her.

McMillan: How was your concept for your initial product born and what was it?
Plantan: As with most new endeavors, it was conceived by a void in the marketplace at the time. I am an architect and always loved paper products and office supplies. When it was time for my daughter to enter middle school and buy a three-ring binder, we couldn’t find one. She didn’t want Brittany Spears, and a vinyl binder just wouldn’t do. So, we made one out of supplies from our studio, and it was a hit. People actually wanted well made, American products. The first r+h product to hit the market was our Signature Binder. It hasn’t changed since.

When did you know you were onto something big?
It happened twice. First it was the mention in Daily Candy. It was just like you would imagine, the orders kept coming and we had to pull in family and friends to fulfill them all. Then we got the call from Martha Stewart. It was wonderful to have the affirmation from the foremost taste maker.

Why did you choose to manufacture your books and paper in the US?
It meant everything to us. We needed to build a better binder. And we needed to work closely with all aspects of the process in order to ensure quality. We are still very particular about our paper stock and the printing quality.

What was your best seller last year?
Our best selling products have always been our signature binder and our mini binder. But this year, our One Day at a Time Notepad Set and Smartdeck Pad are catching up!

What would you say is the single item every man should have from your shop?
Smartdeck. It’s a year at a glance pad in a big way. Makes a great impact on the desk or at home. A close second is a great looking pen. A nice notebook and pen are always important details that so often get overlooked. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen a man pull out a canary yellow Office Max pad of paper and a Marriott pen. The moment is over, killjoy. Look away.

Any tips for men to stay organized?
Notebooks and planners for the man who still loves paper. And our black and gray storage collection is perfect to stay organized at home or at the office. We designed the system so there is a place for everything. They fit any book case, and, they stack, just like Legos!

What gift should every man consider for his wife on the 1st wedding anniversary – this being paper?
Beautiful monogrammed note cards or gilded edged blank notes. They look sharp in your bag or on your desk.

The r+h x PPH men’s accessories event is taking place this Saturday, April 28th at the russell+hazel flagship store in Minneapolis. Doors open at noon.