The Papersmith Series - Becky Okell and Huw Thomas | UK

The Papersmith Series - Becky Okell and Huw Thomas | UK

Today we’re sharing the story of how Becky Okell and Huw Thomas created the British chore jacket company, Paynter, after meeting at The Do Lectures in Wales. 

In this article, we find out the pair's thoughts on successful co-creation, tips on starting a new side project and how to get your hands on the much-lauded jacket.

Legend has it that you guys met at the Do Lectures. For our readers who don’t know about Do, can you fill us in on what the Do Lectures is?

[BECKY] Haha. Yes we did. Do is on a farm in Cardigan, in Wales. It’s run by David & Clare Hieatt who are Huw’s bosses and it’s hands down the best event I’ve ever been to. To put it briefly, Do invites 80 guests and 20 speakers to camp out on the farm for 3 days to hear brilliant talks, learn new skills and meet incredible people from all over the world. There are no name tags and most people go on their own, so when you sit down to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you have some of the best conversations you’ll ever have.

Tell us how your first meeting evolved into deciding to start a business together.

[HUW] This might sound a little geeky, but since we met, we have always talked about brands. What we loved about them, how we’d improve them, and what we’d do if we started our own. I told her about how I used to take scrap denim home from work and attempt to make my own chore jackets with it. I’d bought chore jackets from all over the world and found a few favourites that I wanted copy. I got quite good, but then life got busy and like many creative projects, I put it all aside. Fast forward nine months and I meet Becky. We fall for each other. Fast. On one of our weekend trips away, I wore one of my favourite jackets. She took a liking to it and ended up wearing it for the rest of the weekend. The fire was re-lit. (Btw, I never saw that jacket again. She took it back to London with her.)

With your diverse background and breadth of experience with brands such as Nike, Port Eliot Festival, Caravan and Hiut, what have you learned from your experience?

[BECKY] Well I started by studying fashion and textiles at Central St Martins, and I’d always wanted to be in fashion at some point. But then, I got side tracked and went to work at Nike on the women’s running team, I got obsessed with customer experience and Nike was an incredible place to learn. Moving to Caravan, most of my friends were shocked and asked why I’d ever leave a company like Nike, but to be honest I wanted to understand how a smaller business worked, I was lucky to work with the three founders and be a part of taking the company from three restaurants to five, which was a huge learning curve having not worked in hospitality marketing before. I wanted to throw myself in and learn how to actually set up a marketing department when it didn’t exist before, and I learnt on the job. If there are any common themes, I’d say it’s been a combination of following my gut and always wanting to learn, and now it’s come full circle starting a side project that’s in the industry I’d always hoped to get into.

[HUW] From working at Hiut, I’ve learnt two things. Make a great product. And tell a great story. If you can nail those two things, you’ll do quite well.

We were privileged enough to be privvy to some of the conversations you guys were having on brand development. Talk us through that process and the evolution. We’re particularly fans of the red label.

[BECKY] Thank you! It hasn’t been an overnight journey, and we are still tweaking all the time. There have been a few things we’ve always been certain on such as the red square label which is the same size as a post it note, because that’s what the business plan was written on! We are both pretty obsessed with brand and we know we want to create something that’s interesting to interesting people. We were fairly bored of Scandi sans-serif brand identities that feel all too familiar so we started scrapbooking and printing out what we loved, the feel we wanted to create and have tested it all while building an audience on Instagram - it’s fascinating to see how some things resonate quickly and others just don’t.

How do you recharge?

[BECKY] Going for a run or a walk. Fresh air and leaving the phone at home so you can talk things through and chill out.

[HUW] Go for a run. But leave the headphones at home (I answered this first).

Share your thoughts on successful co-creation. Why do it together? How do you do it? What do you need to consider before charging ahead with a new enterprise?

[BECKY] That’s a big one. First it was about considering what we’re making, for who, and why. Then it was about talking through the type of business we want to run. We both wanted a really interesting side project that pushes us to make the best product we can. Why do it together? Maybe we should have considered more before we charged ahead but we talk through every detail and love working together, so it seemed like a no brainer.

What do you need to launch a side project?

[HUW] Energy & persistence

[BECKY] We are both working full time, so our savings are going towards a punt we hope will work out. If not, we’ll have learnt something and had a lot of fun along the way.

What are your star signs?

[BECKY] Taurus. But sometimes Gemini, it depends on the magazine.

[HUW] I think Capricorn?

Becky, I know that you were raised by two incredible parents who run their own business. Which parts of where you are and who you are today do you credit to your upbringing, to your formative education and, laterly, to your adult education through the paths that you’ve pursued as a grown-up.  (Will you share the inspiring story of Mr Timmy Okell and how he got his own business going?)

[BECKY] Great question! I’m a big believer that practical learning is a lot more valuable than time at university. When I was at uni I spent more time interning than I ever did at lectures. My parents are entrepreneurs who’ve always worked together and Huw works for a couple who are in business together too. Knowing it’s possible from close role models made us think this was a less crazy idea than friends were telling us, so we charged ahead.

Top spots in your respective ‘hoods.


  • Oklava - an incredible Turkish restaurant in Old Street.
  • Goodhood
  • Rosslyn Coffee
  • Petersham Nurseries in Richmond - cycle all the way there and celebrate your achievement with a bottle of wine, 3 slices of cake between two and fall asleep on the train home.
  • Dans Le Noir - a restaurant in Clerkenwell where you eat in total darkness. You have to eat with your hands and you’ve no idea what you’re eating. We’ve never laughed so much or met other people and had no clue what they looked like until after dinner.  


Wrights Food Emporium is a must. Go for the pork belly cubano. You won’t be disappointed.

Huw, what are you reading?


Just finished:

  • This Is Marketing by Seth Godin
  • Brand Flip by Marty Neumeier
  • Zig by Marty Neumeier
  • Who Do You Want Your Customers To Become? by Michael Schrage
  • Marketing: A Love Story by Bernadette Jiwa

Currently reading:

  • Designing Brand Identity - Alina Wheeler
  • Lovemarks by Kevin Roberts
  • The Luxury Strategy by J N Kapferer and V Bastien
  • The Culting of Brands by Douglas Atkin
  • Acne Studios by Magazine B

Becky, podcasts to hear right now?


  • Emily Weiss’ interview on How I Built This
  • Business of Fashion with Tom Chapman of Matches Fashion
  • Patrick Grant on Monocles Entrepreneurs podcast
  • Or, The High Low when I’m wanting a switch off and a laugh.

How do we get our hands on a jacket?

There’s a waiting list who’ll be first to know when our jacket is ready, you can sign up here: Until launch day, we’re sharing bi-weekly progress tracking what we’re doing to start a business we’re proud of.

Favourite tools of the trade?

[BECKY] My Kaweco fountain pen, reusable ink cartridge and a few pots of ink. I’ve always loved mixing ink cartridges to make my own colour. Ah and I love plain Moleskine soft back brown sketch books for keeping notes, or squared paper, yum. 

[HUW] Free pencils from Screwfix (sorry Sid) and my Midori MD notebook from Japan.

Share a stationery related pun.


Thank you!

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