In the summer of 2017, from her home in North West London, Cherelle Brown spotted the lack of diversity within the greetings cards industry and decided to take matters into her own hands.
From here, KitsCH Noir was born and Cherelle made it her mission to create a quirky, fun and contemporary line of cards which champions the voice of the underrepresented.
Hi Cherelle. The Papersmiths team are in love with your cards. Tell us the story of KitsCH Noir and how it all began.
[CHERELLE] Hi Papersmiths! Well it all began in 2017, I was made redundant from my design job, designing luggage. I was left unemployed and felt it was time to do a job that I really loved, had a passion for and would be making a change somehow. I knew I loved drawing so began drawing family and friends and gifting them for various occasions. They all seemed to really love them so I thought I’d put it to the real test and open an online shop to see if they sold to people that didn’t actually know me. They did sell and this boosted my confidence and motivated me to start taking the business seriously.
We especially love that the mission of KitsCH Noir is to diversify the greeting cards industry. For our readers who don’t know about your mission, will you fill us in on what you’re working to accomplish? What sparked this? Tell us about your journey to date.
[CHERELLE] I have always been a massive lover of funny and cute greeting cards and often added to my collection, however I soon realised that all the humorous and endearing cards I accumulated only had white faces on. Then it dawned on me – I needed to make a change! And the mission began. I plan to design KitsCH Noir cards for every occasion you can think of and have them on as many high streets as possible! Cards with people of colour on shouldn’t be a rarity, they should be an easy impulse buy as other greeting cards are!
You design all of your own illustrations for your cards and gift wrap. Tell us about your creative process. Where do your concepts come from and how do you bring them to fruition?
[CHERELLE] The concept of KitsCH Noir is to Embrace, Encourage and Empower. The majority of the women and characters I draw have natural curly hair and are dressed in a cool quirky manner. This image of black women is not often promoted in the mainstream, so that is something I always keep in mind when designing the cards as I want to encourage and empower others to do the same! The illustrations have to remind the customer of an experience they can relate to or make them smile or giggle. When I think of my own experiences, things that make me laugh, or a card I would like to receive, it becomes easy. I’ll jot down a few phrases then brain storm some ideas of what I should draw, I’ll sketch out a few drafts, show them to family and friends then go with the best one.
Who, what, where inspires you?
[CHERELLE] Seeing other black British women excel and achieve amazing heights is a major inspiration. Sharmadean Reid, Ade Hassan and Charlotte Mensah are all women that I aspire to be like. Spending time alone, meditating and learning more about myself is refreshing and inspiring in a strange way, this is something I’ve learnt to embrace since starting the business, I always come back with new and interesting ideas. I also get inspiration when visiting other cities in the UK and seeing the differences they have to London, this helps me to really emphasise the British culture that I am familiar with.
What has been the biggest highlight for KitsCH Noir so far?
[CHERELLE] There are 2 that I can’t pick between! The first is when KN was awarded Best New Product by Stylist Live in November and the second is being recognised as a Star Choice ‘Stationery Professional’ for the Stationery Matters award Class of 'Thirty Under 30’. This was especially a massive highlight because the company was only created over a year ago and is now being perceived as ground breaking by established industry organisations.
Any lessons learned that’d be helpful for our readers?
[CHERELLE] To always trust your gut and take risks! If you really feel that you have an amazing idea, don’t doubt yourself. Go ahead and try it. If it doesn’t work out, you can try another way to make it work or you can live with the peace of mind that you gave it a chance.
What’s on the cards for 2019? (Soz)
[CHERELLE] I am taking the big step and exhibiting at the National Stationery Show in New York this month! So so excited to see the difference of trading in the UK! I will be continuing to design more cards and creating more categories and I have a few collaborations up my sleeve…
How does stationery play a part in your creative process? What are some of your pencil case must-haves?
[CHERELLE] Memo pads are a big must have for me! I have created 3 styles, and my desk wall is filled with them - I also leave them all over my notebooks and diary! They are so useful for quick ideas that I have, ones I don’t want to forget and perfect for making lists. I like to keep my diary neat, so when I do a quick scribble it’s useful to have it on a mini piece of paper that can be removed. However I sometimes make a really tidy list and find it hard to throw away so I stick it in my book haha. Pastel highlighters are also a major love of mine, I enjoy highlighting priorities on my to-do lists each day and important days in the month, so it’s cool to have a diary filled with calming pastel colours as opposed to striking greens and oranges lol.
What advice would you give to other fellow budding card designers out there?
[CHERELLE] Find your niche and what really works for you. Creating designs that you know nothing about will make the process hard and come off strange to people that you are hoping will buy it. Think about the type of customer you want to buy the card and put yourself in their shoes. What would they like to buy?
In the past, you’ve mentioned that North West London is your happy place. What are some of your favourite spots when you want to wind down?
[CHERELLE] As Dorothy would say – There is NO PLACE like home! My favourite place to literally wind down with a cup of tea and my jim jams on is at home. Funny because this is often how I work too (cup of tea and PJs). But when I actually do leave the house my favourite spots to go to are the Lexi Cinema (Kensal Rise) and Comptoir V (Kensal Rise) vegan restaurant. The Lexi Cinema is a small and cute independent boutique digital cinema which shows all the latest films, it’s round the corner from me and 100% of the profits made go to charity so I never feel guilty about going there! Comptoir V is a small business that creates the most amazing vegan dishes, they are mix between Caribbean and Moroccan cuisines, my favourite dish is the ‘Aunty Esi’.
Parting words of wisdom or rules to live by?
[CHERELLE] Try your absolute best to embrace who you are, encourage every person you meet and empower those around you, do this every day and you will never go wrong!