The Papersmith Series — Mandeep and Hardeep Kaur, PER/se

The Papersmith Series — Mandeep and Hardeep Kaur, PER/se

Mandeep and Hardeep Kaur are the co-founders of PER/se, a brand with minimalism, mindfulness and quality at the heart. Together, they create meaningful products with a purpose.

Stemming from a love of fashion and design, coupled with their dissatisfaction with the pace of the industry, their first item was the seasonless #JustOne coat. Every two months, a new colourway and fabric will be sourced. There will be an original theme each time, but the functional details will remain the same; internal pockets and a loop for your headphones. So far, they have released four editions: Nebula, Anthem, Meta and Deluge.

Their second project has just launched and takes the form of a midnight blue linen journal. Entitled The Learner, its pages are adorned with tips, quotes and prompts encouraging a more regular record of our daily musings.

Both pieces are indicative of the twins’ incredibly refined and carefully considered practice. They maintain an unwavering curiosity, value the power of learning, and are advocates of a lifestyle where less is consumed.

The twins sat down with us to talk about this refreshing way of thinking, creating and expressing more consciously. Suffice to say, it was a fascinating conversation.

Hello Mandeep and Hardeep. Tell us about your backgrounds and how PER/se came to be.

Early on Hardeep used work for a luxury French jeweller and Mandeep worked in the City. We then both spent time working in fashion. There were certain elements of our work that were really enriching, however we wanted to build something that truly allowed us to bring our core value system of conscious living to the fore. We dreamt up our ideal world - what would it look like and what could we create to bring it to life. This involved focus on less but better products and therein saw the launch of PER/se London in July 2016. We started with fashion, our first design love, and created our signature #JustOne coat. Our next product - The Learner - expresses the same value system through a different medium.

Tell us about your most recent project, The Learner. Launching a piece of stationery marks a shift away from your previous releases - the #JustOne coat. What brought on this development? What can The Learner teach us?

Our core ethos of conscious living is the driver of our work. We then apply design to bring this value system into life, by creating life-enhancing products. The Learner fits within this system of thought, but simply uses a different medium, cultivating a daily practice of self-reflective thinking and learning.

Our childhood education was always held sacred in our household. The knowledge you accumulated was like a super power. This has held true to this day. One thing we know for sure - innate proclivities exist yes, but 99% of everything else can be learned. Remember when you were a baby and you couldn't walk, drive, speak, didn't know what a mortgage was, understand why the sun rises and sets and what a meme is? One cannot specifically, there was no 'mortgage epiphany', but eventually we learned, everything. Some elements are physical, others intellectual, social, psychological, behavioural. The brain is a huge processor and each person that lives and breathes is testament to the thesis that we each can learn and grow, into unrecognisable beings from our first few years.

The trick is keeping a regular practice and using tools that provide focus and encouragement. So, combining this thesis with science and design, The Learner represents our own method, refined through years of testing and tweaking.

How does stationery and paper play a part in your creative process? Do either of you have any special or go-to tools?

Writing is far and above the way in which we capture our ideas, articulate our thoughts and brainstorm for new and unexpected directions to pursue. As Milton said, the pen is mightier than the sword. He was referring to polemical works, ours is ideation related. We are rarely without a notebook and a pen.

What is London like as a city for working and creating? Have you any favourite haunts?

London is chameleon like in its qualities - on your doorstep you can discover so much across art, design, history and architecture - which allows for creativity to flourish. The parks and squares are abundant. History and tradition jostle alongside modernity and innovation. And yet within all this each person has a London they call their own. More often than not you’ll find us taking a walk around the Italian Gardens in Hyde Park, at the V&A, The Art’s Club or working away in our West London studio.

Who, or what, inspires you?

The idea that all things are created, and that someone has to do the creating.

We loved watching your short video series titled The Conscious Living Project, where you tackled Marcel Proust’s famous personality questionnaire. How enlightening was this process? Did you learn anything new about one another?

A regular practice of introspection which helps form and articulate personal values and systems of thought is hard work but liberating! We’ve learned more about each other but also about ourselves.

One big surprise for us both was how the questions made us aware of what we take for granted. For example, two of the questions ask which qualities do you most admire in a man and in a woman. This threw us both off, as we discovered our mind isn’t structured like this. It felt anachronistic to value specific qualities based on gender. Another question about things we dislike about our appearance also made us pause. Being twins, to dislike a feature in one would somehow denigrate it in the other. We recommend that every person goes through the questionnaire! It’s been illuminating.

Your curiosity is infectious. What’s the most interesting thing you discovered recently?

One big thesis we’re digging into is how the history of humankind on a macro level plays out on a micro level in our daily lives.

We’ve been working our way through Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari and it’s fascinating. We consider how we live as somehow inevitable, that the systems by which we live, communicate, create and thrive are deliberate creations.

As we dig deeper, and look at history through the prism of evolution, it’s more complicated than that. Ideologies that we all subscribe to, be they religious, political, social or fiscal, are essentially stories that we each choose to opt into as they help us create order out of a world that is actually quite irrational and unpredictable. Nowhere in nature do we see ‘capitalism’ or ‘humanism’ at work. They are fundamentally arbitrary, even though they serve very particular and tangible purposes. Over time humans have bent the world to their will, through language and the exchange of ideas, in a way that has enabled the race to dominate and perpetuate.

On an individual level, we inherit the given order, and work the rest of our lives to square the circle. Following this line of thought to it’s natural conclusion then, one realises that the rules of how we each choose to live is actually not set in stone, but up for renegotiation. This idea of agency is one of the recurring themes in our work.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

Don’t expect everyone to understand what you do, but believe in the work and persist.

Thank you both!

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Images © @onthenew 2017
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