Photos Courtesy of russell + hazel
Office supplies from russell + hazel
My first thought when I heard russell + hazel was closing its store at Galleria? That’s it. That shoebox of a space next to Good Earth must have proven to be a coffin.
I’m pleased to report quite the opposite is true for the brand that redefined office supplies as fashion accessories. The squeeze at Galleria prompted russell + hazel’s parent company, Gartner Studios, to look inward, and then, forward. The brand’s mantra: “adding life to your work.” Next month, russell + hazel will debut a spacious new flagship in the heart of the North Loop. Located between D.NOLO and Pacifier, the new store is being designed in partnership with Greg Walsh, principal of North Loop’s epicenter of inspiration, MartinPatrick 3. The store will reach beyond three-ring binders to beauty products, fashion accessories, and home décor. The biggest surprise: an in-store “style studio” offering haircuts by Pearson Knight, whose work has been featured on runways and in magazines around the world.
What does hairstyling have to do with selling journals? Both help to define you. “People are so focused today on personal brand,” says Kara Christopherson, president of Stillwater-based Gartner Studios. “This is our way of saying, it’s all about you—by russell + hazel. How can we equip you with things you write on and carry around, but then how can we take it to the next level? If you love our red-orange color on a binder, what’s the lipstick that will look beautiful on you?”
If that feels like a stretch, consider russell + hazel’s origins. Founder Chris Plantan launched the brand (named for her grandparents) in 2003, at a time when technology was enabling many of us to work at home, where we could make our own style statement. Pen and paper were starting to seem like relics, but russell + hazel made stationery—even banal objects like notebooks and Post-its—feel chic. The brand inspired consumers—including early fan Martha Stewart—to dress the desk as thoughtfully as they would themselves. Gartner Studios was able to coast on that reputation for some time after owner Greg Gartner bought russell + hazel in 2009. But longtime fans like myself couldn’t help noticing there wasn’t a whole lot of newness the last couple years.
“There was a bit of a lull in 2014,” Christopherson acknowledges. She points out that russell + hazel expanded its acrylic desktop items and leather pouches last year, along with social stationery. The thrust of Gartner Studios’ business is wholesale office, wedding, and gifting products for big-box stores and boutiques. There’s also the paper line Mara-Mi, which has a flagship store in Stillwater. Russell + hazel is a sliver of the business, but its real value to Gartner is in being an industry trendsetter—a position that will be on full display in the North Loop.
“What you’re going to see is more leaning forward in terms of how you equip your office—writing, acrylics, beautiful paper weights,” Christopherson says. “The home office isn’t as defined as it used to be. People are using our products in the kitchen, the bathroom, other places in the home. And we believe it is important to flank our products with other things.” Things like blankets and candles and apothecary. New russell + hazel products will also be introduced in time for the store opening in June: journals, pencil sets, “jotter trays,” and key chains. Expect a deeper dive into leather goods next year.
As for the store, the constant may be change. “We’re very interested in this being a concept store—it needs to feel a little experimental,” Christopherson says. “The North Loop deserves that. We want to make sure we’re walking in as good as the neighborhood.”