Town & Country (UK)
WOMAN OF LETTERS
The former jewellery editor Alice Edwards welcomes us to her house in south London and reveals how a yearning for personal connection inspires her to create beautiful, stylish stationery. By Marie-claire Chappet
Meet Alice Edwards, a stylish stationer on a mission to help us stay connected with our nearest and dearest
Alice Edwards is talking to me from her office, a small dovegrey room in her Wandsworth home, lined with shelf upon shelf of exquisitely neat colour-coded paper, when a small but commanding voice rebukes us for speaking too loudly.
‘I’m trying to work over here!’ pipes up Edwards’ fiveyear-old daughter Honor in the background of our Zoom call. Her lockdown classroom is currently doubling up as the head office of her mother’s new stationery business Memo Press.
Edwards launched her handmade luxury stationery and greetings-card brand in October, less than a year after taking a new role as the head of PR and special projects at the cult London jeweller’s Jessica Mccormack in 2019. ‘I love being part of a team, and that was the magic of collaborating with Jessica,’ she says. ‘But when we were all working from home, and I was later furloughed, it made me realise that the magic just wouldn’t translate when we were all in separate silos.’ So, in May last year, she quit her job to ‘be a control freak and take charge of my own work happiness’.
Clearly, Edwards is not someone who likes to waste time. She visibly cringes when she tells me how soon she moved in with her now-husband Oliver – ‘insanely quickly. I think it was a matter of months’. This seize-the-day philosophy makes sense when you consider her past. She has an enviable background – she is the granddaughter of the late Richard Attenborough, who encouraged her early love of drawing with endless paint supplies and left her some of his impressive art collection, one of which – ‘a rather startling male nude’ with a ‘beautiful bottom’ – hangs in her kitchen. But behind her easy charm and comfortable circumstances is a tragedy of unthinkable proportions. In 2004, her family was caught up in the Boxing Day tsunami in Thailand. Her paternal grandmother, mother (Attenborough’s daughter Jane) and younger sister were all killed; Edwards sustained serious injuries. She was just 17.
It is a grief she has learnt to live with, telling me that Boxing Day is forever a ‘black hole’. Yet there is a vivacity to her young family that feels like a well-deserved redemption – as does the new career she has consciously carved out for herself. ‘I see traces of my family in my children and it’s fascinating to witness,’ she says, smiling. ‘It was probably
part of the reason for launching the brand – wanting to spend more time with them, to make work and home life more manageable.’
Edwards always knew that, at some point in her life, she would ‘start something’ but never quite decided what it could be. Separated from her beloved family and friends during the pandemic, she found that the sense of connection fostered by letters and cards felt more significant than ever, which is why she landed on stationery – already a passion of hers.
‘Keeping in touch with family is so important to me,’ she explains. Pre-pandemic, they would typically spend weekends and holidays with her father and stepmother in Oxfordshire, itself just a ‘stone’s throw’ away from her brother’s family house. But although a great believer in the power of letter-writing, she was unimpressed by the quality of the writing sets on the market. ‘I was running out of personalised paper brands to try, never quite finding one that was perfect,’ she says. ‘I was already in the habit of making my own versions for my friends, having long bemoaned the lack of chic birthday cards and party invites for children in particular. They were always so ugly and garish, and it’s the parents who have to pay for them and look at them.’
By contrast, Memo Press’ cards are adorned with simple watercolour sketches that are playful yet sophisticated, like a delightfully modern iteration of Beatrix Potter whimsy. The drawings, which range from champagne coupes and cakes to ladybirds and dinosaurs, are all hand-painted by Edwards herself. Her custom-made stationery is equally elegant. Notepaper and envelopes come in 10 signature and interchangeable shades, ranging from an olive green to a dusty ballet pink. They are sourced, printed and made entirely in Britain from recycled and recyclable paper, and each greeting card is wrapped in environmentally friendly tracing paper.
Unsurprisingly, Memo Press was an almost immediate success. Just weeks after it launched, Edwards was contacted by Whitney Bromberg Hawkings, the founder of the
A CONNECTION FOSTERED BY CARDS FEELS MORE SIGNIFICANT THAN EVER
fashionable florists Flowerbx, who suggested a partnership for Christmas. The collection, of water-coloured Christmaswreath cards with accompanying festive bouquets, sold out, and left Edwards having to nurse an over-strained wrist with a heat-pack. She has plans to grow the team, but until then she is a one-woman operation, on first-name terms with her local post-office manager. ‘I just don’t think there would be a Memo Press without Roland,’ she deadpans. And she continues to work with Flowerbx, with Mother’s Day and Easter collaborations now in the works: ‘I am currently painting a lot of spring flowers.’
The delicate aesthetic of the brand is a reflection of Edwards’ personal style; she is a great fan of soft pastel shades and has an ever-expanding bow collection. Altogether, there is something flawless and poised about her. Her refined sensibility is key to Memo Press’ rapid success, certainly, but Edwards thinks it was also the ‘perfect time’ to start a stationery brand. After all, given the strange isolation that so many of us have found ourselves in, a personal missive on raspberry-hued notepaper adorned with a lake-blue hand-drawn monogram certainly beats a Zoom invitation, doesn’t it? memopress.co.uk