Fiodor, founder at Soumkine:
"Starting from the late 90s I’ve been a big fan of A5 Italian notebooks with rounded corners and smooth ivory paper. At some point, I realized that they disappeared from retail and were replaced with cheap outsourced substitutes, which didn’t give that smooth gentle feel anymore.
The original notebook connected me to the great minds of the 19th and 20th centuries. I’d draw on that fine Italian paper thinking of Modigliani and Picasso using the same notebook decades earlier. This deep connection got even more powerful as I moved to Paris in the early 2000s and could feel the presence of these great artists while sitting on a terrace somewhere in Le Marais. I’d imagine them sitting next to my table, drawing in a similar notebook over a cup of coffee. Feeling this continuity is important to any artist as it brings soul to the process of drawing, and I’m no exception to this rule. (A quick note: I used to work as an illustrator with brands like Nike, Rolling Stones and New York Times before becoming a full-time entrepreneur)
In 2014 my small publishing house focused on the Russian emigrant press went out of business and I was left with some printing machinery, which I used for prototypes. That’s when the idea of publishing blank-paged books came.
First, I decided to find the Italian manufacturer that supplied paper to my favourite notebooks producer before they moved their facility overseas. This would allow me to recreate the original version and to re-establish the connection with the past. I managed to find that paper manufacturer, and we’ve been partners ever since.
This is how Soumkine was born, in my Parisian apartment located on the fourth floor of an old building. There was no elevator, so I had to carry the huge paper bundles delivered from Italy using a staircase.
Today Soumkine has more than a hundred different products, with the most exclusive books made of 100% cotton paper. This paper has been produced on the same paper mill for over 750 years and was used by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Napoleon and Beethoven. You can find it in our Atlantique collection.
Most notebook producers moved their manufacturing facilities to Asia to optimize the production cost. I respect their choice and was always interested in Asia (even tried to learn Japanese using my tiny notebook made of Italian paper). But it just doesn’t feel right to me. For me, for us, for Soumkine, it is important to feel rooted and preserve our cultural heritage and tradition, so we remain local.
Paris, April 2021.