How Papyrus Leveraged Its NY Fashion Week Partnership to Empower Women on the Runway

The brand worked with three designers

Papyrus elevated its NYFW partnership to new levels this season.
Headshot of Katie Richards

When you think New York Fashion Week, you obviously think of fashion brands, and maybe makeup and hair care brands, too. Paper products don’t tend to top the list, but Papyrus has been working with NYFW to change that.

This marks Papyrus’ 12th season as an official sponsor of New York Fashion Week, and the second year that the brand has integrated itself into a few of the designer’s shows. Last season, it was elegant blue grass and flowers neatly crafted out of paper for Adam Selman’s show. This time around, the brand upped its game, partnering with three fashion designers throughout the week—Alice + Olivia by Stacey Bendet, Jonathan Simkhai and Prabal Gurung—to create immersive backstage experiences.

UPDATE: Papyrus has issued a statement in response to a piece of creative collateral, distributed during New York Fashion Week as a result of a partnership with Alice + Olivia. The creative (a card) was designed in the shape of the Alice + Olivia’s “Stace Face” icon with a hand designed,”Empowered women empower women,” message on the envelope and inside the card. That lettering was created by up-and-coming hand lettering designer and founder of Hello Happy Print Co Kasi Turpin. It was used by the brands without Turpin’s permission.

The artist provided Adweek with the following statement:

I am very disappointed to see this happen, especially with two well respected brands. The reuse of the design without my involvement or permission goes against the original intention of the artwork.

The phrase ‘Empowered women empower women’ is supposed to bring all women together, and I’ve seen it happen with the success of this print. It has brought coworkers, friends and even strangers together. It has been incredible to see so many women find inspiration in my work. I look forward to working with Papyrus and Alice + Olivia to rectify the situation. And I hope bringing attention to this incident will make other brands stop and think before promoting a message just because it might be on trend. Brands need to do their due diligence with every piece of design to ensure it’s original or they’ve giving credit to the artist. They also need to make sure the values and messages they promote are genuine to the brand.

Papyrus issued a statement through Instagram this afternoon to address the piece of creative distributed at Alice + Olivia’s New York Fashion Week events.

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With each designer, Papyrus found subtle ways to incorporate its branding and flawless paper designs into the shows.

One of the new walking directions by Papyrus for the Prabal Gurung show.

“The process was incredibly collaborative,” explained American Greetings CMO Alex Ho. First, the team conducted immense amounts of research on the designers, looking at previous collections and collaborations along with their social feeds to gather as much intel as possible. “We worked with their teams to understand what they were hoping to say with their new collections and the messages they want to send,” Ho added.

One of the major themes that emerged from these conversations was the desire to spread a message of empowerment and confidence among the models, designers, fashion week attendees and fans.

“Now more than ever, we feel a responsibility to use our platform to speak out against discrimination, misogyny and adversity. This season, to celebrate our models and our entire backstage team, we wanted to create beautiful and bold statements to empower, and Papyrus is the perfect partner to bring this vision to life,” designer Prabal Gurung explained.

That’s why Papyrus revamped a common backstage fashion practice: walking directions. Typically, behind the scenes at a runway show, a designer will have directions for the models written on plain pieces of paper—statements like “be bold, be cheeky, be confident,” and “be powerful, strong and sexy.” They’re meant to inspire the models, but they don’t always look or feel that inspiring.

According to Ho, Papyrus wanted to take those directions and turn them into artful pieces “as beautiful as a Papyrus card” that the designers could use as part of their fashion week shows. For Prabal Gurung’s show, Papyrus used slogans like, “You are the present. You are the future. You rule the world. Walk with intention,” printed on beautiful paper adorned with roses of all colors.

“Using our expertise in meticulously handcrafted products, we were able transform lackluster signs into elegant pieces of art and enhance backstage walls with beautifully designed statements to inspire the most beautiful expression of all: confidence,” Ho said.

Papyrus made a limited edition card for Alice + Olivia's show.

At the Alice + Olivia show, which Papyrus filled with messages of strength and inspiration for women, the brand set up a special station at the end of the show where guests could take a custom card. The envelope and card both read, “Empowered women empower women.” On the card is a limited-edition removable patch in the shape of Alica + Olivia’s signature “Stace Face” emblem.

“The collaboration with Papyrus enabled us to use our voice to share messages supporting female empowerment and positivity during a time when women everywhere look to the fashion world for inspiration,” Stacey Bendet, CEO and creative director for Alice + Olivia, said.

The American Greetings-owned company also had its pop-up, Café by Papyrus, which is located in the NYFW space. The café allows guests to order a coffee, grab a snack and mail one of the unique Papyrus cards to family or friends. Additionally, this year, the brand also executed an out-of-home installation in New York City called “Beautiful Statement Walk,” which aims to spread the positive messages about confidence in a socially sharable way to a larger audience.

@ktjrichards Katie Richards is a staff writer for Adweek.