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Extraordinary: NOLA Designer Alexa Pulitzer

Written by in Color & Texture, Create, Features

 

A Personal Project Becomes Lifelong Passion

The Stationery of NOLA’s Alexa Pulitzer

Today, New Orleans-based Alexa Pulitzer’s stationery can be found worldwide, in more than 1500 boutiques, the likes of Bergdorf Goodman, Anthropologie and Liberty of London. But the road for this company and its founder hasn’t been all beignets and cafe au lait. As Alexa Pulitzer attends her first ever AIGA Design Conference in her hometown this week, Against the Grain had the chance to hear her remarkable story. But first, see some of her inspired work.

“My father spoiled me with exposure to art and business. I couldn’t get enough of it.” — Alexa Pulitzer

To understand the life path of Alexa Pulitzer, you have to understand her passion for stationery. And to understand her passion for stationery, you have to know her roots. Growing up, Pulitzer’s family owned the largest necktie company in the world, Wembley. (Ralph Lauren is said to have credited her grandfather, Sam. C. Pulitzer with teaching him about the neckwear business).

PHOTO ©SARA ESSEX BRADLEY

Designer Alexa Pulitzer. Photo Credit: The Scout Guide New Orleans

 

PHOTO ©SARA ESSEX BRADLEY

Image 1(left) Examples of bespoke invitations created by Alexa Pulitzer Image 2(right) Alexa Pulitzer long pads of 150 sheets: BFF, Poppin’ Bottles with Models and Prince Philips and cups & napkins with custom designed ciphers. Photo Credit: The Scout Guide New Orleans

 

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Above, examples of Alexa Pulitzer stationery including Stag S Monogram Engraved Notes, BFF Long Pad, Peacock Mousepad/Notepad. Photo credit: The Desk of Sunhee Grinell, Vanity Fair

 

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Alexa Pulitzer Royal Court Engraved Boxed Notes. Photo credit: The Scout Guide Naples.

That’s where Pulitzer first learned to draw and pattern. As a kid, Pulitzer says she spent a lot of time in the family’s factory, both in the art department and in the print shop. “My father spoiled me with exposure to art and business. I couldn’t get enough of it,” she said.

To Pulitzer, the connection between textile design and stationery design is perfectly clear. “When you create textiles, you either weave them or you print them. Printing silk is very similar to printing paper in terms of reproducing a 2D image.” Back then, the family business also had a state-of-the art, print shop to make their neckwear swatch-cards an marketing materials. The in-house printing plant had several Heidelberg presses as well as die-cutting, duplexing and finishing equipment. Pulitzer was enamored. Each summer, she says, her father would give her the same gift — stationery from the print shop, that she would get to design. And so, at the ripe age of eight, Alexa Pulitzer designed her first professionally printed stationery.

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Alexa Pulitzer designed her first stationery at age 8. These illustrations are from Pulitzer’s high school portfolio.

After college, Pulitzer spent 16 months in Italy and France as a textile apprentice at the world renowned textile company, Ratti. When she came back to the US, her designs were considered too elegant for the US mass market and were being discarded. She began to experiment with line and form and pattern, evolving her medium to printing tone on tone, such as soft gray ink on gray paper — eventually leading her to create a series of architectural illustrations, just for fun. One sunny day in 1995, she decided to take her chunky pads of 200 sheets to the New Orleans Museum of Art, “They loved them. I was very young, just experimenting, and I got an order!”

In 1997 Pulitzer purchased her family’s print shop from Randa, the new owner (and former competitor) of her family’s necktie company. After three years of creating stationery in the evenings and on the weekends, she finally had the opportunity to set up the print shop on her own. “I was designing and traveling for Randa full time, but my father preached ‘not to throw away my dirty water until I had fresh water’.”

In the meantime, and in an ironic twist of fate, Pulitzer was promoted as a textile designer and merchandiser for Randa. “I was given an enormous responsibility and worked with them for 10 years doing novelty ties, such as for ESPN, the Beatles, and products like spicy Tabasco.” She was designing apparel that was not her innate style or what she was personally drawn to. “It was a great challenge. But anytime you can grow from your work, you will thrive.”

 

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Alexa Pulitzer Royal Court Monogram Mousepad Collection created for Anthrpologie on Neenah Royal Sundance Felt 70# text.

 

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File folders, notebooks & journals are part of her Desk Accessories line shown here on Neenah Royal Sundance Felt 110# Cover and 70# text and Neenah OXFORD “Smoked” 100# Cover.

Thrive she did. In 2004, Pulitzer decided to start her own company, “I was without a business plan, a business degree, without anything except creativity, passion and a hobby I believed in.” She designed and produced lines taking them to two of world’s top stationery and gift shows in the late spring and early summer in 2005. She received over 100 orders. Then, one month later, New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Pulitzer’s print shop, her archive, and her entire inventory were wiped out.

Pulitzer doesn’t dwell on the details. “I like to stay positive.” Pulitzer, then 7 months pregnant, relocated to a new city, quickly forming relationships with a new printer and paper suppliers. The Internet had enabled her to continue the customer connections she’d worked so hard to establish. Her “silver lining” came six months later when she was able to return home to her birthplace and set up shop again with New Orleans printers and suppliers, “I proudly make my products in New Orleans. New Orleans is what I identify with. It’s my other passion. Custom clients and retail partners stepped up to support me and wanted to see me succeed. People all over the world opened up accounts with me and helped me rebuild.”

Alexa Pulitzer wreathe logo

Among NOLA’s Best: Alexa Pulitzer’s new mark for her own brand incorporated “New Orleans” into the mark. “It’s who I am.”

 

Her motifs had always included styled iconography; her stationery featured New Orleans flora, streetcars, trumpets, elaborate musical notes, crowns (paying homage to carnival,) and of course, iconic fleur de lys’. In 2006, Pulitzer evolved her own mark to incorporate her city. “I wanted people to know I was proud to be a daughter of New Orleans.”

NOLA_flag

Pulitzer created New Orleans’ tricentennial logo for one of the country’s oldest and most colorful cities. The centennial commemorates the hard work of generations of New Orleanians, remember the city’s fullness, richness, and diversity of its history.

Neenah is proud to sponsor the 2015 AIGA Design Conference and to help make this gathering possible. Join us in New Orleans to celebrate design with our friends and colleagues @AIGAdesign, and especially NoLa friends, like Alexa, who make the city so unique and special.

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    7:48am
    Lucy Burnett said:

    Aleza
    This is wonderful!,
    How proud I am of you!!!!
    And, I need some musical, French Quarter stationary!!!
    Any ideas?
    Hugs,
    Lucy