About Roger la Borde
We are the creators and publishers of charming, eclectic and wonderful stuff: greeting cards, luxe journals, stationery and more. Founded in 1985 by sisters Alison and Jenni, our London born-and-bred company has been helping unique and innovative shops become fabulous destinations for 30+ years.
1985 AND BEYOND
It’s 1985: Sisters Alison and Jenni are two recent graduates making their way in buzzing London. They hatch a modest plan to work together designing beautiful things, knowing that they will have tremendous fun doing both. Almost four decades later, Roger la Borde is a thriving, award-winning industry leader, with Jenni and Alison still together at the helm, and still having plenty of fun!
Roger la Borde is a true British heritage brand, born and bred in London, and steadfastly adhering to Alison and Jenni’s original vision of creating unusual and beautiful things on paper and beyond, as well as championing the most stylish independent voices on the high street. Read on to discover more about the brand’s origin story, team and ethos.
Launching a line of non-mainstream greeting cards was the first step for Roger la Borde, and it quickly became apparent that Jenni and Alison did things their own way. The sisters sourced artwork in ways that were ground-breaking: They attended graduate art shows and discovered young artists, inviting them to create work for the brand. Instead of following trends, they carved out a niche for Roger la Borde and dared to put things on stationery that other people would not have imagined could work. Jenni and Alison’s risk-taking pushed the envelope for greeting cards, and paved the way for the design-led stationery scene in the UK.
The joy of cards is that you can take risks on artwork that you absolutely love and get it out there, and we could start without much investment or business know-how. – Jenni
The first “collection” was a single plate of 16 greeting card designs, featuring the work of Sally Davies, Laura Stoddardt and Jane Ray. From there, the collection steadily grew and soon included other stationery products and forays into homeware. Since that first collection, Roger la Borde has commissioned dozens of artists and illustrators, working closely together on art direction and fostering close relationships with them. (Roger la Borde’s current collection still features Jane Ray!)
Above: 1990s cards illustrated by Janet Woolley and Julie Arkell, and a team lunch!
GETTING OUT THERE
Picture this: Mere months after Roger la Borde’s launch, the sisters are crammed into a tiny car with huge scrapbooks of pasted-in greeting cards, driving up and down the country looking for cool, design-led shops to stock their wares. Alison did the driving, and Jenni did the… convincing of shop owners!
The 80s were very tough, with Thatcherism, but lots of alternative culture and creative shops and galleries emerged. They could take a punt on what you were doing, and could do super creative things and there was a demand for it. - Alison
Roger la Borde’s early trade show stalls looked more like gallery installations than typical trade booths. They were a labour of love, dripping with decorations and papier mache. At one show, Roger la Borde was scouted by the Design Centre and stocked in their showcase on Haymarket. This gave the young brand great early exposure and set Roger la Borde up as a very British, very unique, brand. Within a year, Jenni and Alison had quit their part-time jobs and were able to dedicate themselves to Roger la Borde full-time.
ROGER LA BORDE HQ
Roger la Borde is based in a charming building on a quiet street in London’s West Hampstead, but it wasn’t always that way. The first Roger la Borde HQ was a humble filing cabinet in a spare bedroom!
Since 1987, Roger la Borde has operated out of 87 Kingsgate Road. When Jenni and Alison took on the property (against the advice of everyone, including the bank) it was in major disrepair. However, Alison and Jenni had a vision for the space. They invited family and friends to pitch in, cooking meals for everyone while they painted and did DIY. The new HQ soon became a functional, creative space filled with colour and art, and it has remained a cheerful jolt of colour on the street. Roger la Borde has North West London in its heart, as both Jenni and Alison – as well as many members of staff – live in the surrounding area.
Above: Colour and creativity inside and outside HQ / Below: Kingsgate Road dressed as a set for the film, Pride
THE TEAM & ETHOS
In the early days, Jenni and Alison tackled every aspect of the business alone, from packing orders to unloading shipments of stock. As Roger la Borde’s reach grew, so did the team. Despite rapid growth and opportunities, Jenni and Alison kept their business independent to maintain control of creative decisions (the company’s raison d’etre), and to protect the pleasant working environment and work-life balance they had established for themselves and their staff.
We have stayed in the game so long because doing what we love has kept it fun. There is still joy in coming to work every day! - Alison
Roger la Borde has attracted many likeminded individuals into its fold, from the small core team of staff at Kingsgate Road, to dozens of agents and distributors worldwide, a constellation of brilliant contributing artists and illustrators, and hundreds of retail stockists.
The core team grew organically, gradually forming the tight-knit yet always welcoming Roger la Borde crew. The office feels like a home, and even includes a fully equipped kitchen and dining area where everyone takes turns to cook lunch for the team. The joke is that Roger la Borde is like Hotel California… once you join, you never leave! This speaks volumes about the open, collaborative spirit at Roger la Borde. Alison and Jenni set the tone right from the start, by prioritising quality of life, as well as art and creativity, above all else.
Thank you for reading our story!