In conversation with: Before Breakfast

4 min read

Before Breakfast stationery

Before Breakfast

Est. 2016 - London, UK

"Each item that we decide to take with us when we go out, from our glasses or watch, to our notebook or pen, defines who we are when combined together collectively. These types of accessories have come a long way over the years from being merely useful tools to now becoming items that help us complete our own personal style."
- Nicki Shen

In conversation with Nicki Shen, founder of Before Breakfast. She tells us how and why she launched a stationery business, the principles behind risograph printing, and how humble stationery has become a lifestyle accessory that help us complement our own personal style.

Jeya Narrative: How would you describe Before Breakfast? What do you seek to achieve?

Nicki Shen: We are a design and Riso print studio, and our objective is to design and make contemporary handcrafted stationery which can be used practically as well. We hope to strike a balance between the two without compromising either.


What was your inspiration for creating a range of stationery? How did it all start?

I am a graphic designer by profession, and have always been a little obsessed with owning a lot of stationery to use and to design with. Whenever I use good stationery that is to my liking it gives me a great deal of inspiration to design; I do not think of it simply as a tool, but also as an object of desire that triggers that creative part of the mind. I suppose it led me to want to create stationery that can hopefully inspire others as well!


Tell us more about your philosophy of “design in the making”. Where did that come from?

On top of designing our paper goods, we also make them all in our studio, allowing us to use the term ‘handmade’. While it sounds quite fancy, the overall responsibility to get it right up until the end is far greater when you try to do everything yourself, as you are limited to the tools available to you and the people who are working beside you. We went through a lot of trial and error, and ups and downs, before we were happy with what we had set out to make, which sometimes was unrecognisable from the first design blueprint. Ultimately after taking a step back to reflect on the whole process we came up with this philosophy as a reminder that everything matters.


What makes your product stand out? 

We’d like to believe that the care and attention we put into designing and making our products are apparent when they are in the hands of our customers.

Before Breakfast riso-printed stationery
Weekly fitness and food planner

Can you tell us a little bit more about risograph and how it works?

Risograph is an eco-friendly method of printing efficiently and reliably. It works differently from other machines, and has characteristics which are more similar to a stencil duplicator, where the original image is scanned through the machine to create a master sheet, where an image is stencilled on - paper is then fed into the machine to pass through the sheet and ink to create a print. Risograph uses soy ink which is better for our environment, as it is low in chemical compounds normally found in petroleum based in that cause air pollution, therefore reducing waste both in relation to recycling ink as well as paper.

Besides the fact that it makes the world a better place, we believe that printing with Risograph makes the colours richer and more vibrant, giving each print more personality than other methods can offer.

What item from your collection is always on your desk? Could you share photos of a few pages?

Our desktop notepad in mid-grey is always next to my iMac. It’s pretty great for scribbling anything that comes to mind and to make plans.


How are paper goods part of a lifestyle? How can stationery be a medium to express individuality?

I have always thought of stationery as accessories; each item that we decide to take with us when we go out, from our glasses or watch, to our notebook or pen, defines who we are when combined together collectively. These types of accessories have come a long way over the years from being merely useful tools to now becoming items that help us complete our own personal style.


How would you describe your personal style? And who has had the biggest influence on your style?

I like to keep things clean and simple, and that applies to my fashion sense as well as my stationery preferences. I’ve always been influenced by Scandinavian and Japanese design, as both countries more or less adhere to the philosophy of simplicity, minimalism and functionality. I wouldn’t say there is a particular person that has influenced me, but rather a collective of many amazing people throughout my life.


What does the concept ‘individuality’ mean to you?

It’s a very difficult word to use with absolute certainty! In simplest of terms, to me it just means to be 100% comfortable in their own skin. If you have the confidence to do something with desire and integrity without second guessing yourself, that is what makes you an individual


What is your secret recipe for self-confidence?

Adhering to my concept of ‘individuality’!



Place you call home: Taipei, Taiwan
A colour: Grey
A movie or book: 39 Difficult Questions for Stefan Sagmeister
A sound: The sound that a coffee machine makes when it’s brewing my first cup of coffee before breakfast
A place: Regent’s Canal
Style icon(s): Bjork
Go-to accessory to dress to impress: Moscot Zev glasses (black/gunmetal)
Most coveted item in your wardrobe: Acne Studios Hoodie
Favourite tool to work with: Our Risograph RP3700 Printer
Favourite inspirational quote, or best piece of advice anybody ever gave you: "I think perfection is ugly. Somewhere in the things humans make, I want to see scars, failure, disorder, distortion." - Yohji Yamamoto
Why Jeya Narrative? From our first dialogue with Jeya Narrative, I became an instant fan of their idea of amalgamating a variety of lifestyle products, and to ultimately put them all together to paint a larger picture as a collective. This is very much in line with how I would like Before Breakfast products to be enjoyed by our customers.

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