At the end of September, news broke that left all of us with a sentimental attachment to Arjowiggings devastated. The company filed for bankruptcy, and unless a buyer was found, it seemed like its doors would close forever.
The increase in raw material and energy costs had been the final blow to a situation that had been delicate since 2019.
The Scottish factory responsible for renowned brands such as Conqueror, Keaykolour, Curious, Pop’Set, and Opale left us in a state of uncertainty, sadness, and facing a bleak future for those of us involved in the world of creative paper.
A few weeks later, the worst fears became a reality. The closure was inevitable.
The truth is, there aren’t many factories for creative paper in Europe, and their size and production capacity are much smaller. Arjowiggings accounted for 1/3 of all specialty paper production on our continent.
As the weeks went by, a glimmer of hope emerged. Antalis, a company specialized in the distribution of paper, packaging, and visual communication solutions, and one of the heavily affected parties, acquired the intellectual property rights of the brands.
It was a necessary step since their catalog of creative papers had long relied on Arjowiggins’ references. The dependence was substantial. The acquisition of the brands and their recipes, but not the industrial part, led to a frantic search for factories to reproduce these paper families.
Meanwhile, the stock of these papers in national warehouses was depleting, and it was common to receive negative responses when requesting price and availability.
During these months, it was known that the brands would return at some point. However, nobody had answers regarding when or the definitive catalog. There would be a renewal, and some papers within each brand would no longer be produced, but which ones remained unknown.
Faced with the lack of information, there was one channel that was anticipating the circumstances: the Creative Papers by Antalis Instagram account.
Their reels showcased the colors, the remaining references, the new corporate identities of each brand, conveying a message of availability that, in light of the day-to-day rejections, was evidently ahead of the manufacturing reality.
Many did not interpret the message correctly, and we are aware that Antalis Spain had to face discontent and reprimands because the marketing department at headquarters had different timelines.
With all the rumors circulating, Antalis finally held an international webinar to discuss the relaunch of their creative papers.
Next, we will outline the main points by brand and then analyze the implications of these changes.
Undoubtedly the most challenging reference to produce. Its historical significance, quality, feel, watermark, and high printing capabilities make it highly demanding. It’s not just about preserving its appearance and feel, but also its machine-friendly qualities. The technical aspect of its manufacturing has involved numerous tests and trials.
Throughout this process, Antalis evaluated the brands and decided what to keep and what to discard for innovation. In their own words: Conqueror has undergone the fewest changes.
As shown in the screenshot, three types of surfaces (Smooth, Laid, and CX22) and six shades ranging from white to cream remain.
Alternative papers with cotton and bamboo fibers are removed from the catalog: Conqueror Connoisseur, its 100% cotton variant, and Conqueror Bamboo, notable for its availability in high grammages.
Our sources confirm that nothing is known about whether there will be any alternatives.
Its emphasis on color is maintained, as seen in the brand’s previous renewal in the last Arjowiggins catalog, The Paper Book 2018-2021. No one could have predicted the pandemic when they set an expiration date. We can confirm that the upcoming editions won’t have an expiration date.
The range retains 45 of the previous 48 papers. Particles (Snow, Moonlight, and Sunshine) are dropped from the catalog. Substantial changes come in the recycled alternatives that some references had, which now disappear (Camel and Chalk).
Video with the colors:
The most inventive and unique brand from the Scottish factory retains its well-known lines: Curious Metallics, Curious Matter, Curious Skin, and Curious Translucents. The difficulty of reproducing them is evident, especially in the case of the Metallics family, according to the responsible parties.
The latest addition to the 2018 catalog, Curious Alchemy, inspired by metals and the texture of weathered facades, disappears. Geared towards interior design and architecture, it has not achieved the expected results. It must be said that the timing has not been favorable for its consolidation. References in Touch also disappear.
The Pop’Set brand name disappears. Antalis is aware of the risks involved in this change due to the popularity of this range. The colored cardboard references it encompassed are now grouped under the umbrella of the Olin brand. Specifically, Olin Colors, with 26 colors, some new ones like Baby Blue, Baby Pink, Cherry, Cobalt Blue, and Jungle Green.
It coexists with Olin Design for white papers in four shades with three types of surfaces and 15 grammages, Olin Origins for papers inspired by nature, and Olin Millesime for extra white papers in line with Bristol cardboard in a range of 180 to 400 g.
The classic brand known for its textures and embossing persists in three shades (Bright White, Natural White, and Pale Cream) and seven ranges: Laid, Tradition, Design, Shetland, Linear, Sensation Tradition, and Sensation Tactile.
Basane, Dot, and Tweed are discontinued.
There is still limited confirmed information. It is known that some grammages will be retained.
In light of the information provided by Antalis professionals during the 45-minute webinar, there are decisions that surprise both customers/prescribers and when viewed in the current competitive landscape.
The interventions reflected a very general outlook that will need to be specified once the tools are available, that is, the catalogs with the new ranges.
Then we can verify and compare, from the outset, the extent of the changes. The ultimate test will be their performance in presses and the sensations conveyed by the material.
The bar is set high. Replicating the ranges of a factory with 260 years of history in a search, testing, and manufacturing process that will last less than a year seems quite challenging. That is why it is not a minor detail that throughout the entire talk, the terms “similar” and “approximate” were consistently used when referring to each of the collections.
If there is one word that can describe the atmosphere conveyed, it is caution. It is clear that Antalis does not want to jump the gun and generate false expectations that they themselves do not seem to know if they can fulfill.
Their commitment to the legacy of Arjowiggins’ quality is evident. Replicating the collections in other factories, with different houses producing them, poses a challenging task both in terms of implementation and continuity over time.
Regarding the discards that we deduced and have been confirmed to us, there are incomprehensible moves. At Minke, we have been requesting, whenever consulted, the availability of higher weights in the cottony reference: Conqueror Connoisseur.
If compared to competitors’ offerings, which have broader ranges of shades and weights, the lack of a stronger commitment to this reference was already difficult to understand. It is even more incomprehensible that one of the best cottony papers on the market is directly removed, especially when there is increasing demand from customers for quality alternative fibers. This leaves a significant gap that other manufacturers are filling.
The same applies to Conqueror Bamboo.
Regarding the grays and blacks in the Conqueror range, nothing is known. If the gray options ultimately disappear, they will be greatly reduced in Antalis’ collections, especially when noting that Olin Colors and Keaykolour do not include new references in this highly sought-after shade.
Antalis’ effort to provide a quick response to the production of the brands is appreciated. The pace is dizzying, and the effort is commendable. However, their warehouses are becoming increasingly empty, and the timelines they mention are still long.
Olin Design goes into production in June, Olin Colors in July, Keaykolour and sample tools in September, and Conqueror at the end of that month…
Meanwhile, considerations and work continue with other references that are available in the market. What is the problem? Once those corporate papers are established, it is customary to continue with them, and Antalis has not been a brand that can be prescribed for new projects since late 2022. Firstly, because material is usually unavailable, and secondly, even if it is available, its continuity is uncertain. It will be impossible to incorporate these ranges until we have the sample books in September and there is stock in national warehouses, despite starting to have information.
Every time Antalis Spain calls us to inquire about how things are going, we share this same reflection with them. They are fully aware of the situation that printing companies are experiencing and the difficulties we have faced since the closure of Arjowiggins.
From the campaigns launched by headquarters with their reels and publications, it would seem that everything is already done and the paper is available. On the one hand, the advance information provided is appreciated, but on the other hand, it poses a significant risk because there are followers who assume that the that the references can be acquired.
We will see what autumn brings when these papers arrive. We will keep you informed!