Every company has a story to tell. For luxury toy manufacturer Papinee, it began with the gift of imagination from a very special lady.
Papinee’s London-based founder and creative director Dev Suj lovingly talked about his company’s meaningful roots during his visit to Manila, where he has taken his ongoing partnership with the Peninsula International Hotels.
According Suj, he found his inspiration in his mother who was very ill for most of his youth. Because her condition prevented them from traveling, she took great pains to make sure they still had adventures in their very own home.
An expert in arts and antiquities, Suj’s mother tapped her rich imagination to bring the world to her son.
“What she would do is turn our living room into the pyramids of Giza or King Arthur’s roundtable. We would sit on rags and she would say, ‘This is a magic carpet, close your eyes and let’s travel together.’ All of a sudden, we would be on Mt. Fuji that day,” Suj recalled at an exclusive media roundtable, which included The Manila Times.
Besides their “travels,” his mother also taught him French and Spanish. “She was all about giving me the ability to be expressive and to be creative,” he enthused.
Today, Suj is a linguist who speaks six languages and an avid painter, besides being an entrepreneur.
The brand of imagination that Suj’s mother instilled in him was one coupled with kindness.
He shared, “No matter how ill she was, Sunday would always be the day that she gives back. So every Sunday we would go to orphanages and bring the children gifts.”
On such visits, Suj would play with the children and remember to be thankful of what his good fortune. More importantly, his mother taught him to share what he had with the orphans.
“She would call each and every one of them ‘Papinee,’ a word she created that meant magic, beauty and love,” Suj shared.
In 2012, Suj began developing his own company after working for over 28 international brands, among them Tod’s, Dunhill, and Chopard, as creative consultant.
It was during this time when the word “papinee”—which he somehow lost as he went on with his busy life—resurfaced from a fateful encounter with an uncle.
He recalled, “My uncle endearingly asked me, ‘How are you my papinee?’ I said, ‘Wow! I haven’t heard that in years.’ And he answered, ‘Don’t you remember? Your mother used to call everybody papinee.’”
Touching a chord in the loving son, Suj decided to venture in a new company in honor of his mother and everything she stood for. Papinee will become its name, as well as its driving force.
He explained, “Every child—even every adult—is a papinee to their parents. Because no matter what you have, there’s this unconditional love between parents and their children.”
Since then, Suj devoted his time in making toys for children around the world. His brand is set apart by the craftsmanship of every piece as well as being educational, cultural and value laden.
Peninsula Hotels soon approached Papinee for a project that turned out to be very special for Suj.
“My parents were married at the Peninsula Hong Kong. And I grew up looking at the beautiful Peninsula ceiling. So the Peninsula will always have a special place in my heart,” said the toymaker.
More than his personal connection to the brand, Suj agreed to go into partnership with Peninsula Hotels based on a shared philosophy.
He explained, “Peninsula embraces contemporary art, they embrace family. We’re all about turning moments into memories. With Papinee toys available at the hotel, we both get to do that.”
Papinee has successfully dressed the hotel’s holiday dolls around the world. Called SnowPage the toy is available in 10 distinct styles influenced by the arts and culture and architecture of every Peninsula destination. Each plush toy is hand-made with luxurious fabrics and detailed embroidery.
For the Philippines, SnowPage wears colorful indigenous tribal patterns in red, blue and yellow with the sun motif adapted from the iconic “Sunburst” sculpture. They are currently available at the hotel lobby.
Only 300 pieces of this special Papinee toy are available for purchase, as the dolls in the other nine Peninsula destinations. To give back as both entities have always done, a percentage of the sales made from the toys will be given to the Make-A-Wish Foundations. The sale of the dolls is part of the hotel’s fundraising campaign, which has already raised over $1.5 million since its launch in 2003.