Postcards of animals celebrating a birthday and Montréal in summer, pouches decorated with golden pretzels, and buttons that say “coffee is always a good idea” and “l’amour court dans les rues.”
Playful, decorative, and made for everybody, Lili Graffiti is a Montreal-based company that specializes in illustrations and accessories. Frenchwoman Marie-Laure Plano created the brand seven years ago, and she has been constantly designing and creating ever since. Although Lili Graffiti was relatively small when it began, the products are now available online and in stores throughout Canada, in select places in the US, and in France.
Plano launched Lili Graffiti when she immigrated from France to Canada in June of 2010. She followed no business model — she just had a desire to have fun and create. Before coming to Montreal, Plano was an artistic director at a communications agency in Paris, and she ran a small blog where she could express her creative side and “relax after work.”
Perusing her site, the laid-back vibe of her work immediately comes through. She’s silly, putting animals in party hats and glasses, mostly illustrating items from the home like croissants, bicycles, plants, and pets. Like in the city of Montréal, French and English intermix on her designs; on many products, there’s a drop-down bar where you can choose if you want your poster or postcard’s text in French or English.
The company’s name comes from a collection of children’s books of the same title that her daughter would bring home. “When I was creating my blog, ‘Lili’ seemed like an obvious choice because it showed my childish side. ‘Graffiti’ alludes to my job as a graphic designer,” Plano explains. Thus, Lili Graffiti was born.
When she first arrived in Montreal, Plano says she wanted to concentrate on using creative mediums that she’d never been exposed to before, like sewing. “I didn’t draw for five years and just concentrated on sewing,” Plano recalls. “I made things with American fabrics because I couldn’t find enough fabric from Quebec.” Items essential to the Lili Graffiti brand were born from this creative streak, namely kits, bags, and cushions.
It wasn’t until 2015 that Plano began drawing again. She launched a series of illustrated posters that became an overnight hit: “Vivre les saisons à Montréal” and “Montréal en 26 lettres.” The designs became so popular that they’re now featured on the Bureau du Design de Montréal’s website as part of Montréal’s 375th anniversary celebration.
Her products are mostly items that can be used around the home. Notepads, mugs, linen towels, stickers, and postcards all don her designs adorable enough that any could be given as gifts. For those looking for gifts, she’s already grouped selections of cute themed items into “boxes.” The cactus box contains a notebook, notepad, card, and necklace, all with vibrant cacti, and in lieu of the notepad and necklace, the bicycle box contains a poster and a mug with (you guessed it) bicycles.
Plano is inspired by her travels, taking walks, current design tends, readings, and even the museum exhibitions she regularly frequents near her home. “Throughout the year,” she explains, “I collect pictures and words that inspire me, but I don’t really know what I’m going to do with them just yet.” Those little scraps of ideas only come together twice a year when she releases her biannual collections. And you better act fast. Once her products are released, they sell quickly.