RESEARCH POINT – Investigate the “house style” of some designers and getting the balance right for brand style

BRIEF

  • Investigate some established designers who have created a market for their “house style” which is readily recognisable and widely associated with their name.
  • How can a designer/ company strike a balance between creating a brand and avoid becoming clichéd.

Developing a brand successfully to a point where there is brand loyalty usually develops over time where there is consistency of design and/or quality but occasionally it can happen “overnight” but once its established it’s then imperative that its not lost.- this is the point where the question of getting the balance right comes into play. How to keep something that has worked but also to avoid becoming clichéd. I have looked at 3 companies and examined their approach to the business of selling their designs – one that is long established and 2 that the buying public took to straightaway. All 3 of them are in a commercial context rather than independent textile artists/makers as I feel that this question is directed more towards that kind of a designer.

Original design 1960

Original design 1960

Marimekko is a Finnish company founded in the 50’s.They consider themselves to be more than a brand style, more as a way of living, a state of mind based on a love for everyday life, creativity and freedom. Their designs are instantly recognisable by the brightly coloured printed fabrics in timeless simple styles ranging from bold stripes to large stylized floral prints all of which helped to make Marimekko a household name across the world. This is their individual “house style” and they stay true this when they design new textiles. It’s a tried and tested formula for them as they have identified their client base. I wanted to compare some original designs to modern ones to determine if the designs had changed and if they had, how. My internet picture search of images revealed that the style is fairly consistent but the colour palette perhaps just changing slightly in response to broad current trends perhaps. Like most companies they have also experienced business ups and downs but have “moved with the times” and have introduced new designers to work alongside the design studio to offer new approaches to design but still remaining consistent with their house style. They have also found new ways of reinforcing their brand by forming collaborative projects with other companies, for example, Converse boots where their bright bold patterns work perfectly with the canvas boot and are a fresh introduction to the standard flat colour canvas. Furthermore they have introduced new technology for cleaner digital printing of their fabrics and even launched completions inviting artists to submit artwork for new designs. They believe strongly in maintaining quality production of their products and consistency of design which stands the test of time and is not influenced by fashion trends – has helped create a brand loyalty with their customers.

Original Marimekko designs from the 1960’s moving into the 1970’s. This is from the “Marimekko, with love” exhibition at the Textile Museum in Canada. The designs here don’t differ wildly from those in the following picture which therefore illustrates their consistency to design.  Ref www.textilemuseum.ca

Original Marimekko designs from the 1960’s moving into the 1970’s.

This is from the “Marimekko, with love”exhibition at the Textile Museum in Canada. The designs here don’t differ wildly from those in the following picture which therefore illustrates their consistency to design.

Marimekko designs 2010. Ref - http://desertfashion.blogspot.co.uk

Marimekko designs 2010. Ref – http://desertfashion.blogspot.co.uk

NEW IDEAS - Mint of Finland is issued commemorative coin for Armi Ratia, the founder of Marimekko in June 2012 featuring the unikko (poppy) icon.

NEW IDEAS – Mint of Finland is issued commemorative coin for Armi Ratia, the founder of Marimekko in June 2012 featuring the unikko (poppy) icon.

NEW IDEAS - Collaboration with Converse boots in June 2011. Image source - http://thesupergoodlife.com

NEW IDEAS – Collaboration with Converse boots in June 2011. Image source – http://thesupergoodlife.com

References

http://www.scandinavia-design-online.com/marimekko-story.html

http://www.textilemuseum.ca/apps/index.cfm?page=exhibition.detail&exhId=343 “Marimekko, with love” exhibition at the Textile museum of Canada

http://www.finland.ca/public/default.aspx?contentid=271926&culture=en-US – information about product designs.

http://desertfashion.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/marimekko-designs.html  -2010 designs

http://thesupergoodlife.com converse boots

In a similar way Orla Keily has followed the same path in terms of products. Orla Kiely is an Irish fashion designer based in London and rose to fame when Harrods purchased her exit collection from The Royal College of Art. Her house style is inspired by textiles from the 60’s and 70’s which she updates with a focus on clean modern colours. As far as I can tell, the success of her brand falls to 2 products, the handbags that she started to design in the late 1990s when she had the idea to laminate the cloth as this quote shows “At the time, no one was doing anything like it. Laminated fabric, in those days, meant tablecloths.”  This is something that so many other companies are now doing.

A page from her book of patterns showing her inspiration from the 60’s and 70’s

A page from her book of patterns showing her inspiration from the 60’s and 70’s

The other part of the success story is the Stem design – her iconic textile design that has been applied to a whole range of products, not just a full range of co-ordinated home and personal accessories of her own making but also for alternative products to carry the design such as a bus design and Citroën DS3 car design – very clever marketing.

Example of how her “Multi stem” iconic design has been marketed on a full range of household items of bags and wallets, luggage, home and kitchen wares, mugs and garden ware.

Example of how her “Multi stem” iconic design has been marketed on a full range of household items of bags and wallets, luggage, home and kitchen wares, mugs and garden ware.

And it is this design that has become so closely associated with her name that is used for her “business tactic” to keeping her brand evolving. She regularly reinterprets and updates this design and in an interview with the Telegraph she talks of this approach “….we decided to turn the stem into a vehicle for the brand that we could change. Reinventing it has become a quarterly challenge but it always seems to work out….”  A quick search for design variations led me to see how successful this method has worked – it may only be a change in scale of the same pattern or reversing the pattern from a bold look to a gentle outline design but it’s always the Stem design but with a new look.

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Some of the iconic Stem Design variations

Some of the iconic Stem Design variations

lexvassettdesigns.blogspot.co.uk – Orla Keily pattern book images

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orla_Kiely

http://www.thepodcompany.co.uk/pages/Orla_Kiely

http://fashion.telegraph.co.uk/news-features/TMG10467824/Lessons-from-the-Stylish-Orla-Kiely.html interview

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1205665/The-REAL-domestic-goddess-How-Cath-Kidston-conquering-world-floral-polka-dot-designs.html – Cath Kidston interview

And finally, Cath Kidston. A Style that has literally taken the world by storm and needs little introduction. Originally started in 1992 with a vintage curtain shop in London which developed into selling home furnishings via a confused fabric order from Eastern Europe. It has since expanded steadily to become a global lifestyle brand selling home furnishings and related home products all sporting “her” retro nostalgic floral designs. Like the other 2 companies she also spotted potential to expand in different directions and so embarked on a series of clever collaborations including mobile phone covers with Nokia, eco-friendly bags with Tesco, Tents and sleeping bags with Millets and Roberts retro radios to mention only a few. She has cornered the market with her house style of prints and has taken this further by taking the designs to other countries like Kuwait and Japan that relish the” idyllic country style” that her company has to offer.

Camping products at Millets

Camping products at Millets

Roberts Radios

Roberts Radios

Personally these companies do not appeal to me but I have used them to illustrate the buying habits of the general public. They all have the most loyal and dedicated client base that keep returning to buy the next product that has the Cath Kidston touch or the Orla Keily pattern so from a commercial point they are doing something right. And what’s interesting to me is that they are all “retro” in one way or another, either standing the test of time like Marimekko or being influenced by retro design in the case of Orla Keily and Cath Kidston. Do the public always like to surround themselves with nostalgic items for the emotional wellbeing or is it just a reaction to the current times? At some point these companies will have to reconsider their style again and adapt it in some way but the real question is will their current style become clichéd in totality for me the answer has to be yes.

So I think there various ideas to take on board here.

In a commercial way, always be looking out for new ways to apply a design within your own range of products and accessories but also to be looking out for companies to join forces with to launch a combined product. Enlist the new approaches and talents of new designers either through employment or via carefully managed projects. Consider reworking a design with subtle variations to update the look and with this one in mind it might be worth looking towards trend prediction companies as they not only predict pattern and texture forecasts for fashion but also colour palettes and not forgetting your own research by watching watch goes on around you within society. Social media is playing a bigger and bigger part in this every day. Company blogs with links to Facebook is a great platform for spreading the word about a brand and it can prompt informal discussions which might not only lead to sales but is useful in terms of feedback from the public as to what they like now and want from the future. But overall always be building ideas and an image bank from various sources, like magazines, sketchbooks, snapped everyday photographs, websites to have “relevant inspiration” for designs for your own “personality” or “house style” to refer back to when needed.

References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cath_Kidston

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UPDATE – NEW BOOK THROUGH AMAZON

Marimekko: In Patterns

 

This entry was posted in LEVEL 2 - P3 - Working from museums - Project - Experimenting with imagery - Exercise - Exploring the possibilties, LEVEL 2 - P3 - Working from museums - Project - Experimenting with imagery - Research point, LEVEL 2 - P3 - Working from museums - Project - Storytelling with imagery and text, LEVEL 2 - TEXTILES 2 : Contemporary Practice. Bookmark the permalink.

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