June 22, 2023

Airports: The Unlikely Frontier In Luxury Brand Innovation

More than most industries, travel and hospitality has had a turbulent few years - at the
sharp end of a global health crisis, geopolitical upheaval, and concerns around
sustainability. But this hasn’t put off a huge number of post-pandemic travellers from
dusting off their passports, with flights on transatlantic routes set to exceed
pre-pandemic levels this summer, according to the latest data from aviation specialist
OAG. With this in mind, and ahead of the big summer break, we want to focus on the
unlikely rise of the airport as a playground for innovative luxury brand thinking.

Travel hubs have always had a glamour to them, and airports in particular. Long
associated with the wonder of high-speed international travel, and of course the
benefits of duty free zones, luxury brands are a mainstay of any airport worth its salt.
But it’s also fair to say that this side of the airport experience has lost its sheen - if
they’re not passing time in generic retail spaces, travellers are making do with the
facilities on offer in equally uninspiring airport lounges. But a 2023 survey of
aeronautical professionals found that over two thirds believed that airports will likely
see an increased focus on memorable brand experiences. Brands are reengineering the
airport experience, with an array of innovative activities that make these
once-overlooked spaces feel exciting once more.

Brands we thought we already knew this side of the security gate are finding new ways
to come to life on the other, tailoring immersive experiences for captive audiences.
Visit Doha’s Hamad airport, and you’ll be able to pay a visit to the Vuitton Lounge - the
first in the world, and home to a shop, business centre, spa, bar, and
3-Michelin-starred restaurant. For Vuitton fans, it’s a chance to see and experience the
brand in a new way that goes far beyond its products, evolving it from a product brand
to a lifestyle brand that can live and breathe in a multitude of ways. But more than
delighting existing audiences, the airport environment is a chance for brands to speak to new ones in moments of transit - moments where assumptions are suspended and
habits upended. Zurich airport recently launched ‘GateZero’ to do just this: a
‘custom-designed store’ in collaboration with HighSnobiety, designed to offer a
‘curated selection of products and exclusive releases from over 15 brands to travellers
as they pass through Switzerland’s gateway to the world’. Designed of course to reveal
a new side to brands from Loewe to Balenciaga. It also has the effect of bringing the
airport experience itself up to date. Which brings us onto a second group of brands
that are innovating in this space - airports, and the countries and regions they
represent.

Take Charles de Gaulle airport - it recently unveiled designs to turn Terminal 1 into a
high concept multi-use space. Backed by the airport’s newly launched brand ‘Extime’,
it incorporates artistic interventions, an architect-designed restaurant, and a
reinvigorated retail area that all add up to an elevated experience of Paris that starts at
the airport. Back at Doha, visitors also have the chance to enjoy a free tour of Qatar’s
capital, or spend time at the Qatar airways-owned Oryx lounge and hotel - complete
with luxury rooms and a wellness and sports area. These spaces provide opportunities
for countries and regions to shape visitors’ experience and perceptions, crucial ‘soft
power’ tools for building their countries’ brands on the world stage. It’s also a chance
for brands to add weight to their origin stories.

Luxury is, in part, defined by its ability to constantly discover new corners of culture. Its
rediscovery of the airport - long-considered a necessary discomfort to be alleviated,
rather than an experience to be enhanced - is yet another small but significant of just
this. For us at Rankin, the examples show not just the power of creating brand
experiences that make exciting use of their contexts, but more importantly the power of
questioning everything.

Image credit: Business of Fashion

June 14, 2023

Through The Lens: Kenyatte Nelson Long Read

Rankin and the team sit down for a bumper interview filled with life and leadership lessons, with Kenyatte Nelson, non-executive director for the British Retail Consortium. Delving into the subtleties of creating for high fashion, and zooming out to discuss building creative environments and the opportunities of WEB 3.0. Through it all Kenyatte guides us through the noise and to the heart of the matter.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Rankin: Do you feel fashion marketing is fundamentally different from other kinds of advertising? How?

Kenyatte: Yeah, I think the fashion market is different, mainly because fashion is necessary in so much as people need to wear something – but the vast majority of what we buy is not essential. So it's an emotive purchase. And so fashion marketing needs to be evocative, it needs to create and sustain an emotional reaction. 

And though my view may be a bit controversial, I think most marketing is white noise. The vast majority is not evocative, it's not brave. And in a category that requires provocation, the best in that context is marketing that drives a different point of view and that requires bravery. That's a difficult thing to do.

And so I think brands that communicate why their fashion, their design, their point of view is different, those are the brands that are successful. If you can't do that, and we've seen this, particularly in the British High Street, then it's a race to the bottom. You end up trading margin for sales instead of differentiation for margin, which is what successful businesses do.

Rankin: Luxury fashion brands don't tend to work with traditional agencies. Do you think that's the right approach or do you think more traditional agencies do have a place in that area?

Kenyatte: In my view, the requirement for great fashion creative is less about the agency you use and more about the people involved. And I say that because my view is that any creative endeavour, if it's truly creative, requires raw, almost counterculture, thinking. Creative people challenge conformity, they challenge the norm, and the more creative the endeavour, the more challenging that becomes.

And so they end up using and working with people who are outside of the conventional creative kind of sectors and most of the time they're right. I think they believe that those individuals are not confined by the conventions that sometimes constrain some of the big box agencies.

Now, do I think that those guys can do it better? Always? Not necessarily. But I think it requires a different kind of thinking and a different kind of approach. And I think one of the reasons why high fashion brands tend to work with different kinds of creative agencies is because you get a better quality of tension that happens as a result of those individuals in the room.

Rankin: Yeah, in fashion, you're not actually trying to solve clear direct problems so the storytelling is different, isn't it?

Kenyatte: I think so. With FMCG, for example, there are a lot of problems/solutions.

So I spent 16 years working with Procter and Gamble, but ten of those years working in hair care, then the last six working in fine fragrance and colour cosmetics for fashion brands like Gucci, Dolce Gabbana and others.

The difference in the way that we approached the creative from the first half of my P&G career, to the second half was fundamentally different.

And I think you're absolutely right, one tends to be more of a problem/solution. The other is about creating desire, because, again - this isn't a nonessential category. You know, no one needs a $5,000 handbag. No one can convince you that you need it. And so my job in that context is to create desire so that desire makes you forget about the price alone. 

This is not rational thinking. This is highly emotional, and so you need to tap into the things that are much more evocative in that context.

Rankin: I find those in luxury fashion are not as scared of taking risks and doing different things to get there, don't you think?

Kenyatte: No, they're not. And the other thing that I'm seeing that is really interesting is more fashion brands leaning into co-creation to achieve that connection. 

The Ralph Lauren collaboration with Palace a few years ago, the stuff they're doing in the Metaverse with Roblox, there's some really interesting stuff happening with fashion brands. Because, I think, of their willingness and ability to lean into the new and almost co-create and have two-way conversations with their customer base.

Rankin: How do you think you can create a culture where those kinds of evocative ideas can grow?

Kenyatte: If I had the answer to that question, I would be a much wealthier man!

I think in terms of creating a culture where creativity can flourish, the first thing that has to happen is there needs to be - across the organisation - psychological safety. 

Any creative endeavour is going to seek to challenge the norm, it's not going to conform. 

So if you're looking to be creative, and let me be clear - I think you can be creative in anything.

But I think what is required is feeling psychologically safe to do so. You need to feel like you can fail because you're not going to get it right every time. In the end, in the missing of the mark, there are lessons and learnings that can be applied to improve the next iteration of the endeavour, whatever it is. 

Creativity is going to flourish in that environment because people aren’t too afraid to allow themselves to move into that space. So I think that's critically important. I think the other thing that's really important is you need to be in a business or a place that views creativity as strategically important, because if they view it as strategically important, then they will create the environment where creativity can flourish.

My dad used to say;  ‘Go where you are celebrated and not just tolerated’.

Rankin: I just want you to talk a little more about what you think is maybe the key to building those emotional connections and 'two-way' conversations as you said.

Kenyatte: Yeah. I'll start with why I believe that's important from a personal context. I tend to believe and I've always felt this, that I personally am more anthropologist than marketeer. The reason I got into this career is because I love people. 

I think if you're going to be a really, really great marketeer, you have to get comfortable listening and tuning your ears outward and your eyes outward and understanding what it is that drives behaviour, that drives choice and desire. And I think when you understand that, you're able to tell more compelling stories, you're able to create more interesting narratives. And those are things that people gravitate towards, right? 

Rankin: And having that ability and desire to really listen, do you think that's about the types of individuals in the room?

Kenyatte: Yes. In the context of getting the right voices in the room to drive out a better result. We talk about this in the context of diversity and inclusion quite a bit, right? I have a personal point of view that diversity and inclusion is sometimes a bit misconstrued. I think a lot of times businesses and individuals think about DE&I in the context of what you might class as ‘visual’.

And there are lots of different kinds of diversity, there's visual diversity for sure, there's obviously ability diversity, but there's also diversity of thought, of experience and of socioeconomic upbringing. 

And so in my mind, the important thing is to acknowledge that diversity is a fact, It just is - No one's the same, no one. So diversity is not a debatable point. 

And in fact, inclusion is an act, we have to lean into inclusion and we have to actively pull in other voices, perspectives, and points of view. I'm not saying that to suggest that we shouldn't be opening up equality of opportunity for women or people who have different abilities or ethnic diversity. I'm not suggesting that at all. That's important but I think if we can get businesses, whether that's fashion or otherwise, to lean into the inclusion piece of it and the intention around inclusion, you're 50, 60% of the way there. In my view, that's when the magic will happen.

I think unfortunately what happens now is people are focusing on, 'do the people in the room look different than me?'  Well, that's great. But if you all went to the same school, does it fucking matter?! 

It's about creating a listening culture, not a telling culture. So that's what I think because inclusivity is not about bringing someone to the table, it is bringing someone to the table and letting them talk and listening to them. 

And human beings, if anything, want to be acknowledged, they want to be heard. When they're not being heard, they make it very clear that they have a problem with that. I think that's the bit that brands can get wrong sometimes, the brands that get it right, are the ones that in the long run, create some brilliant conversations with their customers.

Opal [Creative at RC]: So looking into the future of those conversations with the audience, what do you think is the biggest opportunity coming for those?

Kenyatte: It's always interesting to speculate because there's about a 100% chance you get it wrong! 

But from my point of view the biggest opportunity in the fashion sector is probably in the continuous growth of D2C and the WEB 3.0 space.

When you look at what luxury fashion brands and well, high street fashion brands have been doing over the last, I would say, five years, it’s aggressively moving into the D2C space. They are moving their capabilities and product, and the way they sell their product, into what I would class as a vertically integrated way to serve their customers. And I think more brands will move into that space from a Web 3.0 standpoint.

More brands will start to experiment with the idea of selling fashion commercially, that is digital. So you look at Tencent; you can buy fashion for your avatar and pay real money for digital clothing.

I don't think we're far from that, I think that this is something that brands are starting to look to play with, in some way. Because the fashion business from a physical standpoint - we saw this with COVID - is completely overserved, the reality is no one needs any more physical clothes.

The landfills are filling up, all over the place circular is becoming more populist and interesting. Rental economies and borrowing fashion or selling, buying and then reselling on platforms like Depop, eBay, Stock X and others is becoming more normalised. 

But If I have an avatar and I can dress them in Polo Sport and I can dress them in Prada and I can dress them in a ‘fill-in-the-blank’. That becomes really interesting, particularly if I'm paying real money to get that product.

You don't have to physically create it, It costs virtually nothing to make, there are endless iterations that can be done so you can create highly desirable collaborations, even one-off products that people might be willing to spend more money for - the possibilities are endless! And so for me, I think that’s where the industry will move.

Opal: And what do you think are the opportunities or implications for brands in the WEB 3.0 spaces?

Kenyatte: I think the opportunities for brands are huge because if I've paid money for something, there's a high likelihood I want people to know what it is!

And so I think the opportunity for brands is quite exciting. Because if you can create and sustain a strong brand presence in the real world and in the digital space, you'll be rewarded for that. In the digital space, far more than in the physical space in my view.

I think we're just starting to barely scratch the surface on this stuff. So if you have a brand and you're not experimenting in this space - not necessarily plunking loads of money on it - but experimenting and playing around, then you're missing a trick. We have to learn because this is where the consumer will move.

But look, we're physical beings, we exist in a physical world and that's never going to change. We're all always going to go meet friends and go get coffee and go shop and hold hands in public displays of affection. But I do think it will fundamentally change the way we engage with one another outside of those physical interactions. And I think the implications from a branding standpoint are huge in the context of the opportunities to engage with customers more frequently and in different ways.

June 14, 2023

RANKIN CREATIVE x The Drum

"When we are pitching, we always ask ourselves *three* questions...".

Our very own Amy Claridge, Head of Account Management at Rankin Creative, chats to The Drum on striking the right balance between head and heart in pitching.

Read the article to discover more https://lnkd.in/gDe6HxxC.

June 7, 2023

The Call Wins Bronze at The Caples Awards

A huge congratulations to Jordan RossiSwitchboard - National LGBTQ+ Helpline and the incredible team here at RANKIN CREATIVE behind the short film, The Call, for their remarkable achievement at The Caples Awards!

We are thrilled to announce that The Call has won the prestigious bronze award in TV and Video Advertising at The Caples, recognising its excellence in storytelling and filmmaking. This incredible accomplishment is a testament to the dedication, creativity, and passion poured into every aspect of this captivating film. A massive round of applause goes out to all the talented individuals who contributed their skills and expertise to make The Call a reality.

Watch the full film here.

May 23, 2023

The Lightbulb: Caroline Rush

Welcome back to The Lightbulb. For this issue, we spoke to the inimitable Caroline Rush, Chief Executive of the British Fashion Council. She has 20 years of experience in Marketing and PR across both consumer and corporate communications in fashion, music and lifestyle. For a span of five years, she skilfully helmed her own business, overseeing critical aspects such as strategic communications and efficiently managing the complete press office operations for the prestigious British Fashion Council. 

Since her appointment as Chief Executive in April 2009, Burberry, Jonathan Saunders, Matthew Williamson, Mulberry, Preen and Pringle of Scotland have returned to show their collections at London Fashion Week. Caroline has expanded the LONDON show ROOMS and Style Suites, taking British designers to new markets including Hong Kong, Los Angeles, New York, Paris and Sao Paolo. She was charged with curating the 2009 25th anniversary legacy project for the British Fashion Council, which included launching the BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund and the BFC Fashion Arts Foundation. 

Last week, Caroline announced the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design, which was presented to LABRUM London (Foday Dumbuya) by none other than His Majesty The King Charles III. During this event, Caroline also announced the incredible impact of the BFC, which remitted £1.2m in funds to designers and scholars via its charity, the BFC Foundation, in the financial year 2022/2023.

Caroline has also undergone intensive preparations for the year-long celebration of the 30th anniversary of the showcasing initiative, BFC NEWGEN. BFC NEWGEN 30 celebrations include a landmark exhibition at the Design Museum, titled, REBEL: 30 Years of London Fashion. The exhibition is sponsored by Alexander McQueen, guest curated by Sarah Mower MBE, BFC Ambassador for Emerging Talent and Rebecca Lewin, Design Museum Senior Curator, and will run from 15 September 2023 to 11 February 2024. Keep your eyes peeled for tickets, which go on sale in June 2023.

Caroline Rush, The King and Foday Dumbuya (Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design recipient)

WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST LIGHTBULB MOMENT IN YOUR CAREER TO DATE?

It really is too difficult to pinpoint one - there are too many! No day is the same and my job can be quite varied so I am constantly learning and evolving. I find that every day is a school day and there are lightbulb moments scattered throughout. My role at the BFC has afforded me many rewarding and exciting experiences.

I recently heard an expression which resonated with me deeply: "A great experience is a sequence of small actions executed excellently". 

Richard Quinn show, LFW February 2018

WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION?

There isn’t one place, but nature is always a source of inspiration for me. While my role is exceptionally rewarding, it involves long days and managing many different priorities, so it’s important for me to step away every now and then to clear my mind.

Spending time outdoors is essential, going for a walk with my dog Ruby is a critical part of my day (and best way to start the day). After spending time in nature, I get more clarity, feel like there is less ‘noise’ and am often flooded with creative solutions to things that have kept me awake the night before.

Vogue Designer Fashion Fund Cocktail Party, May 2022 & LFW Opening Party at the Windmill Soho, September 2021

WHAT'S YOUR WEIRDEST OBSESSION?

I am SoulCycle obsessed but only in NY. Don’t get me wrong I love SoulCyle in London, but do I make it an essential to my every day – no.  However, there is something about the energy in the NYC classes that's so addictive - the music, the intensity, the feeling of pushing yourself to your limit. It's definitely not for everyone, even though I try to drag whoever is travelling with me to get the bug.

If you asked my daughter what my weirdest obsession is, she would say my dog Ruby for sure. When she was a puppy I used to tell people how old she was in months like a baby and she hasn't let me live it down!  

So, how old is she – 3 years and 5 months!

The BFC Foundation Impact Announcement

WHAT'S ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU LIVE BY?

If your heart is in something, leave no stone unturned and spare no effort. Give it your all! 

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING PEOPLE IS?

Personally, I've found that one of the most important things is to stand in somebody else’s shoes and try as best you can to see the world from their perspective. I’ve learned that you need to listen to someone’s point of view and be curious, open-minded, and compassionate. Over the years, I have had the absolute privilege of meeting people from all over the world who have had very different life experiences.  

Every single person has something unique to offer and there is always something to learn.

BFC/GQ Designer Menswear Fund Judging Day, 2022 & BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund Mentoring day with Paul Smith, 2022

Caroline’s stewardship has kept British Fashion at the forefront, and we’re incredibly excited to see the rising stars that grow through the BFCs support over the next few years. 

Join us next month as we interview British stage and screen actress and writer Anjli Mohindra, best known for her pivotal role as Nadia in the BAFTA & Golden Globe winning BBC drama, BodyGuard.

April 24, 2023

What Does The ‘Quiet Luxury’ Movement Mean For How Luxury Brands Communicate?

It feels like we’ve reached the peak of something. An era of creativity that didn’t shout, but screamed. Stole our attention with unlikely collaborations and delighted us with technological innovations. Call it the era of maximalism. 

But on the runways that set the tone for the industry, a trend is emerging that suggests we’re entering a new chapter in the evolution of luxury communications. Call it the ‘quiet fashion’ movement. As Angelo Flaccavento observed in his analysis of Paris Fashion Week, ‘in an age of sensory overload, acts of reduction resonated most.’ What this means is obvious when it comes to garments and objects - acts of reduction mean the snip of the couturier's scissors, a focus on quality and nuance, a move away from logomania. Brands who have made simplicity and subtlety their thing - brands like The Row and Zegna - are enjoying commercial success in this context. But off the runway, in the world of communications, what do ‘acts of reduction’ really look like?

If surging economic growth and cultural optimism has been the driver of the era of maximalism, economic uncertainty, combined with an increasing demand for and appreciation of craft, is the driver of the era of reduction. With hugely complex international issues affecting individual budgets and collective attitudes, we wanted to explore how luxury can continue to contribute to culture in a context of dramatic cultural change. That means looking at brands that are helping define this new era of reduction, who are ahead of the curve in demonstrating that acts of reduction can in fact open up a whole new world of creativity. At RANKIN, where we believe the lifeblood of creativity lies in questioning everything, it’s a topic we’ve been very excited about.  

From stealing the limelight to sharing it

If the era of maximalism has been about brands competing for the limelight, the era of reduction is about sharing it. Many established brands have a long but under-leveraged heritage in supporting the future of the industry - from Vetements’ and Off-White’s support for young designers to Loewe’s craft prize that supports the kind of craftspeople that are key to its equity. We think these kinds of initiatives will become increasingly important as brands look to act in more generous ways. 

From short-term gimmicks to meaningful actions

The era of reduction will be about shifting towards more meaningful, long-term actions. This year, LVMH will report on the performance of its LVMH Initiatives for the Environment programme, ‘which made sustainable development an integral part of the strategic business plans of all LVMH Maisons’. It’ll be an opportunity for its respective brands to demonstrate action beyond the kind activities that quickly become yesterday’s news, and show commitment to addressing global issues over the long-term. 

From exclusive products to experiences for all

Exclusivity defined the era of maximalism. But as economic headwinds exclude many brands’ most enthusiastic followers, offering those audiences opportunities to continue to participate in brand worlds will become key. Balmain’s annual festival is a great example of this - it grew from a fashion show to a food, music, and fashion event ‘happening for 10,000 friends of the house’, with a portion of the proceeds going to global charity RED. ‘Reduction’ doesn’t mean small scale or boring. 

Luxury is a creative force whose cultural reach and influence has grown further, wider, and deeper than its founding mothers and fathers could ever have imagined. But luxury brands have always been the innovators, finding new ways to stand out from their competitors, and fuel the cultural conversation - whether it’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s court wardrobe, or Balenciaga’s redemptive show from this season. If the cultural currency of the era of maximalism has been headline-grabbing actions, the brief for the era of reduction is to share the limelight, create long-term impact, and widen access to brands. How brands respond to that brief is still an open question, requiring brands to question everything that has gone before - something that aligns precisely with our ethos here at RANKIN.

Image Credit: The Independent

March 16, 2023

How Luxury Brands Can Help the Movement to Save the Planet

It’s spring. New life is waking up and blooming. So we wanted to turn our attention to nature and think about how luxury — always at the vanguard of culture — is rising to the defining challenge of the age: climate change. While fashion and sustainability are often seen as contradictory, we think that brands, through their behaviour and storytelling, have an important role to play in halting the climate emergency.

It is nearly a year since the New York Times’ influential fashion director Vanessa Friedman disavowed the phrase “sustainable fashion”. It is an “oxymoron,” she said: sustainable means continuity, fashion means change. Friedman cast doubt on the growing universe of Chief Sustainability Officers, novel-length ESG reports and international industry groups who exist to assert fashion’s green credentials.

Given the fashion industry still contributes up to ten percent of global emissions, brands should be wary of overclaiming. Friedman suggested a new term — not “sustainable” fashion, but “responsible” fashion. This is more honest, more modest and has the added benefit of not being logically incoherent.   

Friedman is right. But we also think there’s another, overlooked way luxury brands can help the quest to stop climate change. And the good news is it involves doing more of what they do best. 

In 2012, the author and environmentalist Richard Louv wrote “We cannot protect something we do not love. We cannot love something we do not know. And we cannot know what we do not see. Or hear. Or sense.” To protect the natural world, it helps to be beguiled by it. And who better to beguile us than the world’s most desired brands?

Luxury is about seduction. Through alluring images and storytelling, it persuades us not just to buy things but to reappraise whole strands of society. The luxury industry elevated streetwear into high culture. It brought protest movements into high-end retail spaces and the pages of glossy magazines. And now it can do the same for the environment. 

Forward thinking brands are already nudging us toward a greater appreciation of nature. Chloe is suffused with images that give us a delicate, intimate view of nature. In its Open Spaces ad, British brand Burberry evokes the raw energy of experiences in the great outdoors. Pangaia, meanwhile, reframes nature as an innovator. The late Dame Vivienne Westwood brought a campaigning voice to her designs and the communications around them. These brands are not just making their supply chains and production methods more sustainable. They’re looking at the natural world as a source of creative inspiration, surrendering the stage to nature and inspiring communion with a world that city-dwelling audiences are increasingly curious about.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CaEkGygAdMg/

Seductive depictions of nature persuade the public to conserve it without shaming or guilt-tripping them. These ad campaigns are not pious. Quite the opposite: they are indulgent. They luxuriate in the beauty of the natural world and turn the planet into an object of desire and aspiration.  

These bold creative visions reflect a shift in the way brands approach issues like sustainability. Once relegated to CSR departments, worthy causes have gone from afterthought to core concern. More than ever, brands are putting considerable marketing and creative resource into showing the world the good they are doing.

Of course, putting nature at the heart of branding is not enough. ‘Greenwashing’ is a growing problem and campaigners are getting better at calling it out. Behaviour must match communications. Brands like Chloe understand this: the company is so committed to sustainable business that it is now officially a B-Corp. Pangaia is an innovator, too, having experimented with ways to source raw materials from natural ingredients. LVMH and Kering have also taken massive industry-defining steps in the last few years.

But it’s through creativity that brands can have the biggest impact. By celebrating the wondrous beauty of nature, and by helping us connect with it emotionally, brands and communicators appeal to us in a different way to scientists and campaigners. For a long time science has held a monopoly over climate communications. Even as the effects of rising temperatures become more lethal and apparent, for many climate change remains an emergency of numbers. And numbers do not galvanise movements. 

“The spaces of the imagination can touch people in a way that data cannot,” wrote the designer Amale Andaros. It is a truth first observed by Aristotle who 2,500 years ago wrote that facts, shorn of emotion, have little persuasive power. The Scottish philosopher David Hume agreed. He wrote that reason and logic are “slave to the passions”.

Passion is the stock in trade of luxury brands, which is why they have such an important role to play in tackling the defining problem of our times. As masters of persuasion, creative professionals can lead culture toward the light and encourage ever greater action within the industry too. Through storytelling and creativity, we can make sure the most coveted and desired thing in the world is the natural world itself.

March 7, 2023

Rolls Royce Phantom Syntopia

How do you tell the story of a new realm of possibility?

Phantom Syntopia is the bespoke creation by the phenomenal but complementary worlds of Rolls-Royce and Iris van Herpen.

We brought to life the transcendental state of being that emerges when the two worlds collide in harmonious symbiosis. We’re immensely proud of the whole team who brought the magic of Syntopia to life and to delve deeper into the thinking behind this beautiful new piece, we sat down with Emily Drake, Associate Creative Director of RANKIN CREATIVE to share her experience from leading the project.

Can you discuss any specific moments or aspects of the campaign that were particularly challenging or rewarding for you?

Rolls-Royce are the masters of creating colour palettes beyond your wildest imagination. The Phantom Syntopia’s exterior was no exception. The bespoke ‘liquid noir’ took over 3,000 hours of research and development to create. The result is otherworldly. You walk past Phantom Syntopia and the colour of the exterior constantly changes. From purple to gold to magenta then blue.

I know what you’re thinking, this will be a nightmare to shoot?

Not when you have experts in their field behind the camera. Luckily we had Rankin. This was my first shoot with him and it was amazing to experience his ability to look at such an intimidating subject and light it with ease. After the shoot we all felt like we had attended a masterclass in lighting.

What were some of the key design and stylistic elements that you wanted to incorporate into the campaign?

The campaign demonstrates the transcendental state of being that emerges when the two phenomenal but complementary worlds of Rolls-Royce and Iris van Herpen come together in harmonious symbiosis. It was paramount to demonstrate the concept of symbiosis so within the film there are moments you don’t know where the dress ends and the bespoke detailing begins to highlight the two worlds coming together.

What was your personal experience like working on the Iris Van Herpen and Rolls Royce Syntopia creative campaign?

There are not many opportunities where you get to create a campaign for a bespoke one-of-one piece of art. This was a trifecta career highlight.This project involved the world’s most luxurious motor car brand, the world’s most ground-breaking haute couture fashion designer and Rankin himself was the director and photographer of this campaign. I feel incredibly humbled and proud to have worked on this.


A huge round of applause to our RANKIN CREATIVE and True Black team for making this happen. Watch the full film below.

March 6, 2023

The Call x Switchboard – LIVE NOW

With the new short film 'The Call' written and directed by Jordan Rossi for Switchboard and supported by RANKIN CREATIVE, we get an intimate look at one person's journey towards self-discovery and acceptance. It stars the incredible Adam Ali and the voices of David Ames, Max Harwood & Oliver Wickham.

Through powerful storytelling and raw emotions we get to see Amir, a young individual exploring their sexuality and identity through conversations with Switchboard. Navigating the turbulent emotions of their obstacles to ultimately find peace in being their true self.

To gain a deeper understanding of the LGBTQ+ community and some of the challenges they face, The Call is a must watch and an important reminder of the importance of support, understanding, and the significant impact it can have on someone's life experience.

Switchboard, the LGBT+ Helpline provides a safe space for anyone to discuss anything which you can now for free on 0800 0119 100.

Watch the full film on YouTube.

March 2, 2023

The Lightbulb – Asma Khan

Welcome back to The Lightbulb; the monthly newsletter from our Strategy team uncovering perspective-changing moments from the world's most inspiring creative thinkers.

For this issue, we interviewed Asma Khan, the highly acclaimed chef and founder of the all-female restaurant Darjeeling Express. Asma recently opened the restaurant’s permanent new home in Kingly Court, less than a year after releasing her cookbook ‘Ammu’ (a tribute to her mother.)

Moving from India to Cambridge, UK in 1991 Asma found herself away from the mothers and grandmothers who cooked in such abundance and realised she didn’t know how to cook alone. But as she learned, cooking became Asma’s connection to home, her new community and an aspect of her new life she was able to control.

It was never my intention to do it professionally. This was the 1990s when you didn’t see anyone who looked like me or cooked like me on TV so the notion of that wasn’t even imaginable, but it created this universal bond between a community of immigrants in Cambridge from Afghanistan to Sri Lanka, we all found connection over food in my house. And I really began to understand the healing power of food”.
A PhD in law and two children later, she decided she wanted to lean into this and started doing supper clubs from her home despite scepticism from family and friends who couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t pursue a career in law. Everything changed after a pop-up Asma had been doing in a pub in Soho was put on the map by a review in the Evening Standard. And the restaurant opportunity then came calling. 

The idea of having Indian food in a pub in the 1990s was mad and it didn’t do well at all, then the review in Evening Standard changed everything”, Khan says.

On a bustling Wednesday morning, an hour before service was due to start, we caught up with Asma on her lightbulb moment, inspiration, the advice she lives by and much more.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST LIGHTBULB MOMENT OF YOUR CAREER?

Photography by Ming Tang Evans: @mintangevans

I realised after Chef's Table on Netflix came out, that I have the power to inspire women to make change happen. 

I can inspire women to speak up and fight against injustices in their lives. I’ve seen it for the last 4 years since the episode came out. I get stories every day from women from every culture, from Columbia all the way to Australia, who I have inspired and who have fought for change in their lives. Women were seeing themselves in me, that was huge. And I realised when I speak, I speak for all of us. That really was an incredible moment, to know people see themselves in me.

I could have gone for the glitz and glamour after Chef’s Table, it's not that I wasn’t offered all that like the other Chefs, but to fulfil the purpose I know I can -  to inspire women to fight for change in their own lives - I need to be where the battle is and that’s in the kitchen.

WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION? 

My deep inspiration is my mother, who broke a lot of stereotypes. She shook the world gently, she shook the patriarchy and made it look effortless. She wasn’t driven by profit or fame, she was driven by the notion of getting people to understand our culture and our food. Most of the chefs at home were male but she hired a lot of women.

She worked, she hired women, she didn’t face opposition, and she was really brave. So she’s really been my inspiration, especially when I faced a lot of opposition. I have a PhD, I was supposedly the smart one, and no one in my family could understand why I wanted to cook. 

You have to break the barriers in front of you and I realised in our culture and here back in the 1990s, there was a complete lack of respect for women, and in the UK there was also a complete lack of respect and understanding of South Asian food. And I thought instead of criticising, let's do something about it. 

I didn’t feel our food, cooked at home, by women, was represented, and I wanted to change the narrative of what our food is. It was political and societal. That’s also what keeps me going.

WHAT'S YOUR WEIRDEST OBSESSION?

[laughs] Poetry. Recently I’ve been trying to understand more complex Urdu poetry. When I should have learnt Urdu properly I didn't, sadly, I left home. But now, I am increasingly understanding the inadequacy of the English language [said with a wry smile]. South Asian languages; Punjabi, Bengali, Urdu; the layers in which you can speak, the tones are so beautiful. 

Poetry is the best way to experience the nuances of a language, so I spend a lot of time reading poetry. I write a lot of poetry which will never see the light of day because I’ll never publish it, but I am obsessed with it. 

Poetry, Ghazals, Qawwalii, they’re all linked, so this is an area I’m really obsessed with. I spend a lot of time and am so grateful for platforms like Spotify that let you experiment with all different kinds of music. I choose the playlist in the restaurant every day, I change it every day and it's very personal to me. 

So, I'm obsessed with music & poetry I guess.

Photography by Ming Tang Evans: @mintangevans

WHAT'S ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU LIVE BY?

Anything you do should be meaningful, it should have purpose. It can’t be the payslip at the end of the month. The driving force should always be about something more. For me, I don’t treat my business as a business, it's a revolution. We’re trying to drive change at every level.

I don’t want to talk about smashing the glass ceiling, there should be no ceiling; those in power have a responsibility to help the next generation. If you are powerful, if you have a roof over your head and food on your table and some level of security, you have an obligation to help others. I have a really dynamic group of women who came from very tough backgrounds, struggling for very basic things. They cook at different levels but together they are very powerful. Change is very important, when it comes to South Asian women, you need a change from the top down and that’s what I am, along with the women I employ who want to do it from the bottom up.

I’m driven by flattening the plane for women who look like me; there are too many doors and windows that keep women who look like me out. And my purpose is to change that, even when I’m gone. Social change will not end with my life. I want people to be able to use my name. 

And, actually, a really important piece of advice, to the younger girls, especially of our community: do not live a life where you are looking at your dress size or your Instagram followers or who your boyfriend or father is. 

Your glory has to come from you. Embrace the leader inside you, the rebel inside you. Set the world on fire. And don’t be obsessed with the notion of body shapes and the colour of your skin and hair. Be real, don’t get bogged down with a fake existence. Dream big, and inspire others to do the same.

AND WHAT DO YOU THINK THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING PEOPLE IS?

I’m going to take from Atticus in To Kill A Mockingbird - ‘you have to climb into their skin and walk in it’. You need to see things from people’s perspectives to understand their motivations and insecurities, hopes and wishes.  

Putting your own ego down really helps too. If you look through your own lens, you’ll not understand someone else’s journey.

Darjeeling Express is on the Top Floor of Kingly Court, Carnaby Street, frequented by the likes of Dan Levy & Paul Rudd, and well worth a visit (if you can get a table, that is). 
 

Join us next month as we sit down with Caroline Rush CBE, Chief Executive of the British Fashion Council, to discuss nurturing creativity, the future of British fashion, and the lightbulb moment that shaped her career.

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