Colour, strong branding and modular staging are just some elements needed for great show stands and storefits, says brand image specialist Bobblehat.
When Drapers wanted to make a statement at this season’s Pure London by completely revamping its stand, it approached Bobblehat, specialist in brand image and development. The brief? To visualise the exciting elements that make up the Drapers brand, ranging from the magazine, website and special reports to national awards, roundtables and bespoke events.
“We wanted to emphasise the fact that Drapers is involved in a spectrum of awards and events, and so conceived the ‘word storm’ to reflect this,” explains John Courtney, co-director of Bobblehat.
“The black and white theme was devised to give the Drapers stand a newsy, newspaper feel. The theme also created a cool business environment, with the large Drapers logo printed on white stretch fabric providing a bold backdrop. We added lavender plants in white ceramic pots to complement the black and white theme, and remind everyone that the summer 15 season is here.”
‘The atmosphere of the show will inform design, but new collections need to be shown against a great backdrop’
John Courtney, co-director, Bobblehat
The creative process for stand development is based on collaboration between designer and client. For Bobblehat, it is crucial to understand the brand’s DNA and general positioning in the market, while also taking into account other elements such as retail presence, which feed into the overall look.
“Generally our clients will outline brand image guidelines and sometimes a theme for us to follow,” Courtney explains. “We begin by thinking about how the stand will work in a physical sense, taking into account what sort of displays will be needed, how furniture will be used, how the storage works and, of course, lighting. Key to our thinking is a design that can cost-effectively change each season.
“It’s so important to make the space work as hard as possible. We always imagine from the start how the stand will function with people on it,” he adds.
“When we’ve considered the practicalities, we begin to develop rough sketches and a mood board to clarify our thoughts.
“Clients seem to like this approach, as nothing at this early stage is cast in stone and it gives everybody an opportunity to have their input.”
For a supplier wanting to make a brand statement at a trade fair the advice is to keep it simple, but ensure the branding is strong.
“The atmosphere of the show will inform the design, but essentially new collections need to be shown off against a great backdrop.
“If it’s a ‘buying’ show then it must include areas conducive to business, but lots of our clients prefer to show new collections within a cool environment with informal seating, which can encourage increased dwell time and discussion,” Courtney explains.
Pitti Uomo, Bread & Butter, Panorama and Moda are other European shows where you can see Bobblehat design in action.
A long-standing relationship with Camel Active saw Bobblehat develop a completely new look for the label’s stand at Moda three years ago. This was achieved by introducing an industrial look using a local craftsman specialising in effects such as rust and distressed concrete.
Through collaboration with BMB Menswear Group, Bobblehat was tasked with updating The Label and Gibson stands. For this season’s Moda (August 10-12), the Gibson stand retained its ‘arches’ theme, but moved away from an industrial Victorian look to a summery style through a change in graphics and the addition of brick-effect wallpaper. Based on The Label stand’s existing modular structure, the new layout promoted the brand’s stock service within a sophisticated “gentleman’s outfitters” environment.
For this season’s Moda, Bobblehat also worked with German brands Olymp, Seidensticker and Meyer. When showing in the UK it is cost-effective for international exhibitors to engage a British company that understands the fashion industry and can build on an existing knowledge of pan-European shows.
Outside the trade show arena, Bobblehat faced different challenges when working with tailoring brand Chester Barrie on a concession within Harvey Nichols.
The concept utilised the existing fittings in store and was based on a consistent brand image used for all Chester Barrie’s concessions.
Carving out a niche in an existing retail space can have its complications. Bobblehat had to make the space unmistakably Chester Barrie, which it achieved through the introduction of blue walls and furniture made from wenge, a black wood, to set the scene.
In terms of visual merchandising in a retail space, Courtney believes there are some retailers that have got it just right. He admires the bold approach Superdry has taken to its Regent Street store, transforming a traditional flagship with clever lighting that leads the customers on a journey and creates “a memorable retail experience”.
In the luxury sector, Courtney says Bally’s Bond Street store is continuing to push premium to the next level, with no expense spared in creating “a fantastic environment”.
By contrast, he also praises the collegiate aesthetic of the Jack Wills store in Foubert’s Place, just off Carnaby Street, which is designed to captivate the customer as soon as they walk inside.
In Courtney’s opinion, a store should be significantly refitted every two years, although an element of change should ideally be introduced each season. To keep the look fresh without incurring the cost of a significant refit, adaptability is crucial.
“Virtually everything Bobblehat designs is modular,” he explains. “Concessions are regularly moved,sometimes at short notice, so it’s really important that everything is modular and moveable.
“Our exhibition experience has proved invaluable in developing modular design skills for retail.
“Exhibitions are very short term and retail is ever changing. Nothing should be permanent, not to say it shouldn’t look so.”