Can you give us a background on Bethnals and how your relationship with the brand began?
Bethnals was one of the first projects we took on as a newly founded studio. We have been with the team since the inception of the brand, even helping out with the naming exercise which eventually led to the East London inspired moniker. We feel very close to the brand and have a real vested interest in seeing it do well. They’re definitely one of our favourite clients. It is one of those relationships where the client really values the work we do and understands the impact it can have.
I think it is important to work with clients who you truly believe in, which is definitely the case with Bethnals; properly made, well designed, unisex denim garments from an independent UK design team. I can see us working together long into the future. I really admire the ongoing relationship and work produced by StudioSmall and Margaret Howell for example. If we could achieve the same level of brand consistency over the years I’d be very happy.
What's the concept behind the brand identity that you've created?
The name is obviously inspired by the brands origins in East London. The name Bethnals is basically derived from the Cockney rhyming slang for jeans; “That’s a nice pair of Bethnal Greens mate” (Bethnal Greens = Jeans). Once this was decided we looked at the area of Bethnal Green itself for visual references. It was actually down on the tube platform that we noticed rather beautiful small tiles built into the walls. Using these as reference we redrew some of the shapes, animals and icons and started to integrate them into our early design concepts. While none of the shapes were actually used in the final identity one graphic device that did come out of the exercise were the bold lines used to frame the illustration on the tiles. This was then linked with the uprights of the logotype as if the lines had been extruded from the tops of some of the letterforms.
This gave us our little collection of lines which have been used subtly throughout the garment details, labelling, printed collateral and website. A simple collection of 4 lines almost means nothing but the way in which we got to those 4 lines is a nice little story I think; a small but important reference back to the heritage of the area.
How do you make sure each new seasonal campaign feels fresh, yet stays on brand?
This is all down to collaboration and communication. Over the course of 4 seasons we have built a great team that all work on Bethnals. We have preferred photographers and stylists that understand what we are trying to do with the brand and share the same vision. We all get together, discuss the clothes, look at the samples, and talk about the inspiration behind the collection as a whole. We have limited budgets with Bethnals as they are a true independent brand but we always manage to secure great locations and tend to use new faces for the campaigns to keep model costs reasonable. Where there is a will there is way!
Most credit has to go to Melissa though, the founder of the brand who designs every garment herself. She has such a keen eye and is constantly on top of the trends. I sometimes find it a shame that she will design and release something that one of the high street retailers sees, copies and gets on their shelves a couple of months later after she has been working on it so hard. But such is the industry. I think the main thing is just to stay as engaged as possible with what is going on around you so you naturally pick up ideas and inspiration. It isn’t such a daunting task to then integrate or adapt these into campaigns for examples.
What was the process like of bringing the identity to life for the Bethnals store?
When we started to think about furniture and a partner to help bring the store to life we looked at what Bethnals stood for; a simple, fuss-free aesthetic but with a focus on quality and premium materials. We also knew that we wanted to find someone from the local area to maintain the brands connection to East London. This eventually led us to the work of Unto This Last, a furniture makers in Brick Lane. Their method of construction and finish was a perfect fit for Bethnals and after a couple of meetings we had arranged to adapt some of their existing products to suit a retail situation better and also came up with designs for hanging rails which could be easily dismantled and transported. In return we’re now pleased to say that if you were to walk into their workshop in Shoreditch nearly all of the staff are wearing Bethnals clothes. It makes for one very good looking work uniform!
The rest of the shop interior was kept deliberately simple. The walls were painted, the floor left worn, and a local sign painter from This Is My Costume hand painted the shop opening times on the windows. We also had the hanging sign hand painted too in a bid to make the shop feel like it had been part of Spitalfields market longer than it had. The main thing we tried to achieve with the shop was to promote the product as clearly as possible, so as long as customers could see, feel and interact with the fabrics easily then we were happy.
Having worked on a range of projects for the brand, which one have you enjoyed the most?
There has been a lot of enjoyable aspects to the working on the brand. The shop is definitely a favourite purely because it was a very exciting time for the brand and felt like a massive achievement for everyone involved. The collaboration with another design company was a great experience too.
The campaign shoots are always an intense but fun couple of days, there is always a lot of laughter on set. Even small things like designing a custom set of icons for the washcare label was strangely enjoyable as sometimes it is all about the details. It has been a pleasure for everyone to work on a project where we touch every little aspect of a brands output. It has been one of our best partnerships and I’m looking forward to making similar relationships with other clients in the future.
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