A Big Fashionable Thank You: MODA

August 17 2016

Beth recently spoke at MODA in Birmingham, UK, to a wonderful audience of retailers, designers and other fashion folk. MODA is one of the two main fashion trade shows in the UK, and it encompasses women’s, men’s, accessories, footwear, and athletic wear and lingerie, so it is a very comprehensive gathering of designers, manufacturers and retail buyers. 

For her first experience on the catwalk, Beth talked about “Why Having a Brand Matters,” with an emphasis on helping the audience to understand how global fashion brands are built so that they can learn how to do it themselves. The audience was terrific, as were the exhibitors who she had the chance to interview and chat with.

Thank you, MODA! We have lots of new ideas on what to wear for 2017!

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Mercurylab in London Summer 2015 | At the Opera

July 13 2015


I want to confess to all of you that I have become the tiniest bit of an operaphile, or however it should be spelled. I came to the opera after years of resistance, having been dragged by my mother to see Gilbert & Sullivan operettas as a child and hating every moment. Then the Metropolitan Opera in NYC had a wild ticket sale to see Madame Butterfly at $25 per ticket, so off I went – and I was hooked. For visual people, the opera is, well, operatic. The extravagant scenery, defined and theatrical gestures, character defining costumes, and then, of course, there is the singing. 

In recent years, opera companies throughout the world have undertaken to bring this art form – originally of the people – to wider audiences, given that major performances with international stars, directors, and production designers are madly expensive to produce. Operas are filmed and shown at the cinema so that audiences all over the world can attend in their local theatre, while companies like the Met in NY use their piazza to simultaneously show a performance in real time, attracting thousands of viewers. The Met is grand in all of its brand expression, from its 1960s building, to the massive Chagall installations, and the extravagant grand staircase.  There are 3,800 seats. When we saw Madame Butterfly, we were literally almost sitting on the ceiling.

The Royal Opera is another story, though. The environment harks clearly to the past and to the company’s roots, with gilded boxes, silk shaded sconces, and a sense of real intimacy. It’s easy to imagine what it was like to go to the opera two hundred years ago. At the same time, this company is wildly modern in its concerns, with displays of plexiglass installations showing stage projections for their production of Don Giovanni. Although both opera houses have restaurants, the Royal Opera feels more intimate, a place where you can imagine having a tête-a-tête over a magnum of champagne before stumbling back to glory in the heroine’s dying aria.  Seeing Falstaff, reimagined as a highly designed and mannered Mad Men era world with its superficially chaste values, was an incredible way to first experience The Royal Opera and its visceral, seductive charms. 



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Beth at the Photographers Dining Club in London on April 1st

March 27 2015

Beth is very excited to have been invited to curate an evening on Discovering and Communicating Your Brand at the Photographers Dining Club at the Proud Archivist in London on April 1st. Joined by her clients, photographers Tom Parker and Squire Fox, Beth will be speaking as well as participating in an extended Q & A about the branding process, how it works, and how these two photographers have grabbed hold of their careers by working from the inside out.


The Dining Club marries two of our favorite yummy subjects: food and photography! Participants sit down for a dinner while discussing critical subjects in photography in talks given by leaders in the field. All in all, it’s a very chic event, which sold out in the first two hours! Never fear, though, as we will be posting excerpts from the event on our website in the near future, so stay tuned!

If you were not able to get a seat at the the Dining Club but still would like to meet with Beth, she will be meeting with clients old and new while she is in London. We are taking bookings until April 15th

Please contact studio@mercurylab.com to book your appointment.

See you soon!

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What's Old in New Again: Cool Old Folks

January 14 2015

Here’s a trend I’ve been noticing for some time now, certainly in the UK marketplace. There is a new focus on projects that are inspired by stylish and accomplished older folks. I first noticed it when Tim Walker published “The Granny Alphabet” in 2013. Beginning with the letter A, the text by Kit Hesketh-Harvey establishes the book’s intentions: “A is for alphabet, (ABC), and aged ancestors (Awfully like me.) Twenty-six letters, that’s twenty-six Grannies.” Walker describes the book as both a photographic love letter to the elderly as well as part documentation of a dying breed of little old ladies, with all proceeds going to the charity The Friends of the Elderly. It’s incredibly adorable.


From Tim Walker's The Granny Alphabet

Interestingly enough, I do notice when I’m in the UK that older people are not scorned, shut away, or buffed down with Botox the way can be here in our youth-obsessed culture in the US. Right now, Todd Selby has shot The Bright Old Things for Selfridge’s, the upscale and enduring retailer based on Oxford Street in London. The campaign is dedicated to gifted artists, artisans and designers who have embraced new professions and disciplines in their senior years. They range from a topiarist (who even knew that existed?) to a punk hero to a Vlogger to a painter. Selfridge’s has also installed an in-store and online boutique where you can buy these talented oldsters’ work .


Selfridges

I can remember my cousin’s incredibly cool grandma Gert. She was a total original, very effervescent and funny, who frequently entertained in diamonds and a peignoir, while lavishly serving champagne and chocolates. She had a dedicated suitor and was a gifted storyteller and magical, creative presence in everyone’s life. One day, I’m hoping to be a Bright Old Thing myself, and love that I have creative inspiration to build on in my own family. Who's your Bright Old Thing?

Go Forth! Mercurylab in London (Part Three) | The Conran Factor

August 05 2014

Sir Terence Conran’s influence on the way the British live has been immeasurable. It wouldn’t be possible for me to list all of his contributions to the design and comfort of British life, but he has been at it since the 1950s, and The Conran Group continues to be a vital force in British culture.


Signage at the new Design Museum

For those of you who haven’t been there, try visiting the original Design Museum in Shad Thames before it moves to the Commonwealth Institute in Kensington in 2016. This famous building is considered to be one of the major post-war buildings in London, and as such is a fitting home for the expanded and continuing conversation and influence of design in all aspects of our lives. Conran has donated £17.5 million to fund the new museum. Meanwhile, the new Design Museum is already showing its influence, creating brand awareness through their presence in the current windows at the John Lewis and Peter Jones department stores, where many Londoners go to get their housewares, drapes, clothes, and of course, to visit the “foodie” Waitrose food hall in the Oxford Street John Lewis.


Design Museum curatorial expertise at John Lewis

In any event, the Design Museum curators have given their imprint from a historical or contemporary design perspective to items sold at John Lewis, a heritage brand that is currently 150 years young. It’s a great way of creating high street awareness and appreciation for good design. Conran furniture and objects are also sold as part of the Conran collection for Marks & Spencer, and the upscale Conran Shop is still a destination for excellent mid-century classics as well as modern and contemporary design. And now in another venture that shows he still has his finger on the pulse, Conran has conceived of the Albion Cafes.


The Albion Café's delicious offerings

Ahhhhh, Albion. There was an hour wait at the café in Shoreditch, but we luckily stumbled in the door at the café behind the Tate Modern. The market itself is a perfectly curated (but not twee) and surprisingly affordable mixture of goodies from the Albion kitchen (massive jars of homemade raspberry preserves; tomato chutney; homemade baked goods); vegetable, cheese, smoked fish, and a good selection of specialty teas, biscuits, Guernsey yogurts et al. And to make it even better, there’s a 15% discount if you have expanded your mind at the Tate in preparation for expanding your stomach at The Albion. I’m gushing, but dinner was delicious. Conran’s idea worked as usual – feeling that upscale pretention was not the way to go, he conceived of something homey (it is), and relaxed, where you could eat and do a bit of shopping for things you really need, and those you simply want. Now that’s the mind of a visionary trend-reader and trendsetter at work. I’m going to appreciate him yet again today when I have some of that delicious chutney with my fish for my lunch!

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Go Forth! Mercurylab in London (Part Two) | They (and we) Love to Eat

July 29 2014

Farmer's Market Marketing

Whether based in Brooklyn or London, good farmer’s markets not only bring a sense of the native culture and some delicious foods, but also offer great marketing opportunities for the vendors.


Broadway Market, Hackney (Left, Popino, based in Hampstead, and their homemade savory tarts and pies; right, artisan cheeses from all over the UK)

The markets provide a great atmosphere and the chance to sell not only your product, but your brand. These small business owners and artisans foodmakers often build their brands at markets, gaining a following that allows them to begin to wholesale or maybe even open their own shop. These days, in the artisan sector, a successful food brand will always bring together a combination of market sales, wholesale and retail. The sellers at the market level are in a unique position to get feedback about their products straight from the horse's mouth (so to speak). Sellers can interact with customers, create a relationship, and put a face to the food. It's all very organic (mind the pun). The UK has been forward- thinking in providing provenance for local foods, and the local food movement has taken hold and flourished here for many years, far in advance of the US.

There is an incredible interest in locally sourced food. Cooks and consumers want the Real Deal. Organic. Healthy. Ethical. Local. Lucky for market stalls, eating and ethics all get rolled up into one concern that points to more sales and exposure.


Heavenly Andina, where we set at the kitchen counter and coveted everything coming out of the kitchen

Adina, an amazing Peruvian spot we went to a few nights ago in Shoreditch, is one of many restaurants to feature fresh, local, GMO-free ingredients. They call out their sourcing right on the menu. Even the beverages are based on “Peruvian Super Fruits,” and the fries are not potatoes, but are actually healthy root vegetables typical of traditional Peruvian cuisine. Anyway, it was all delicious, and everyone in the busy kitchen wanted to share their enthusiasm for the food. YUM!

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Family Astrology, Tradition, and the new Prince George

July 27 2013

Image via www.telegraph.co.uk

For those of you who follow this type of thing, you might know that there is a new heir waiting in line to ascend the throne of Great Britain, first name of George. There have been five kings named George since the Hanoverians came over from Germany to take the reigns in Britain, including "Mad" King George who lost the War of Independence that freed the United States to begin its march towards becoming a powerful world leader. So that's a little bit of context.

I thought I might mention that the new prince is a Cancer, a traditional water sign associated with ancestry and tradition. His father is also a Cancer, as was his grandmother, the emotive and well-loved Princess Diana. Now, baby George's mother is a Capricorn, a sign associated with a steady and sure-footed move towards worldly goals (natch) and with existing forms of authority. So his parents symbolize tradition, ancestors and authority, which is kind of a perfect representation of the British monarchy’s brand essence. This is not to say that this young prince won't do things differently, as the astrology of the world seems to indicate that he was born under a more populist kind of influence. So we have many years to see how that plays out, but as they say, it's looking good! Congrats to all!

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A Queen and her Dogs

April 12 2013

          Image via freakingnews.com

Ah, yes, talk about brand identification. What is about Queen Elizabeth and those corgis? If you see a corgi with or without a crown, you think about Queen Elizabeth.

In the film, "The Queen," we saw her with her headscarf and stout boots taking the dogs out on the Downs. When Thomas Struth photographed her for last year's Jubilee (Sixty Years a Queen), he talked about her relationship with the dogs at his portrait session with The Queen and Prince Phillip. Struth was at Buckingham Palace to shoot the official portrait, which of course turned out to be beautiful, formal, and a bit unsettling. He said that neither The Queen nor her husband smiled nor were animated at the shoot. Then at the end of the sitting, he took a photograph of them with the dogs, and described Queen Elizabeth's exclamations of pleasure. He said he wished that he had been able to bring the animation they showed for the dogs into the photographs. Perhaps she thinks it's not queenly to show her weakness for those corgis, but really now, the corgis are more closely alligned with her in our consciousness than Prince Charles. See a corgi, think Queen Elizabeth. That's a brand! And they certainly deserve crowns, too, don't they? 

 

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H & M and COS, A Low and (some) Version of High Fashion

January 03 2013

The last few times I've been in London, where fast fashion is a way of life, I stumbled into what appeared to be a chainlet named Company of Style, aka COS. Initially, I didn't know that the simple, pared down designs and palette at COS was the work of a new brand design studio at H & M.

It turns out that COS is H & M's foray into a higher price point, although most items are still priced under $100.00 and thus very accessible for what seems to be well-made, streamlined design. Their tagline is Timeless, Modern, Tactile and Functional, and I have to admit that I'm seduced by this brand. I really feel that they got it right — it's very strong, controlled brand management, and is a concept that will do well no matter where it travels. The store design, by William Russell of Pentagram, London (love them! I loved working with Michael Beirut from Pentagram in the past), and his angular, restrained store design and layout brings the architectural quality of the clothing to life. Other retailers should heed how well H & M is managing and rolling out this brand. The store has already opened in 51 stores in the UK, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Sweden, of course. They have also just opened their first shop in Asia.

Of course, I'm awaiting their entry into the US market, where their brand of chic simplicity at an affordable price point will play very well in urban and exurban centers. C'mon over, COS!

 

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Off-Brand, On the Page

October 16 2012

Last week, JK Rowling announced that she would be returning to writing children’s book, after the publication of her first adult novel The Casual Vacancy,’ whose reviews were less than stellar.

Rowling’s venture into adult fiction was watched closely as it came on the heels the final installment in her iconic Harry Potter series a few years ago.  With the phenomenal success of her children’s/young adult series behind her, to say The Casual Vacancy was a risk is an understatement.  With the Potter series, Rowling established herself as an extremely imaginative and transcendent author, whose brand came through consistently in the story of her hero, Harry.  Her brand is inspiring, advantageous, and magical.   

Critics are saying The Casual Vacancy is rather dull, and lacks the imaginative qualities she achieved in the Potter series.  It's possible that Rowling has lost sight of her core brand attributes on the most basic level as she was unable to bring the magic of the Potter series into her new work.  While returning to children’s literature may bea wise move for her, her success will depend not only on the quality of herwork, but on whether she’s still expresses the magical, adventurous, and inspiring qualities that are essential to her brand and identify her so strongly to her devoted audiences.

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