Inspiration often comes from unexpected places. And companies such as S’well, a premium reusable beverage container firm, cites textiles as a muse for the original art and designs applied to its signature silhouette bottles.
S’well was launched in 2010 by Sarah Kauss, its founder and chief executive officer, as a mission-driven company. Kauss aspired to “rid the world of plastic water bottles” and thought to amalgamate fashion with function to entice consumers into reusing bottles. Kauss told WWD, “I created the product because when I was [a student at University of Colorado] Boulder, they used to give every student a big plastic cup that you reuse. And they had us sign a little waiver saying ‘please try not to use Styrofoam,’ because Styrofoam was the plastic [of that] time.”
Kauss said while “it was totally appropriate to march around Boulder with a backpack and carabiner and a big cup with a Ralphie [mascot] on the side,” upon entering the professional world she identified a need in the market for a water bottle that was both stylish and utilitarian. Fast forward seven years later and S’well’s products are sleek, BPA-free stainless steel bottles — drinks stay cold for 24 hours and hot for 12 hours. But it is the eye for art and design that differentiates S’well in the market.
The company’s first water bottle was introduced in “Ocean Blue,” the only color available at the start. Kauss sent the product to an editor at O Magazine to pique their interest — and while they loved the product, it was requested in several colors to liven up the photograph for a feature story. So Kauss picked up a Pantone book that day for a little direction and the brand evolved from there: S’well bottles’ striking colors, textures and material printed designs are the brand’s most distinguishing attribute to date.
Rachel Ivey, the vice president and creative director at S’well, told WWD, “Sarah created this category. No one before Sarah had put beautiful art on the outside of a bottle.” She added, “We have a responsibility to beat the front of the line, always.”
And S’well recently collaborated with Liberty London Fabrics for a three-year partnership, beginning with a limited-edition collection sold exclusively at Starbucks. A selection of six water bottle designs featuring Liberty London Fabric prints are available for purchase in mixtures of “florals and paisleys [that] evoke the brand’s signature romantic sophistication,” the company said. Kauss said that “Great prints have always held a place in my heart, if that is not already obvious from our 200-plus designs” and that “Liberty has such a rich heritage in prints, yet continues to tastefully introduce modern twists without losing the classical details people have come to love. That’s what will make this a collaboration to remember.”
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