LONDON — Smythson is making a play to reestablish its image as a luxury and lifestyle travel brand, WWD has learned.
Since taking over as head of the brand in March, Nicole Bahbout has unveiled a new advertising campaign for the British luxury label. The travel campaign is her first major project since joining the company and Bahbout is tasked with conceptualizing how the label will communicate each collection to consumers.
“It’s not so much a revolution as a revelation,” Bahbout said. “In that sense, the task isn’t a difficult one because the brand is such an absolute gem, and it’s waiting to be discovered. It’s all there, we just need to tell the world, is how I see it. On a strategic level, my focus is really consistency of messaging and for that to see through all channels as a clear and really cohesive whole.
“It’s about focusing on the messaging and developing and building the momentum of that,” Bahbout added. “And really embedding the consistency of our voice and who we are and celebrating that. We work very organically with, for example, the tastemakers that we’re working with. We always have a very organic relationship with people.”
The executive, who has worked on the brand’s business strategy in marketing product and brand development, said she recently introduced highly curated editorial content on the Smythston web site.
“We’re working with a host of very prominent tastemakers,” Bahbout said. “Grace Coddington, Penny Martin, Jefferson Hack, Sarah Harris…all of whom actually are in fact existing customers and long-term friends of the brand. To really collect and share the habits, quirks and recommendations of the really well-traveled. That was the first phase and we’re very excited to launch the video very soon. It’s an added layer to that and a reinforcement of all the messaging that we’re feeding through with a load of line activity.”
She said that while their customer base has developed and grown, the breadth of the consumer is expanding steadily as well.
“It’s really interesting and it’s pretty much reflected what I suspected,” Bahbout said. “That is that there is just such an untapped audience out there who are ready to hear about it and really love the products. It’s just about telling enough people and growing awareness, because people really seem to react very personally to the brand, which is a really lovely thing. In terms of profile or demographic, our online sales have seen some pretty high double-digit growth this year, and very significant uplift on that platform. It’s no secret that the digital world is taking over, but I suppose we are very much focused on targeting a more digital customer, which I suppose means introducing the brand to some extent to a younger audience. “
Bahbout noted that the campaign focused on going back to the label’s roots and “embracing, inhabiting, and actually asserting” their “true identity.”
“The ‘Journey to the Wild Side’ is what the travel campaign is called,” Bahbout said. “The reason for that is that travel lies at the very heart of our heritage. As a direct consequence of it being a digital campaign and putting a lot of effort behind that channel, it will naturally target a younger audience. But the appeal is pretty broad. We’re a core lifestyle, we’re neither male nor female. We range from stationery to travel goods, so it’s pretty much open season.”
The short movie, which runs just under five minutes, was created by director and screenwriter Sophie Edelstein and features Phoebe Tonkin and Rhys Ifans. The film revolves around an American girl — played by Tonkin — who is visiting London and in search of Buckingham Palace and encounters a series of talking animals along her journey.
“It’s all about the dream of travel,” Bahbout said of the campaign. “It has a very surreal, magical feel to it because, I would say, it’s both a physical journey and it’s a journey of the mind. The two melt and merge beautifully together until you’re not sure what is real and what isn’t. I suppose in these depressing times I wanted to bring some joy back to the scene, not to be too serious and celebrate that dream of travel and the endless possibilities, and the beauty of it, really. The premise of the film is again a little bit inverted and a little bit topsy-turvy. Instead of the world going outward it’s the world coming to London. The world comes to London to find the palace.”
To accompany the short movie, Michal Pudelka photographed a series of images taking cues from the film for the campaign. It will run on the brand’s social media channels.
Smythson has 10 directly owned boutiques in three countries as well as concessions and department stores. The company has around 200 wholesale doors globally.
The brand, which will be celebrating its 130th anniversary on Sept. 29, will be reopening the Bond Street boutique in the first week of October.
“What’s exciting about it is that we’re coming home,” Bahbout said. “This will be the seventh store that we’ve occupied on Bond Street, historically, and now we’re going back to where Frank Smythson first opened his doors.”