Valentino – A style icon

Valentino knew how to create a strong brand with standout style. Can you imagine being 15 years old and being able to wear Valentino haute couture to your school formal? Well Brooke Shields did! Brooke wore a signature ‘Valentino red’ gown created for her as part of her modelling contract. During a week on business I popped in and saw this gown on display amongst a collection which showcases the brilliant career of Italian designer Valentino Garvanti. The exhibition at the Brisbane Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA)  features iconic pieces from 1958 through the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, to his last collection in 2008. 

Entrance to GOMA building, Brisbane

Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane entrance

Valentino Garvanti spent a lifetime creating a unique brand founded on beautifying the female silhouette and his love of colour and decoration, to carve a special niche in the fashion world. Part of the golden era of haute couture, Valentino made his mark alongside his contemporaries Yves St Laurent and Karl Lagerfield. 

Valentino iconic designs

Magnetic book marks featuring: Evening dress from the 2009-10 by the new generation of designers for Valentino brand; Evening ensemble from 1969; Evening gown from 1991 with detail applied with beading.

I am amazed at the attention to detail; Valentino’s creations are living sculptural pieces which come to life in the theatre of red carpet appearances, royal weddings and academy award ceremonies.  I saw breathtakingly, stylish designs worn by Julia Roberts and Cate Blanchette’s academy awards appearances,  gowns worn by Elizabeth Taylor,  Audrey Hepburn,  Sienna Miller and Jacqueline Onassis’ wedding gown. Some are adorned with a rich embellishment of jewels, crystals,  sequins and beading, sculptural tulle ruffles and layers. Others feature blocks of bright colour with custom printed and hand painted fabrics, with strong lines and shapes. A kaftan print of black panthers and green silk even features handcut emerald eyes.  

Gallery information and ticket to exhibition

Gallery information booklet features the dress trimmed with ostrich feathers with beads and white strass which Sienna Miller wore.Gallery ticket features a delicate multilayered silk voile evening gown.

His patronage from royalty adds another dimension to the Valentino brand. In the 1960’s Princess Grace wore a contemporary orange poncho with fringing and wide leg pants. Italian princesses regularly wore and modelled his gowns and Princess Margaret was an avid customer. 

I am in awe as I observe how Valentino interpreted the mood of a fashion decade to create iconic pieces that reflect the era yet remain as stylish today. I love the way he created strong colour theme collections ie the signature Valentino red collection, the black collection and his famous white collection 1968 which features a range of off-whites and ivories which falter a range of skin tones.The famous ‘V’ brandmark has been incorporated as a golden detail embellishing a pocket on a coat. A dress from 1991 features an amazing combination of colours navy, emerald-green, grey, bronze, brown and orange silk. 

He took inspiration from many sources from  the story of an opera, the pattern of Wedgwood china, marble, the work of artist Gustav Klimt(Australian artist 1862-1915), the strong graphic shapes of the Josef Hoffman (cofounder of Wiener Werkstatte architecture and design). 

Valentino envening gowns

These magnets feature Valentino pink silk crepe evening gown with cape of pink organdy petals, 2007-08; Strapless cocktail dress of draped tulle with shirt featuring button roses, 1959

If you find yourself in Brisbane you can easily spend more than a couple of hours at this great exhibition and be inspired by the exceptional high standard of these outstanding art pieces. Did I mention even the stocking are handmade? Then there are the shoes…….. Valentino of course!!!


Colour Power

Colour is my passion. I love the way colour can make you feel. It has the power to uplift you and make you feel happy, sad, serious or sassy! Knowing  how to use colour and what the current trends are will help your business make the right decision on using colour suitable for your brand. Carry the feel of your brand into your retail /office  or event space with the right choice of colour and visual language.

 Colour is one of my favourite design tools and here’s what I learned from a Global Colour Research (a prominent UK trend forecaster) Spring/Summer 2011 trends presentation recently in Melbourne.  

As you might expect, trends emerge from attitudes of what is happening in our world. Not surprisingly recovering from the GFC but embracing the future (with cautious optimism) is a strong driver for 2011 trends.   

The four 2011 trend directions from Global Colour Research are:  

  1. Whisper-
    Incorporates ethereal, translucent, smokey,  fluid forms and skeletal structures and grid patterns (I can think of some great light shades examples like this ). Texture is important and the importance of heirlooms. Colours are muted with highlights of turquoise and greyed lilac.


Whisper-main colour palette

Whisper- main colour palette

  1. Spirit-
    This is a  favourite of mine embodying a homage to spring with colours featuring cool, bright tones of vivid English spring green balanced with earthy wood neutrals and added strength from an indigo purple. Natural materials eg. wood, skins and leather hearld the importance of nature. Materials are functional and eco desirable. Symbols are drawn from folk-lore or nature inspired. 
Spirit- main colour palette

Spirit- main colour palette

  1. Genteel-
    This trend embraces domestic nostalgia and is pale and interesting with a neutral palette of off white and greyed beiges with a shot of uplifting colour- red. Surfaces are distressed, patterned with relief, gilded or tonal. It can be used to add theatre and drama (with velvet and gold).
Genteel- main colour palette

Genteel- main colour palette

  1. Risk-
    For those who want something with a bit more bite!! Sci fi meets low fi, space age and industrial influences drive this trend. Expect to see hyper-realism (think of triffids), post apocalyptic dark shades. Rough and smooth textures and Superman comic strip colours of blue and orange-yellow (aged as though in the original comic book).
Risk-main colour palette

Risk- main colour palette

Note: Colours are approximate representations.  

Do you have a favourite? Let me know what you think?

Great Brand Packaging Idea

Wow! I love this idea for incorporating meaningful and memorable packaging that enhances the brand for Nike. This is a limited edition shoebox produced for Nike’s sponsorship of soccer. The box is plain and the usual on the outside. Open the lid and hey you are transported into the stadium with the internal graphic design. And even more impressive as you lift the lid you are greeted with the sound of the roar of the appreciative crowd (from an embedded sound chip). That has to make you feel good. And all for buying a pair of sports shoes!

great brand packaging

Enhancing the brand experience with great packaging

Be special

Many businesses are trapped in a competitive cycle of being selected on price alone. If your customers choose you for this reason you don’t have much to offer them in return. You want your customers to choose you because you are either:
• The best
• The first
• The fastest
• The most reliable
• Have something special or different
• Or your customers just like you much better than anyone else.
Having a strong brand identity can help communicate your ‘difference’ and make you stand out in the minds of your potential customers (as well as your employees) and with a strong brandmark make you visually memorable as well. We receive a minimum of 2500 brand messages everyday- it is a crowded marketplace with every product competing for our attention. Our subconscious mind receives 2 million pieces of information every second. However the conscious mind can only process 5-9 pieces of information per second. Having a strong brand identity makes your product/service more easily remembered and identifiable in this competitive and crowded arena.

Brandmarks of popular cars

What emotional response do you have to these brands?

Take a look at the car market. Brands in this market are clearly defining their advantages through the branding.
BMW- performance
Mercedes- quality engineering etc.
Visit this site for more on the background of world brandmarks of popular cars.

Is your brand more than…

Your brand is more than a logo on a business card. Your brand, what it stands for and how it is presented, conveys many unspoken messages to your potential customers and your position in the marketplace.

Developing a strong brand identity for your business is a rewarding challenge and ultimately aims to improve your business bottom line and positioning in the market. To create a meaningful brand that resonates with your customers will require understanding and a focus on important aspects of your business.

Common elements that make up a brand include:

  1. The Brandmark (this is the logo or symbol that identifies your product/ service)
  2. Visual Language (the colours used, typefaces, graphical elements)
  3. Brand Personality (Give your brand human characteristics customers will relate to-Is it cheeky or serious, cute or clever?)
  4. Tone of voice (adopt the tone of voice in communications suitable for your brand personality)
  5. Market positioning (premium and upmarket with higher price point or low cost value product/service)
  6. Customer care (how do you deliver your customers expectations?)
  7. IP Protection

A favourite for discussion of successful world brands we can all learn from is Apple Inc. Apple has successfully taken branding to the highest stratosphere permeating all levels of customer experience.

ipod advertisement

Dynamic, young, funky imagery that fits the Apple brand.

Apple’s branding is young, dynamic, energetic, modern, innovative. From the product design- the look and feel of an ipod in your hand; store design and layout- exciting more like an entertainment precinct;  packaging- clean, simple, stylish; communications- full of the Apple persona; through to the enthusiastic employees who are brand ambassadors rather than salespeople. You don’t get this result with a just a logo on a business card!

Brand personality

The Apple persona contrasted against the PC!

Makeover your brand

Your business projects an image to your customers. It will tell your customers many messages before engaging with you. Your brand is much more than a logo on your business card. A well thought out brand identity will carry messages about how you do business, what is important to you and give clues about whether you are expensive or cheap just by the visual imagery and messages it contains.

Many well established brands undertake regular updates of brandmark and identity to ensure they are still ‘tuned in’ with the customer base. A brand refresh can be subtle, refresh the visual appearance, and to the average customer largely goes unnoticed. It can also be ‘rolled’ out in stages. See the example of a brand refresh for Dolby below. The changes are subtle and hard to notice unless the two are side by side. However the new refreshed brandmark updates the company’s image necessary for its business. 

dolby brand refresh

Dolby brand refresh

What will be noticed however is when a brand shows signs of being unloved and out of step with the customer. At this stage a bigger ‘makeover’ may be needed, sometimes calling for a complete new approach of a rebrand. The example below shows a major change in the visual presentation for the BP brandmark also reflecting on a new emphasis within the business.
BP logo

Rebrand BP logo

Tips for reviewing your brand
1. What do you promise your customer? Has that changed or been undermined by your competition?
 2. Are all your messages consistent? Create a style guide.
3. Evaluate your visual presentation.
4. Is all your content up to date?
5. Are there new ways of reaching your customers? media or sponsorship of events