October’s Festival of Licensing includes the grand final of the License This! competition. Its Brand & Design finalists include new brands that are well-suited to housewares: Louise Bell Art, and Kos Kos (by Danelle van Eeden). One of the competition judges, Stuart Cox, owner of I Like Brands (with licensed housewares products from My Gifts Trade) reflects on the importance of licensed products in 2020:
“Times are hard. We’re bombarded every day with gloomy news. Many of us are enforced to spending a lot more time at home. Our direct connection with people has dwindled, in some cases to zero. We have anxieties at every turn and the short and long-term future looks shaky.
For each of us the things we surround ourselves with, our homes and how we spend our time has this year come into sharper focus than ever before. Ironically, at a time when retail has struggled to stay afloat and the way we shop has changed forever, “things” have never been more important to our wellbeing.
I’ve always believed that brands – particularly licensed brands – are driven by personality. They’re like people to us, allowing us to express who we are or who we’d like to be. Personality driven brands – with a distinctive style, something to say and a human narrative – connect us directly to the designer. That humanity is what sets them apart from the big corporates and own-brands.
It’s like going back to pre-industrial society when we knew the people who made the stuff we owned and used. In our post-industrial society that contact is again first hand, through social media and makers stories.
Licensing moves products beyond simple necessity and back towards that connection of knowing the people behind the brand, what they stand for and what that says about us. As licensed brand owners our consumers genuinely get to know us and we them.
Our homes have become our havens. We’re surrounded by technological novelty, but we seek out warmth, meaning, nostalgia, security and longevity, and more so when it comes to housewares. Cooking and eating are nourishing and happy activities, and while we want our fridges, phones and cars to be starkly modern, utilitarian and functional first, we desire something entirely different from the objects we choose to use around the home.
We want to be delighted, amused, occasionally educated and – probably – reminded of our first experiences of homeliness, our parents and our childhoods. Licensed products – in particular the type that emerge from License This! – are by definition “not plain”, and each one serves to make us smile, nourish our spirits and, this year, remind us stylistically of simpler times. When it comes to housewares, licensed products are the happy place, and I think that’s where we all want to be.
Licensed products also offer the opportunity for self-expression, helping us curate our homes as outward expressions of just how diverse we are. Nobody in their right mind would fill their home with a single brand’ each of us collects a variety of objects with individual meaning that tell a unique story about us as unique people. We long for variety, and licensed products offer a conveyor belt of new ideas. The License This! competition provides an opportunity for fledgling brands to emerge from nowhere.
Finally, there’s the practical consideration of longevity and shelf life. As a consumer we’ve all probably bought into a store’s own-brand only to find it disappears after six months. Licensed products offer the promise that this is a long-term relationship: the brand will not simply disappear and that if you like the mug…wait until you see the cushions! Again it’s about fostering a relationship and a promise between consumer and brand owner/maker that feels secure, genuine, meaningful and long-lasting.
In conclusion, licensed homewares brands offer a human connection in a time when connections have become difficult and distanced, a sense of humanity in the face of sterile technology, warmth and humour in the part of our lives which prioritises these aspects, and the possibility of self expression in an otherwise uniform world.”
* The Live final of License This! will take place online during Festival of Licensing at 10am Thursday 8 October. Winners will receive a free exhibition stand at BLE 2021, one year’s Licensing International membership, PR support, and invaluable advice from the panel of industry experts. In addition, all finalists will receive legal consultation from competition sponsor Wynne-Jones.
For more information on the events that are bringing the global licensing industry together in October (and to register) see www.festivaloflicensing.com
Top: I Like Birds’ Stuart Cox and Alison Blair.