Penguin Ventures on the strength of the Flower Fairies brand

Jade Burke

By Jade Burke

June 23rd 2017 at 9:48AM
UPDATED June 23rd 2017 at 11:33AM
Penguin Ventures on the strength of the Flower Fairies brand

Following a new style guide, the Flower Fairies brand is set to gain a new line of licensed goods ready for autumn 2018. Here, Thomas Merrington, creative director for Penguin Ventures, reveals plans to collaborate with a fashion label and why the firm wants licensees to be brave with the new designs.

How does Cicely Mary Barker’s Flower Fairies lend itself as a heritage brand?

Cicely Mary Barker’s Flower Fairies were first published in 1923 and as an artist, she was heavily influenced by the Art Nouveau movement. She created a juxtaposition of incredibly detailed botanical drawings together with whimsical, ethereal fairies that was quite unlike anything that had been seen before and remains unrivalled to this day.

All new publishing and consumer products closely reference Cicely’s exquisite illustrations. Penguin Ventures employs a commercial curator to manage an archive of original paintings, illustrations and manuscripts (including over 500 Flower Fairies pieces) at Blythe House (part of the V&A).  This continues to provide a hugely valuable source of inspiration.

Why is the heritage sector so important to you guys? 

Penguin Ventures is the guardian of several heritage brands. Managing a brand such as the Flower Fairies that has its roots in original artwork and has amassed a huge fan base around the world is quite an honour. With such a legacy comes a wealth of responsibility, both to protect the origins of the brand but also to ensure it evolves and continues to appeal to future generations. It’s a challenge but one that we enjoy immensely.

How have the publications changed since they first launched in 1923? 

We take our publishing history very seriously and continue to celebrate the original editions, the content of which has remained unchanged since they were first published. We have experimented with a range of new and interesting formats such as activity, story and colouring in but we respect the integrity and authenticity of the brand.

There is a huge audience for the Flower Fairies, from the traditional, to our youngest fairy fans and now to a more design conscious, contemporary consumer. 

Can you tell us a bit more about the new style guide? What can licensees expect to see? 

We really wanted to showcase the incredible artwork Barker had created in a brand new and unexpected way. Her very clean and fluid lines have a real clarity and beauty that when elements are isolated and extrapolated really shine. We see huge potential for this brand as the source material is so beautiful. Barker was an exceptional artist and was able to paint flora and fauna with stunning accuracy.

Our ambition was to bring these elements to the fore and create a range of patterns and placements that takes the Flower Fairies in an exciting and contemporary direction whilst still keeping the intriguing and often enigmatic style of the fairies illustrations intact. Working with Andsome Creative Agency we’ve really distilled the floral elements of the original illustrations to create a fresh and contemporary series of beautiful lifestyle patterns and placements that suit both adult and children’s ranges.

What category, such as fashion, gifting, homewares etc do you expect to be a hit with fans?

The style guide has allowed the brand to evolve in a new contemporary direction and Flower Fairies now has the potential to exist in the adult gifting, fashion and homeware space, as well as becoming even more successful in traditional existing categories. It is important to us to offer fans of the Flower Fairies products that they will love but also to extend the appeal to a whole new audience who appreciate beautiful design.

What will you be looking for when seeking new licensees?

We’re keen to explore news ways of working with licensees and partners and we’re always impressed by creativity and innovation. We want to encourage licensees to be brave with the new design treatments and we can’t wait to see what they are inspired to do.

There is huge potential for a fashion collaboration using the big bold florals from the new style guide and we’d love to make that happen.

What does the future hold for the brand?

We are looking forward to seeing the first new licensed products come to market by autumn 2018. We’re currently exploring partnerships and collaborations for next year.

There is a huge audience for the Flower Fairies, from the traditional, to our youngest fairy fans and now to a more design conscious, contemporary consumer. We want to ensure that we are creating opportunities for all types of consumer and we will be looking at exhibitions, collaborations and licensed products to ensure everyone can continue to enjoy this unique property.