The character of Irma was created around 1993-94 when artist Jasmin Khezri worked for a Munich-based magazine as art director. The character is meant to reflect its target group of 13 to 28 year-old females and males and, over time, has been fleshed out to become something of a style icon, with its burgeoning licensing programme mirroring this.
“She’s a confidante, role model and advisor,” says Khezri, who went on to found Irmasworld. “She’s stylish, well travelled and cosmopolitan.”
In terms of licensing, Goa Geneva Trading holds the worldwide rights to the brand and has signed deals in categories including textiles, jewellery, beauty, stationery and advertising. Pan-European rights, meanwhile, have been acquired by MM Merchandising Media, the licensing subsidiary of the ProSiebenSat 1 Group. The firm is currently working on a number of projects in categories such as fashion, accessories, promotions and personal care.
Products already on the market include jewellery by Cada and stationery from teNeues, as well as textiles from French fashion house Celine, with more to follow. The reaction, according to Khezri, has been fantastic, with the stationery winning an award for best illustrated calendar.
“Beauty brand Kiehl’s also requested Irma cards to spearhead their charity initiative for World Aids Day last year,” Khezri adds. “Irma has a very distinctive look and personality and we are committed to ensuring that all new products remain true to the brand by choosing the best partners to work with in each category.”
Irma is already well known in Germany, while also having a presence in the UK, US, France and Japan, with Khezri keen to build on this, as well as move into new territories. The UK is a particular focus, with an agent currently being sought to represent the brand in this territory.
New categories are also being earmarked, too: “We’re planning the design of an iPod and iPad Irma application, plus a small travel accessory collection including bags, t-shirts, scarves, shoebags, beauty items and towels,”
Khezri explains. “We are also looking for a distributor or producer who will sell and produce the Irma jewellery collection and there are also plans to extend the brand into publishing and expand the range of stationery.”
The character of Irma has also been used in a number of high fashion campaigns, with Khezri commissioned to illustrate campaigns through agents in Japan, US and France. For example, for Celine’s Sports Collection, Irma was renamed Miss Lilly, with the products selling well in Asia. A few international promotions are in the pipeline, although Khezri is remaining tight-lipped for now about the details.
The sector that Khezri is trying to build Irma up in is undoubtedly a crowded one, but she is confident the character has what it takes to succeed. “Irma is a character in which all types of women see themselves. She is always friendly and positive. She shares beauty, style, travel tips and other information with women through her pages in Glamour magazine and online through her website – she is like a best friend. Because she is not a real person, different clients can make her suitable for their individual product without taking away from her strong personality.”
So where would Khezri like to see Irma in five years’ time? “We would like to see Irma’s presence in more countries around the world, with the Irmasworld website a must-visit destination for women seeking the latest information in all areas relevant to their lives,” she concludes. “The site will feature news, views and tips across fashion, beauty, art, lifestyle, food, healthy living, psychology, travel and sports, with products to match. A one-stop shop for all your stylish needs.”