INTERIORS+DESIGN for architects

Philip Handford is Founder and Chief Creative of award-winning retail interiors and event design specialist, Campaign Design. The ‘About’ section of the agency’s website keeps it short and sweet: “We create engaging consumer experiences for discerning clients.” However, that simple statement belies the tremendous imagination and original thinking that goes into each of Campaign’s projects. And those clients include the likes of Dunhill, Dr Martens, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Fossil, Burberry, and Louis Vuitton.

Recent projects include the audacious ‘Winkies’ interiors for Kirk Originals eyewear, and the intriguing and rather dreamlike ‘Fragrance Lab’ at Selfridges in London, created in collaboration with global trend forecaster, The Future Laboratory. Here, each customer travels on a sensory journey which culminates in the creation of their own unique personal scent, blended by master perfumier Givaudan.

We speak to Philip about both these projects - what he likes about them, and what the reaction has been. We also discover how he came to set up Campaign and, on a more personal note, his passion for a certain World War II airfield in North Cornwall…

Let’s start by looking at some of Campaign’s fabulous projects, first of all the Selfridges Fragrance Lab. Can you tell us a little about the project, and what the customer’s journey would be like?

Fragrance Lab offers a tantalising glimpse into the future of in-store retailing. This new retail experiment illustrates how customer habits, preferences and tastes - as well as their physical interaction - will be used in the future to develop a personalised service or product. In Fragrance Lab, browsing disappears and an alternative to both in-store and online shopping emerges. Customers don’t choose from a product selection, the product is created to suit them. The consumer’s physical presence and responses to stimuli and questions inform the alchemy of the fragrance to offer a more meaningful, multi-sensory and customised consumer experience.

Speaking personally, what do you like best about the design of the Fragrance Lab?

I love the outer reaches of scent window (the large corner window): it sums up the project. True retail theatre, combined with an intuitive choice of architecture, and insightful personal service. I love the fact you unexpectedly arrive actually in the centre of the window, where you are the lead part, comforted by a low enveloping mist, and an elemental abstract landscape, made up of faceted monoliths and copper instruments encasing precious elements for you to explore. Carrying an object you have selected along your journey, you are greeted by the all knowing perfumer who is ready to introduce you to the essence of you.

Next we’d like to take a look at a quirky and, forgive us, eye-catching interiors project to create, produce and deliver a unique flagship store for global eyewear brand, Kirk Originals. What has been the reaction of both customers and the client since the store opened in 2011?

This project was a true reflection of an irreverent and characterful brand, that wanted to stand out from the crowd and make a statement. The client wanted to establish a store design that could get them recognition in the eyewear industry and they loved the end result. The customers’ reaction was ‘is this a shop or an installation?’ They were drawn to the space, and it drummed up a lot of media attention in the eyewear industry. The store design was even mimicked in detail by a competitor in Germany.

Again, what’s your own favourite aspect of the design?

I loved the ‘Winkies’, the characters that occupy the space en masse, (in fact 226 of them). We created the Winkies as an audience that would be winking at you as you enter, they then follow you around the store with their eyes, using lenticular. We established that Kirk Originals’ customers are people that want to stand out from the crowd and like to be looked at, so we decided that we would make the store design look at them, so that the store browser became the focus and the store product actually became the viewer and audience.

Do you have any projects that you’ve been particularly pleased with yourself? Can you tell us about two or three of them?

Collaborating with Christopher Bailey for Burberry on the fashion house’s retail interiors worldwide; developing a new retail concept for 3.1 Phillip Lim which is being applied to sites worldwide; our ongoing work with Selfridges which, in addition to Fragrance Lab, has included the Wine Shop and Harry Gordon’s Bar; development of the 1948 east London Nike store and events hub; and The Momentary Project, a temporary installation for Dunhill to announce the brand at New York Fashion Week.

And three words that best characterise Campaign’s approach to interior design please?

Future. Bespoke. Collaborative.

In what way do you feel Campaign’s work appeals to the emotions of the consumer?

Its viceral advertising, that is to say ‘connected’, which allows the retailer to tap into the consumer’s emotions. For example, Fragrance Lab takes the customer on a journey, exploring feelings of anticipation, disorientation, seduction, comfort, and finally revelation, inviting the consumer into a physical space (beyond the flat billboard) to walk around and engage in and emotionally explore the brand in a particular way. It allows the consumer to participate in a dialogue with the brand and through observation of their interactions the brand can learn more about their customer. In Michael Kors’ interview with Business of Fashion magazine in Shanghai recently, he neatly summed it up. “Whether its bricks and mortar or online, the store is a laboratory …the education never stops.”

Would you say that humour plays a role in your work? (We’re thinking of those cheeky Winkies again here.)

Yes I think fun and narrative is lacking in our high streets. We need retail to be fun, not a struggle as it currently is. And I think that fundamentally retail will become more fun as online solutions take ownership of the logistical criteria of retail, thereby giving more creative licence to in-store experiences.

Can you tell us about the close working relationship you enjoy with The Future Laboratory and their LS:N Global operation? How does the synergy work?

The Future Laboratory is one of the world’s most renowned and respected futures consultancies and its online trends network, LS:N Global, plugs users into all that is new, next and innovative in consumer behavior, making them the masters of the consumer. Campaign are the masters of physical space. Together we thrive on our shared passion for strategy and the future of retail. Chris Sanderson and Martin Raymond, co founders of The Future Laboratory, have always supported us from the beginning.

Your work is often referred to as ‘unexpected’, ‘different’. How, in brief, does Campaign’s creative process work in order to arrive at something original but still on-brand? For example, if we came to you with a requirement for a pop-up boutique selling ladies fashion footwear, how would you get the creative ball rolling?

The process begins by identifying the needs of the client. If we’re selling shoes for example, who do we want to sell them to? What do the brand’s customers find inspiring about the brand/product? We then construct a narrative around this, and always challenge the idea of display. This is fundamental. Do you really need to always start with a table and shelf? We find inspiration from art and art installations. We are always looking beyond retail for inspiration.

Your projects range from global super-brands to one-off boutiques. Does the same creative process apply regardless of the scale of the project?

In principle the process does stay the same. But, there is a general split between rollout retail solutions that need to be used on a large scale and longer lifespan that act as a canvas for the product and - at the other end of the spectrum - boutique solutions where a more bespoke design works well to deliver a message.

What are some of the newest and most exciting trends emerging in the retail interiors arena?

Currently the most game changing ideas are technology based. iBeacon is one. The technology allows businesses to set up transmitters which detect the presence of nearby smartphones. It may not sound like much, but combined with the right software, it opens up a massive number of possibilities.With iBeacon set up, retailers can notify customers of special offers while they are walking by the store, prepare pre-ordered items for pickup the minute someone comes through the door (the end of queueing!) or remind the customer about their shopping list – fish when they are standing at the fish counter, bread at the bakery, and so on.

Sneakerboy has established an exciting new retail model that is proving to be a huge success. The Sneaker store allows you to try on the product in the comfort of a large store, without the premises needing stock rooms or large volumes of stock. The customer orders the chosen sneakers in-store, then they are delivered to their home within 48 hours. This starts to resolve some of the logistical issues of traditional retailing.

Moving on to your own personal story, what made you decide to set up Campaign back in 2009?

I had an amazing opportunity to work with Christopher Bailey [CEO of Burberry] and never looked back. I always wanted to change the landscape of retail design and the way that we shop: that’s my Campaign.

What was this opportunity, and how did it come about?

Whilst living in Poland on secondment, one day I got a phone call from Christopher Bailey and he politely asked me, “I’m looking for somebody to design my apartment in central London, I don’t suppose you know anybody who would be interested?” My reply? “Yes I know somebody, ME!” and from that point I then worked with him for a year to design, manage budgets and appointments, and oversee the construction. It was an amazing experience.

From that moment I didn’t look back. Under Campaign we collaborated, producing a range of furniture for the London HQ and stores, developed schemes for Burberry's retail interiors (2009-11) and Burberry Beauty - a roll-out programme to 42 make-up concessions worldwide.

What were you doing before that?

I had worked in retail design for Universal, Virgile and Stone, and Imagination. I loved the bold ideas of event design at Imagination, and the refined approach of Universal.

Have you always had a passion for design, and in particular interiors? And where and how was that passion sparked?

I wanted to be an architect and create spaces but found the process too drawn out. I was interested in artistic practice but more excited by the possibility of taking installation out of the gallery into a commercial setting. Interiors provides the perfect forum for this.

If you hadn’t gone into retail interiors, what other profession might you have chosen – if any?

I’d like to think I could make it as an installation artist.

And finally, where would we find you when you’re not busy working?

In Cornwall, flying. I’m learning to fly with the intention of getting a pilot's licence.

What does it feel like when you’re up there looking down on such a beautiful place? Does it help inspire your work, or is it a chance to go somewhere completely different mentally/emotionally?

It’s an incredible feeling, comforting, exhilarating, awe-inspiring, just unforgettable. Does it influence my work? Not yet, but there is so much that I can take from it: the aerial landscapes around clouds, the scale, the colour, the movement – I absolutely love it! I fly from Perranporth, and I’m looking into how to build interest in the old Second World War airfield, it’s so quirky and beautiful. It’s something I’m quite proud and passionate about.

Gail Taylor
Image credit: Hufton+Crow