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Face to face with… Heather Flynn

We chat to the creator of the Alice Scott brand and co-founder of Happy Jackson.

Back in 2002, a new award category Most Promising Young Designer or Artist was introduced into The Henries, the internationally renowned greeting card awards.

With a smile as broad as the stage a young textile graduate, bounced onto the stage to collect that inaugural trophy. Heather Flynn might have showed ‘promise’ back then, but through Alice Scott and Happy Jackson brands, she has even more cause to smile now with the growing licensing programmes for both lifestyle design concepts.

In fact Happy Jackson made it into the finals of the Brand & Lifestyle Licensing Awards 2016, both for the licensing programme and for a range of toiletries developed by licensee H&A for Boots.

Taking a trip back down memory lane, Heather recalls: “It was 2001 and I had graduated in printed textiles and had every intention to look for a job in fabric design. There I was at the New Designers show when I was approached by UK Greetings and asked if I would like to go for an interview about designing greeting cards. While I had never considered greeting cards as a option, I couldn’t see any reason not to at least go for the interview – and started a three-month placement!”

She then took up an opportunity to move to Hallmark, another major greeting card company. Though she didn’t know it at the time, Heather’s first week there was rather significant as she was introduced to Giles Andreae, the creator of Purple Ronnie (which Hallmark was publishing under licence) and they worked together on developing specific bespoke card designs for retailers.

Although Heather became captivated by designing cards – “appreciating the very special and complex relationship between the design and words, the sender and receiver” – four years go, she took the bold decision to stride out on her own creative path.

“I had been designing cards for 10 years by then and wanted to see if I could design any other products that featured my own brands. I tentatively met up with Giles and asked him for his advice. As ever, he was wonderful, positive and supportive and planted a seed that we should do something together,” says Heather.

A few months down the line and with a lunch date looming with Giles to discuss progressing a loose idea for a colourful brand (with a working title of Jackson Jones), Heather spent two frantic evenings working up with some rough concepts.

HJBoots

“And that was how Happy Jackson came into being,” said Heather. Armed with a few sample ideas of how the concept could be translated onto products, Heather and Giles visited the Spring Fair.

“Giles showed it to gift company Wild & Wolf and they immediately got the joyous, exuberant, fun essence of the brand which is so evident in how they have helped us to drive the brand,” explains Heather.

With the broad range of products now available under licence from Wild and Wolf (babyware and pet accessories being the most recent additions), greeting cards from Pigment, gift bags from Penny Kennedy, tins from Elite, a range of toiletries in Boots through H&A, and a strong following on social media, Happy Jackson is continuing to go from strength to strength. Vickie O’Malley of Rockpool Licensing has been appointed specifically to develop the apparel category, which will be another area of exposure for Happy Jackson.

“From the beginning, I felt pretty confident the brand had a great look and concept, but the speed it’s grown at has been quite a surprise,” she states. “We work across such a broad range of categories now, and I certainly didn’t imagine I’d be designing chocolates in the morning and lip balms in the afternoon when we first started out!”

While Happy Jackson takes up a hefty chunk of Heather’s time, she balances this with her other main design focus, her alter ego, Alice Scott, which Heather creates and drives entirely herself.

“I decided against using my own name and Alice Scott just popped into my head – she sounds Scottish, which I am too of course. I love the fact that I switch off Happy Jackson and go into Alice Scott mode,” reveals Heather. While there is a continuity within Alice Scott, mainly black and white artwork, (albeit with a quirky touch of neon pink here or there), there is a diversity of tone within the designs.

With the Alice Scott range scooping a Henries award last October for licensee Pigment and the giftwrap collection licensed with Penny Kennedy also making the finals, plus mugs through McLaggan Smith, Portico set to launch stationery, gift and calendars in January, as well as Simson Cards publishing cards in Australia and New Zealand, Heather’s alter ego is making her presence felt.

So, what’s next in this ‘Most Promising Young Designer’s’ sights?

“I do have another idea for a brand up my sleeve – this time more surface pattern based, ironically going back to where I started all those years ago!” recognises Heather.

This feature originally appeared in the Summer 2016 edition of Art & Design Licensing Source Book. Click here to read the full publication.

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