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From Nigella Lawson to Nadiya Hussain: BlissHome’s licensing story

Source chats to co-owner Mike Bliss about what will be taking the company through 2020.

Brand Licensing Europe 2018 was a hugely exciting one for BlissHome’s founders Gabrielle and Mike Bliss. Having been introduced to cook, broadcaster and author Nadiya Hussain by Ian Downes, md of Start Licensing, the previous year, the show saw the first official unveiling of her Make Life Colourful brand, which was subsequently launched to consumers on November 7.

Nadiya herself made an appearance at the show, taking part in a Q&A where she explained to visitors how the collaboration had come about and her personal input into the design of the range.

Enthusing about how the range evolved, she recalled: “My homeware range for the company took around a year to design and develop but we now have something that we can be really proud of. It was important that we didn’t have a flash in the pan, and every aspect, from shapes to colours to patterns has been a work in progress.”

Tableware products in Nadiya's Make Life Colourful collection.
Tableware products in Nadiya's Make Life Colourful collection.

As Mike Bliss, co-owner of BlissHome, concurs: “Nadiya was very hands on with the development, helping to select colours, patterns and finishes. The collection is an example of how the licensing process is changing with creativity at the forefront of the business.”

The range was inspired by Nadiya’s love of vibrant colours and tactile designs, the result of her passion to produce something beautiful and handcrafted that can be used every day. Currently, it features eight different designs across the full tableware range, as well as kitchen candles, aprons, oven gloves, tea towels and spice racks. There are tapas bowls too, for dips and nibbles. Plus, giving the apron a point of difference, is the fact that it has been designed with a crossback to save the hassle of tying it.

Home fragrance too, is a part of the collection. There are five different designs in the candle range which feature ‘tasty’ fragrances such as gingerbread and cinnamon, lime zest and verveine and basil, and patchouli and geranium.

As with everything Nadiya does, there’s a twist of family involved too. Textiles – the apron and tea towels – have been designed with a signature Talipot palm leaf which evokes memories of her grandfather who has one planted in his garden in Bangladesh, with this palm tree only flowering every 100 years.

Rick Stein's Coves of Cornwall range welcomed new products in 2019.
Rick Stein's Coves of Cornwall range welcomed new products in 2019.

So will BlissHome be extending the Nadiya Make Life Colourful collection?

“Yes, we added some new lines in for AW19 including a pestle and mortar, a set of four eggcups, a set of four measuring cups and a teapot,” confirms Mike.

Mindful of always using licensing in a careful and considered way, BlissHome also offers a stylish, contemporary tableware range produced in collaboration with Rick Stein.

“The concept for Coves of Cornwall came from a competition we held with Rick and Sarah Stein at Falmouth University in 2015, when we tasked the students across a range of disciplines to design a beautiful but commercial collection that embodies Rick Stein’s values and sense of place. Coves of Cornwall was the winning entry and was developed by five students who worked collaboratively to come up with the concept.”

Continues Mike: “The designs celebrate Cornish locations and emphasise Rick’s connection with the county. It’s an example of licensing being used to help shine a light on new design talent, and we are extending the Coves of Cornwall collection with more bone china lines including espresso cups, tea cups and saucers, a butter dish, a teapot, eggcups and storage jars.”

A third licence in the BlissHome portfolio is Scion Living. “For AW19, we launched some fresh new concepts from the Scion design team including Pedro Penguin and Marty Moose,” Mike highlights. “These designs will cover a range of products that include candles, hit water bottles, neck warmers, cosmetic bags, tote bags, slippers, ear muffs, umbrellas, glasses cases, keyrings and money boxes with John Lewis & Partners carrying the whole collection.”

A selection of BlissHome's Creatures collection.
A selection of BlissHome's Creatures collection.

Licensed product is not the only string to BlissHome’s bow though. The company is currently achieving great success through its collaboration with a small Italian ceramics factory with which it has created a quirky range of large serveware called Creatures. It’s proving to be extremely popular, as is the Fabbro X BlissHome range which has a more design-led feel.

Having been in the licensing industry for some 15 years, Mike emphasises that changes in licensing for the home have been exponential. “It has changed from character-led merchandise to more sophisticated design-led collections,” he states, adding though, that he believes the market place per se is oversubscribed. “There are weak brands and a lot of varied competition,” he observes.

Mike reveals that what he loves most about being involved in licensed homewares is, “designing, finding and successfully selling new products.” However, he’s reluctant to divulge which new licences will be taking the company forward over the next 12 months. “Watch this space!” he says with a smile. “But what I can tell you is that we will be continuing to bring out further bold, beautiful and interesting products for the contemporary home.”

A Groundbreaking Start

In 2002, Mike and Gabrielle were approached to design a range of kitchen products for Nigella Lawson in collaboration with Sebastian Conran.

“This award winning range, Living Kitchen, was the first of its kind in the homewares industry,” explains Mike. “In terms of contemporary design for the home, nothing really existed so it was a ground breaking concept. From the early days with Nigella, we have subsequently held licences with The Hairy Bikers, London Underground, Joules, Emily Bond, Hiroko Takahashi and Orla Kiely.”

This feature originally appeared in the autumn 2019 edition of Licensing Source Book. Click here to read the full publication.

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