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How V&A is soaring in international markets

With an exclusive agent on board in China, Source discovers the museum’s ambitious plans.

It has undoubtedly set the bar when it comes to heritage and museum licensing, and there are no signs of the team at the V&A slowing down just yet.

Indeed, the past year has seen it launch more licensed collections than ever before – from a furniture collaboration with Sofa Workshop and faux flowers with royal florist Philippa Craddock, through to gifting confectionery and beverages produced by Fells exclusively for John Lewis & Partners and a tie-up with Samsung on its latest TV offerring, The Frame.

The global programme covers over 85 licensees across multiple categories, with these partners distributing to over 72 countries.

Notably, it’s the continued expansion overseas – in particular in East Asia, where V&A has appointed Alfilo Brands as its exclusive agent in China – where the museum is finding significant growth opportunities.

“China is a country with thousands of years of history and one of great energy and enterprise,” says Lauren Sizeland, head of licensing and business development at the V&A – and the recipient of Brand Licensed Ambassador of the Year at the Brand & Lifestyle Licensing Awards 2019. “It is perfectly aligned as an area of growth for the V&A.”

V&A collaborated with fellow British brand Twinings last year.
V&A collaborated with fellow British brand Twinings last year.

Recent activity has included collaborations with fellow British brand Twinings and with Kaco for stationery. The V&A is looking to build on this momentum with new homeware and gift ranges from The Beast and a luggage collection from ITO.

In addition, the V&A also launched its first experience-based stores in China, managed by Alfilo Brands. “The museum had physical presence in two of Shanghai’s most popular destinations for shopping and leisure, Grand Town and Xintiandi Plaza,” says Lauren. “Each pop-up store was open for eight weeks until the end of January 2019. The theme of the two pop-up stores was Art Deco, looking to the museum’s rich resource of Art Deco artefacts to inspire licensed products including stationery, tabletop and wall art. The pop-up stores are a key element of our activity in China, helping us to reach new audiences and bring the ingenuity of the V&A to the Chinese market.”

This year will also see V&A working with Alfilo Brands to promote its online and offline presence via China’s social medial platforms, Weibo and WeChat.

Lauren continues: “With collections so vast and deep we need to narrow down and identify design themes and items that resonate with consumers in China and which typifies what visitors are keen to explore when they come to the museum in London.

Homeware and gifts ranges from The Beast will be launching in China.
Homeware and gifts ranges from The Beast will be launching in China.

“Shanghai itself is home to one of the richest collections of Art Deco architecture in the world. So, with the V&A’s and Shanghai’s affinity with this art movement, the theme was ideal to use as our springboard within our first stores there.”

Going forward, Lauren is looking forward to continuing the V&A’s mission to make art available to all.

“Licensed products are a great way of reaching broad audiences, while continuing the appeal to an already loyal following,” she concludes. “They are an opportunity to tell the stories of our many wonderful and fascinating objects some of which may not be continuously on display in the galleries.

“The V&A is home to 5,000 years of human ingenuity in art, design and performance. All profits from the royalties are reinvested into the museum, to help us care for our collections, champion the creative industries, inspire the next generation and enrich everyone’s imagination.”

In fashion

One area where the V&A has enjoyed particular success is with its fashion collaborations. As well as the B&LLA award-winning luxury nightwear and lingerie with Coco de Mer, V&A has an ongoing collaboration with ethical fashion brand, People Tree.

“The V&A has an incredible archive of fashion and textiles,” says Lauren. “The fashion collection is designated as the UK’s National Collection so working with fashion and lingerie brands is a natural fit for the museum. Our experienced team can provide licensees with original source material combined with compelling stories, to transform products into beautiful contemporary ranges.

“We are proud to continue our relationship with People Tree into a third season, once again successfully combining seminal design with sustainable, Fair Trade fashion. The brand tie-up resonated strongly with one of the V&A’s most successful exhibitions in 2018, Fashioned from Nature.”

Lauren continues: “Going forwards we have new developments in the pipeline including a plan for a range of handbags and shoes with a new footwear fashion licensee in China, launching later this year.”

The theme of the two pop-up stores was Art Deco.
The theme of the two pop-up stores was Art Deco.

Overseas growth

The V&A continues to drive activity in the international market with a long established programme operating across Europe, the US and East Asia, maximising the global appeal of the brand.

“Japan continues to be a key market for the museum, many of its blockbuster touring exhibitions travel there, including David Bowie is in 2017 and Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic, which has just closed its two-month run at the Bunkamura Art Museum in Tokyo and received over 182,000 visitors,” offers Lauren. “In addition, the licensing team recently appointed two new licensees covering fashion accessories and homeware.

“The team are committed to growing the business further in East Asia, as signalled with the appointment of Alfilo Brands as the V&A’s exclusive agent in China. The team have ambitious plans for licensing, retail collaborations and pop-up stores throughout the territory.”

This feature originally appeared in the summer 2019 edition of Licensing Source Book. To read the full publication, click on this link.

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