We chat to Helen Webster about how Style Library is upping its British brands’ licensing activity.
Style Library is one of those ‘under the radar’ licensing success stories. It has an impressive collection of both UK and international licensees across its four key brands – Morris & Co, Scion, Harlequin and Sanderson – not to mention a number of successful retailer collaborations which helped make the luxury interiors properties become some of the most talked about on the high street in 2018.
For Helen Webster, who arrived from Blueprint Collections last June to take on the role of licensing director, this is just the beginning.
“We’ve done a really great job in establishing a really solid licensing business, but it’s been done very much under the radar,” she tells Source when we visit the company’s Loughborough wallpaper and fabric factory and offices. “We’re growing big double digits every year – with a relatively unknown portfolio of brands in the licensing space – and I’m really keen to engage with the licensing community.
“The team started with the categories that were most natural for the brands – which are those related to our core product categories of wallpaper and cut length fabric, such as home and home accessories – but we are increasingly looking outwards.”
The biggest area across the UK, US and Japan for all of the brands is bedding, while other current categories include blinds, rugs, ceramics, kitchen accessories and textiles such as tea towels, curtains, towelling, tabletop, toiletries and stationery. Existing licensees include Heathcote & Ivory, Portmeirion, Turtle Mat, Bedeck, Churchill, Bliss Home, Make International, Blueprint Collections and Ace Tea to name just a few.
Going forward, potential new product categories being eyed up include menswear, ladieswear, food gifting, confectionery gifting and more paper products, such as calendars.
More retail collaborations are also part of the plan, with Morris & Co and Sanderson having both enjoyed successful tie-ups over the past year.
Morris & Co’s eight-week collaboration with H&M saw the brand highlighted in the retailer’s windows – as well as on the video screen in Times Square – while Sanderson’s work with Uniqlo saw womenswear and kidswear launch to great acclaim. This will be followed up in March with a third collaboration with the retailer. Helen hints that further collaborations will be coming up with other retailers, too.
Helen is also keen to point out that Style Library can work with retailers to create a ‘home lifestyle story’ across stores, highlighting the work being done with John Lewis. “They are such an important retailer for us on the core side of the business and we have a great relationship with them on the licensing side as well, across all four of the brands,” she says. “What we want to do is try and pull all of that together in proper lifestyle concepts across the store.”
The growth plans aren’t just for the UK either, with Helen and the team looking to expand on the success already achieved in Japan and the US with Morris & Co and Sanderson. “I’d like to properly establish a programme in the US across all of our brands, as well as doing more in Continental Europe,” Helen continues. “China is also a big growth area as they like British heritage. We have a presence there through our core product offering, but we don’t have much presence in terms of licensing.”
Growth can also come from the company’s substantial design archive – which is housed in Denham – with Helen explaining that Style Library can talk to people about unbranded design if they have gaps in their portfolio.
A number of the company’s licensees will also have stands at Spring Fair, while Style Library will have a stand for the first time at Brand Licensing Europe in October.
“Because we have British brands with a British manufacturing base, I do really see us wanting to partner with British brands,” says Helen. “I think that’s a really strong story for our company as a whole. We look for a keen sense of design and product in a partner; people who are passionate about their product category and their products and designs and where they are selling it. We’re open to new types of product because we feel that’s how one should be.
“It’s a really exciting time,” Helen concludes. “We’ve got a great base – and a growing base – but the licensing team is now able to take it to the next level by engaging with a wider audience.”
Style Library at a glance
Style Library is a portfolio of premium to luxury interior brands, with a core business of wallpaper and fabrics which is now being successfully extended with a licensing programme into other categories.
The portfolio includes Morris & Co – which produces authentic versions of the original designs of William Morris, alongside new interpretations to create up to date fabrics, wallpapers and home accessories – plus soft furnishings brand Sanderson; the fashion forward Harlequin brand; and Scandi-inspired design brand, Scion.
Helen arrived as licensing director in June 2018, joining Liz Bonnert who became licensing executive in April, moving over from TVM Fashion Lab where she had been managing the licensed approvals team.