Jonathan Adler Breathing Life into Clay
Jonathan Adler is living proof that, with persistence and tenacity, a passion for a certain aesthetic sensibility of yesterday can be translated into a brand vision that resonates with today's consumers.
Obsessed with pottery since his teens, Adler's business was sparked when he sold an initial order of pots to Barneys just over ten years ago. Today, the US-based designer's humorous yet streamlined take on mid-century design is embodied by a wide variety of home items at all price points (from paper goods to high-end furniture to bath accessories), making the Adler aesthetic easily accessible to anyone and everyone who happens to dig it.
Who knew that a brand experience so seamlessly executed, a strategy so layered, could begin so organically? "Jonathan just started out making pots. Once we started distributing his pots and textiles to other wholesalers and retailers, we realized that we were actually building a brand," explains Louis Marra, vice president of Jonathan Adler. "It all just sort of evolved."
In fashionable circles, the Jonathan Adler brand has an ever-increasing omnipresence with each passing day. You might come across a Jonathan Adler boutique while strolling through a hip shopping district in a major US city, like Miami or Chicago. Or you might stay at an Adler-designed hotel in Palm Springs. You might even turn on your TV and notice an Adler pillow in a scene from the American sitcom "Will & Grace." And you might very well find yourself perusing Jonathan Adler Happy Home products while you shop for shower curtains in home retailer Bed Bath & Beyond.
By cultivating relationships with a variety of licensing partners, Jonathan Adler and sub-brands Jonathan Adler Happy Home and Jonathan Adler Paper products can be found everywhere from its own retail locations (seven in all at the moment), Marshall Field's, and a myriad of other retailers whose consumers aspire to achieve the Jonathan Adler look. Throwing a net this wide is quite a challenge for any brand, yet the folks at Jonathan Adler affirm that no matter what you pay or where you get it, you are getting product that is pure Adler.
"What's unique about us is that we maintain 100 percent creative control over our productswe do it all," says Marra. "And we are very careful to choose licensing partners who are the best at what they do and understand how we do business. We want all of our products to maintain their design integrity and sense of quality, regardless of price point."
Aside from the sexy tchotchkes, the Jonathan Adler brand was built with a rock-steady marketing effort. Be it mail catalogs, the website or in-store experience, all creative executions consistently and effectively spread the word of its manifesto (yes, the company actually has one), based on the tastes, personality and story of the man himself. "Jonathan Adler is the brand. It's his humor, his drive, his story and his entire creative process," Marra says.
As design is typically a field where brands tend to take themselves too seriously, Jonathan Adler has enthusiastically embraced lighthearted terms like "happy" and "fun," even naming one of the sub-brands Jonathan Adler Happy Home. "Our sensibility is born out of mid-century design, inspired by a lot of fifties, sixties and seventies designs. Whether you'd consider Jonathan's take modern or acidic, by calling our sub-brand Happy Home, we have become the signifier of a mid-century, clean, happy, accessible design aesthetic," explains Marra.
So what's next? In a move that will undoubtedly play a part in propelling him from the design major leagues into the upper echelon of tastemakers, Adler recently published The Jonathan Adler Book: My prescription for anti-depressive living, an elaboration of his manifesto.
Additionally, a lighting collection designed to complement the fairly new furniture line is set to debut at Adler stores at better retailers across the country in 2006. Last but not least, Jonathan Adler will remain steadfast in efforts to conquer the world of retail, with two to four new locations projected as a yearly goal. "For us, retail is the best way to get our brand out there," says Marra. "The stores are like giant, interactive billboards."
With a brand strategy that brought it from the niche to the masses rather quickly, it seems the company is wise to bank on the theory that there is a little bit of Jonathan Adler in (and for) everyone.