ARTiSTORY secures exclusive partnership with Dunhuang Culture and Tourism Group

ARTiSTORY has entered into an exclusive partnership with Dunhuang Culture and Tourism Group that will enable the pair to work to establish a new licensing programme for key markets such as North America, the EMEA, and Asia.

This historical, multi-year partnership is one of the firsts of its kind for a Chinese cultural IP to be licensed to global retailers and consumer brands outside China.

Dunhuang Inspiration, an art and cultural brand established by Dunhuang Culture & Tourism Group will be operating this licensing programme with ARTiSTORY. Based upon the city of Dunhuang’s abundant cultural and tourist resources, DCTG holds the exclusive operation rights to the city’s well treasured cultural heritage sites. 

The city of Dunhuang sits at a unique position along the historical Silk Road. Lying by the Gobi Desert and north of the Mingsha Sand Dunes, Dunhuang was an essential resting point for travellers passing between East and West one thousand years ago. The gathering of diverse people and cultures led to Dunhuang’s prosperity with great legacies such as the world-famous stucco sculptures and murals of Mogao Caves.

Dunhuang Inspiration is a brand designed with cultural creativity and vitality. It embodies DCTG’s commitment to preserve, exhibit, and stimulate appreciation for the art of Dunhuang.

Through the partnership, Dunhuang and ARTiSTORY’s global creative team will collaboratively develop original design assets under annually refreshed themes such as “Voyage of Discovery” and “The Rhythm of Dunhuang” inspired by the world-class beauty of Dunhuang. Together, Dunhuang and ARTiSTORY will create a full spectrum of IP design assets such as illustrations, prints and patterns, badges, icons, colour palettes with narratives for licensees to use via merchandising, content marketing, online and offline retailing, and immersive experiences.

This will also help global retailers and consumer brands to engage more successfully with a global audience and speed up their market penetration in China, Japan, Korea, SE Asia, and beyond. 

Sun Xiaoqiang, chairman of Dunhuang Culture and Tourism Group, said: “Dunhuang culture is so profound that it requires our lifelong time to research and pass it on to our future generations. The Group, together with ARTiSTORY, will bring refreshed narratives of Dunhuang culture to a broader range of industries, blooming more brilliant light.”

Yizan He, founder and managing director of ARTiSTORY, added: “ARTiSTORY is delighted to partner with Dunhuang Culture & Tourism Group. We look forward to enabling global retailers and consumer brands to engage shoppers more effectively with art and cultural IP and storytelling.”

Wargaming’s World of Warships commandeers HMS Belfast in groundbreaking Imperial War Museums partnership

Wargaming, the developer and publisher of the popular combat video game, World of Warships, has commandeered HMS Belfast to open a new gaming room for fans of the franchise, in a new partnership with Imperial War Museums.

The room will be made available for the public when the venues reopens this week (July 8th), inviting visitors to the newly refurbished warship to immerse themselves in the world of naval combat as they get hands-on with World of Warships and World of Warships: Legends on in-situ gaming PCs and video game consoles.

World of Warships and World of Warships: Legends recorded over 50 million player accounts from across the world, giving players the opportunity to helm hundreds of historical vessels, including HMS Belfast itself, in a massively multiplayer video game title that requires a balance of strategy and real-time combat.

Offering the largest digital collection of historically accurate ships available to play, World of Warships is supporting the global community of museums and heritage sites with in-game content based on historical documents and actual blueprints from the first half of the 20th century.

Meanwhile, following an extended closure that started in March 2020, HMS Belfast is reopening in time for summer with new exhibition spaces and an enhanced visitor offer onboard. From July 8th, visitors to the Second World War Royal Navy warship can explore new displays, discover stories from crew members and enjoy interactive experiences such as the World of Warships Command Centre.

John Brown, IWM executive director commercial services and operations, said: “After an extended closure period of sixteen months, we are thrilled to be reopening HMS Belfast this summer and welcome visitors back onboard this magnificent warship.

“The World of Warships Command Centre is a really fantastic addition to the refreshed visitor offer and will enable audiences to interact with HMS Belfast and its history in a completely new way.”

Victor Kislyi, CEO of Wargaming added: “Over the past year we have been privileged to work with naval museums across the world and support them during an immensely difficult time.

“We are delighted to be able to add a new dimension to the already incredible offering onboard HMS Belfast, and can’t wait to see this historic warship ship delight and educate visitors once more.”

The Royal Mint unveils Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland coin collection with the V&A

The Royal Mint has unveiled the first official Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland coin collection developed in collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum and inspired by illustrations from the original book by the English novelist, Lewis Carroll.

A special £5 crown featuring Alice and the Cheshire Cat is now available for collectors to get their hands on. The coin was revealed alongside the original illustrations by Sir John Tenniel at the Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser exhibition held at the Victoria and Albert museum.

Featuring the edge inscription “Curiouser and Curiouser,” the intricate design is one of the most detailed coins produced by the 1,100-year-old Makers.

Launched in base metal (known as brilliant uncirculated), and also available in gold and silver, the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland keepsake is part of a two-coin collectors’ range created by The Royal Mint Designer Ffion Gwillim and Sculptor Emma Noble. The second coin, featuring Tweedledum and Tweedledee, will launch later this summer in celebration of 150 years of Through the Looking-Glass – the sequel to the original Lewis Carroll book.

Clare Maclennan divisional director of Commemorative Coin at The Royal Mint said: “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a true classic, cherished by generations of adults and children of all ages and is still as popular today. In collaboration with the V&A, we have commemorated this treasured tale for the first time on an official UK coin.

“Inspired by Sir John Tenniel’s original illustrations, the beautiful £5 crown has been crafted to the finest quality, combining traditional minting skills with innovation in design technology. I’m sure the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland range will become a popular choice for collectors, capturing the imagination of people of all ages, launching at the awe-inspiring Victoria and Albert Museum during the 150th anniversary of Through the Looking-Glass is a fitting celebration.”

Amelia Calver, research and development manager, V&A Brand Licensing, added: “We’re delighted to be celebrating the global phenomenon beloved by all ages, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, with the 2021 commemorative coins. The designs masterfully capture the charm of Tenniel’s original illustrations and pay homage to some of the Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass characters that Alice meets along the way.

“The 2021 coins are set to give fans the chance to add to their existing collections and inspire new readers of the book to discover the magic of Carroll’s stories and embark on wondrous journeys of their own.”

Horticultured | The Royal Horticultural Society on bringing 200 years’ of gardening history to new audiences

From garden tools to wine, and chocolates to canvas shoes, all via the mulch aisle, when the Royal Horticultural Society puts its name to something, it carries with it the weight of over 200 years’ of rich heritage and authority on the subject of the country’s unerring love affair with the garden and the produce of the natural world it inhabits.

At a time in which heritage licensing is witnessing a stark upwards curve in demand from consumers today, while gardening is seeing an equal surge in consumer interest from across the age ranges, spanning children an families, to young adults and of course the core audience within which the RHS brands sits, it’s understandable that the organisation’s licensing division has become a hive of activity, abuzz with excitement over its latest developments in the space.

Here, catches up with Cathy Snow, licensing manager at the RHS to find out how the firm brings its 200 years of history to the contemporary licensing space, what audiences are demanding from the heritage licensing sector today, and how the Royal Horticultural Society is embracing and encouraging new audiences to explore Britain’s own back gardens.

Hello Cathy, thank you for chatting with us today. To kick us off, could you give us an overview of the RHS brand and the values that it brings to the licensing space? How does the brand’s licensing efforts work to promote the ethos of the RHS, from wildlife and conservation to health and wellbeing?

Cathy Snow, Licensing Manager, RHS: “Inspiring everyone to grow” is our brand message and gardening has been our focus for over 200 years. But we turn this messaging into action. The Royal Horticultural Society is a charity, yes, but it’s also a campaigning institution, an educational powerhouse, and the owner of some of the most popular visitor centres and gardening shows in the country, regularly attracting millions of people. We also support everyday gardening and its proven physical and mental benefits, many of which became more apparent than ever last year.

Of course our licensing work helps us to fund these efforts and raise awareness of them. But licensing itself has to fit in with the brand and its ideals. Sustainability and good ethical and environmental practices are important in our campaigning work but also important in terms of choosing partners and supporting their manufacturing processes. 

The RHS brand is a hugely reputable and deeply respected name. How do you leverage the rich heritage of the brand itself to build on the licensing portfolio? Where do you begin with building out a programme for such a revered name as RHS?

The overall RHS licensing campaign, quite reasonably, references the brand’s rich British history. But it does a lot more than that. Our products succeed in the marketplace because we look at our core strengths and assets and focus on products centered around those. This approach is especially notable in the gardening category, where high-quality tools and stylish garden furniture are promoted alongside peat-free gardening products, and an extensive range of core gardening essentials suited to every level of gardening ability.

“More heritage organisations than ever are entering the licensing arena and developing licensed products – but the best of them are not solely focused on commercial gain.”

However, this approach also influences other categories, which aim to raise awareness of our work and ideals. Many designs – including those used on a growing selection of adult apparel – are inspired by imagery from the RHS Lindley Collections, the world’s largest collection of botanical art. Scholastic UK has launched a programme of entertaining, informative and beautifully illustrated activity books for children aged seven to 12, encouraging readers to explore and enjoy nature outdoors. Information on tags and packaging helps to promote our work. Our children’s clothing promotes gardening in a fun way with veg and plant imagery and witty slogans. And of course many of our products are made by craftspeople and sourced in the UK.

Whatever the category the licensing team work with licensees and retailers not only to provide the best possible products but also to educate consumers about gardening and share our own love of horticulture with everyone no matter their age, ability or gardening space. 

How has ‘heritage licensing’ changed over recent years, what do consumers expect in terms of brand narrative and story-telling in ‘heritage licensing’ today, and how is this reflected in your approach to licensing RHS?

More heritage organisations than ever are entering the licensing arena and developing licensed products – but the best of them are not solely focused on commercial gain. RHS licensed products must be relevant, appropriate and the best quality possible. If we don’t think a product is right for the RHS, we won’t approve it.

Consumers expect RHS licensed products to outperform other similarly available items; if a customer buys a pot with a 10-year frost-proof guarantee they expect it to last for more than 10 years. This is why we carefully approve every product and check its performance and quality. 

And of course, the brand narrative – inspiring everyone to grow – influences all our partnerships, from garden tools to wine and chocolates, and from mulch to canvas shoes.

The licensing and story-telling potential that RHS boasts must be incredibly exciting. What level of creativity does the depth of the portfolio afford you with your licensing plans? How are you applying innovation in licensing to new and varied audiences?

The RHS style guides are an obvious starting point. They make use of the RHS Lindley Collections – the world’s largest collection of botanical art, including some 25,000 works. This is the perfect combination of exciting and original but also highly appropriate material.

However, the RHS encourages licensees to use the Collections as they see fit – the art is an inspiration rather than a rulebook. For example, the recent Hotter range of canvas shoes created two exclusive repeat pattern designs from Lindley Collections illustrations to deliver something unique and evocative, while the Oasis design team re-sketched its chosen images by hand for a series of prints to be used in a new fashion collection.

“Gardening came into its own in pandemic-hit 2020 when RHS gardening product licensees saw a surge in sales, and the health benefits (physical and mental) of gardening were not just interesting insights but news headlines.”

Regularly refreshed style guides add to the choice. One such was the very successful RHS Licensing Geometric Style Guide 2018; this uses Parterre and knot garden styles dating from the 1600s and 1700s to reflect the trend for geometric designs. Another was a style guide for children’s products – building on the charity’s success in outreach for children, families and schools, and in child-friendly events at its gardens and shows.

And yes, there are new audiences, and we constantly monitor home and garden trends. For instance, our supporter base is changing. A younger audience is discovering the benefits of outdoor spaces and gardening. We’ve therefore expanded our product portfolio into products for children, families and younger adults, and children’s products will be a major focus for the RHS in the post-pandemic world. A recent success was an association with the award-winning George brand that produced a fabulous collection of children’s clothing and accessories aimed at one to seven year olds. There’s also been an RHS-inspired series of children’s books from Scholastic UK. 

How can licensing unlock the values of gardening, the outdoors, nature, wellbeing and all that RHS stands for with new generations?

For our gardening products – a major part of our licensed offering – there’s a clear link. And of course, gardening came into its own in pandemic-hit 2020 when RHS gardening product licensees saw a surge in sales, and the health benefits (physical and mental) of gardening were not just interesting insights but news headlines.

But even with homeware, apparel, confectionery and other non-gardening categories we aim to use packaging and POS to inform and educate where we can. We have thousands of botanical artworks available to licensees, many of which inspire product designs. These help to raise awareness of our gardens, flower shows, research, education and the excellent advice and information we can offer on all horticultural matters.

We always try to innovate and lead; this is reflected in our licensed products.

As for new generations, the move into children’s products – which actually started before Covid and lockdown – reflects the changing age of our supporters and, of course, the many initiatives the RHS as a whole has in place for children and schools.

How has the consumer’s relationship with ‘heritage licensing’ changed in the last 12 months? Has lockdown and the pandemic changed the way in which people want to experience art and culture? How does this influence your licensing strategy?

Consumers seem to be looking for products made by hand and closer to home, which we encourage, where feasible, through relationships with craft groups and UK-based partners. The growing public appeal of craft suppliers and companies based in the UK, as well as sustainability – in particular with the younger audience – fits in well with the brand values of the RHS.

Recyclable packaging, less plastic, low-impact manufacturing – these have always been aims of ours, but consumer awareness of environmental issues is now growing, and manufacturers are responding to this.

Another trend has been a huge increase in royalties for products for the home and especially the garden, not to mention more distribution channels opening up as retailers who might not normally look at gardening products or licensed products adjust to meet demand. 

“We won’t ever be complacent, but we do think we are now well positioned to grow the brand even more without compromising its values.”

What categories or licensing partners will be key to you as you build on the RHS portfolio? What will the lifestyle, home, and garden licensing spaces span, and how will you look to tell the story of RHS through these?

We’ve enjoyed enormous success in the ongoing expansion of our category portfolio and this expansion will continue. However, we also hope to strengthen existing product categories and in particular are looking to expand in homeware, children’s products and apparel. Partners with strong ethical and environmental credentials and those that highlight UK craftsmanship will remain a major part of our programme too.

Gardening will always be our core category and we aim to continue to target keen gardeners and would-be gardeners who are looking for quality and inspiring products to support their interest. But gardening too has branched out: luxury garden sheds, premium boots, trellises, indoor pot covers and the very successful RHS Gifts for Gardeners range are all indicators that the RHS is continuing to seize opportunities in both established and new categories.

The programme overall is well established and balanced: it’s making more money for the charity than ever while still reflecting our values and insisting on carefully chosen licensing partners. We won’t ever be complacent, but we do think we are now well positioned to grow the brand even more without compromising its values. 

What can we expect from the RHS in the licensing space in the coming year and beyond, what’s the next step for you guys in the sector?

We’ve announced several new partnerships so far this year (including hand-iced biscuits from Biscuiteers and children’s clothing from George) and more are to come. Some projects that were delayed last year are launching over the next few months. It has been – and still is – a really busy period. We’re expanding our small team and looking for a new Senior Licensing Development Executive and Licensing Development Executive to help generate new business and develop existing licensing partnerships.

The RHS gardens and shows are ready for a strong post-lockdown visitor response. This is an exciting time for us as a licensing team and for the RHS as a leading Heritage organisation.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh celebrates 350th anniversary with new licensing programme

The Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh is celebrating its 350th anniversary this year with the unveiling of two new licensing partners in Caithness Glass and Flame Tree Publishing.

RBGE was established in 1670 as a physic garden near the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The purpose of the garden was to supply fresh plants for medical prescriptions and to help teach medical botany to students. Almost 20 years later, in 1699, it received a royal warrant.

Over the years many intrepid botanists introduced exotic plants from all over the world and innovative techniques into the gardens. Moving to its present site in Inverleith in 1823, RGBE  is one of the world’s leading botanical gardens and today delivers world-leading plant science and conservation programmes and cares for large archives of botanical art as well four gardens in Scotland.

In this anniversary year, RGBE is hosting a programme of exhibitions and events, and has kickstarted an ambitious plan to rebuild its existing glasshouses and create a new one under its Edingburgh Biomes project – one which aims to secure the Garden’s work for future generations.

RGBE’s licensing programme is focused on using its archive and environmental message to work with companies that reflect its brand values. Royalties from products sold help to directly fund and support the work RGBE does to develop its collections to maximise their value as a research, education, conservation and heritage resource.

Inspired by the 350th anniversary, Caithness Glass will produce a range of collectable artglass  featuring a ‘Water lily – Nymphaea’, ‘Blue Poppy – Meconopsis’ ‘Rhodoendron Ferrugineum’ and ‘Ferns’. 

All of these plants have a special connection to the gardens.

Caithness Glass was founded in 1961 and is now a world leading producer of  paperweights and artglass. Each piece is a unique work of art and hand crafted to the highest standards by skilled makers.

Jacqueline McCulloch, area sales manager of Caithness Glass, said: “Caithness is delighted to be working with RGBE in its anniversary year. The first in a series of planned items launched at Spring Fair were received very well with many orders taken – we are confident that this will be an excellent collaboration for years to come.”

Meanwhile, Flame Tree Publishing works with many prestigious museums and galleries creating published content under license including books calendars and greetings cards. For its RGBE 2021 calendar – which is on sale now – Flame Tree is publishing botanical imagery by the victorian artist Charlotte Cowan, discovered in the RGBE archives.

Frances Bodiam, managing director of Flame Tree Publishing, said:Looking through the archives at the RGBE was a revelation and we were thrilled to unearth the work of Charlotte Cowan. There are many other wonderful images to discover and we look forward to working with RGBE in the future.”

Helena Lawrence, head of retail and brand licensing at RGBE, added: “In our anniversary year, signing these two licenses emphasises how much our brand values resonate with licensees. We are very pleased to be working with Caithness and Flame Tree and also to launch our new style guide which will show how our wonderful collections can inspire new product.

“Further licenses are already in the pipeline which will showcase our collections.”

The Ashmolean Museum taps Start Licensing as it looks to build its UK licensing programme

The Ashmolean Museum has tapped the award-winning licensing agency, Start Licensing, to represent the brand across all categories as it looks to build out an extensive licensing programme.

Based on Oxford and established in 1683, The Ashmolean is recognised both as the world’s first public museum and  the world’s first university museum. Over the course of its almost 350 year history, it has developed from a cabinet of curiosities into a university museum of art and archaeology adored throughout the world.

A favourite of the travel writer Bill Bryson, who has called it ‘just about the most beguiling museum there is,’ the Ashmolean is a celebrated treasure house with rich and diverse collections. One of its greatest strengths is that these collections encompass worldwide art and archaeology across millennia from prehistory to the present day.

It is the home of collections spanning Old Master drawings and musical instruments; Dutch Still-Life and continental silver; textiles, ceramics and paintings from the Islamic Middle East, China, Japan, South East Asia, India and the Himalayas.

Dec McCarthy, head of publishing and licensing at the Ashmolean Museum, said: “The Ashmolean is delighted to announce the appointment of Start Licensing as our exclusive agent, and hope that this will help to raise the awareness of the possible opportunities for licensing.

“Licensees working with the Ashmolean have unprecedented access to our curatorial departments, study rooms and collections, much of which is not on general public view. The Ashmolean’s licensing team can help licensees make full use of the resources available and work with licensees to develop product which is inspired by the Ashmolean and in turn will inspire consumers.

“We would also love to host product launches, photo shoots and staff training within the museum.”

Existing licensees of The Ashmolean include Woodmansterne Publications, PJ Studio Accessories, Flametree Publishing, and Fox & Chave. The greetings card company Woodmansterne even featured artwork from the Ashmolean in prime position on its tradeshow stand at the Spring Fair recently.

Ian Downes from Start Licensing Limited said: “We are delighted to be working with The Ashmolean Museum. It is a great time to work with a heritage brand and the Ashmolean has a real ‘can do’ attitude. We are looking forward to engaging with licensees and retailers to add momentum to the existing programme.

“We have identified a number of opportunities including working with retailers and brand owners to create capsule collections. We have developed some product concepts to inspire partners and would love to share these with potential partners.

“The Ashmolean Museum represents a great opportunity for licensees to work in an original way and to add value to their businesses. There is scope for licensees and retailers to identify specific design themes and build product ranges accordingly.

“The Ashmolean Museum is a fantastic creative resource and one that should inspire creative thinking.”

The Ashmolean Museum is situated in Oxford and attracts a broad base of visitors including a significant percentage from outside the UK including visitors from countries such as China and Japan. It also hosts a number of exhibitions each year. Next to be housed at the museum is Young Rembrandt, opening on February 27th, followed by Tokyo Art and Photography from July 16 2020.

Rights & Brands secures Design House Stockholm furniture collaboration for Carl and Karin Larsson

Rights & Brands, the worldwide agent on behalf of the Swedish artists Carl and Karin Larsson, has launched a creative furniture collaboration with Design House Stockholm.

Karin Larsson created furniture and textiles in a pre-modernist style in the late nineteenth century. The rich, bold colour palette is celebrated in paintings by her husband Carl Larsson.

Both are fixtures of the Swedish art and design world.

“Nordic designers have been at the forefront of the international design scene for decades. But haven’t we been a bit restricted in terms of colour? Design House Stockholm has decided to reach across the centuries and dress up nine objects selected from our contemporary collection of accessory furniture pieces with four of the bold colours of Karin Larsson, a legend of Swedish art and design,” said Anders Färdig, founder and CEO of Design House Stockholm.

The collection Colour Accent inspired by Karin & Carl Larsson is launching today at Stockholm Furniture Fair. The pre-launch took place on Monday, February 3rd at the distinguished National Museum in Stockholm, with over 150 renowned design guests, influencers, journalists and buyers.

“Together with the creative team at Design House Stockholm we are putting a modern take on heritage licensing. It’s been delightful seeing how Karin’s creative, modernist thinking of yesterday marries so well with the objects of today’s top furniture designers,” said Anna Lawrence, rights director at Rights & Brands.

“This collaboration really sets the tone for the year,” said Patrick Ullman, CEO at Rights & Brands. “We are looking forward to adding more creative collaborations to our heritage and art-based brands and showcasing Rights & Brands innovative and progressive take on licensing.”

Design House Stockholm’s contemporary collection includes accessory furniture with straightforward and functional simplicity that pays tribute to the creativity of the Larsson family.