Branding and launching a second line of eau de parfums for niche luxury London perfume house SARAH BAKER in the midst of a pandemic.
One of PROJECTile’s first clients, SARAH BAKER is an artist-run perfume house based in London founded in 2015. Now a respected niche luxury fragrance house, American artist Sarah Baker’s fragrance brand has a unique origin story: Sarah created a perfume as an art project for a solo exhibition. Then it all simply took off…
Sarah, an American, settled in London after completing her postgraduate education at Goldsmiths. She soon established a respected practice as an artist on the international contemporary art circuit. When she set out to create a perfume—naturally, it had to be credible in luxury perfume terms—as part of a funded art project, little did she know that it would turn into a de facto niche fragrance house. Years on, both the fragrance and art worlds are much the better for it.
SARAH BAKER was founded by creative director Sarah Baker who runs the house together with her husband Andy Hsu, also an artist.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Sarah Baker utterly disproved the cliché that artists are sensitive-but-impractical souls. She immediately kicked into action with a proactive project with a strong CSR component.
Barely months later, as we were all learning to deal with the practicalities of life of lockdown during a pandemic, she tasked PROJECTile to work with her on a new collection, something that had been in discussion for some time. Taking the weighed-up but nonetheless daring decision to progress during such uncertain times, Sarah planned to launch a new second line collection.
We worked closely with Sarah from the concepting and naming stage to branding, launch and beyond. Taking in everything from product design to storytelling, the launch of the S.BAKER Collection was the culmination of a truly 360° collaboration with a brand owner.
Working with artists—real artists, not just those easy claims by marketers—requires particular skills; a simpatico mindset. Given the passions and track records of some of our people, we’re very good at it. And, to be honest, who could turn down the opportunity to work on something so positive during such a dark time?
The approach was to working with Sarah and Andy was much the same as a curator works with exhibiting artists—good thing we actually had a bone fide curator who could do this—interrogating everything about this new, imagined brand; understanding the ebb and flow of artists' processes yet how to pull them back to some really blunt decisions.
All of the artsy, gorgeous stuff first: the notion of a second line focussed on freshness as a concept; the individual stories for each fragrance given the house’s unique and specific character; and inputting on the bottle design and the development of a new, bespoke collection colour, Enlightenment Green.
Oh, and, lest we forget, the challenges of the time. Even if you had money to burn, the choices of bottles and packaging had to be achieved in the constantly changing (generally worsening) landscape of logistical supply chain shortages resulting from the pandemic and the administrative realities of post-Brexit Britain…
The idea of the house’s second line was to introduce a more affordable eau de parfum product range. The end result aimed for was a product retail price at approximately 60% compared with the flagship extrait de parfum collection for the same liquid volume.
After much brainstorming and considering how this might work in relation to briefs for invited noses, the overarching concept settled on the idea of "freshness"; to look to perfume history’s traditions of eau de cologne—actually a big deal in the development of perfume technology—but here realised with the luxuriance of eau de parfum.
This, in turn, led to the development of a bespoke signature collection colour. Green was a natural colour palette to consider given one of the collection’s keywords is “freshness” and its intention to appeal to a younger, environmentally aware market. But, as always, it needed to have a unique feel; the presence of the artist’s POV. And it was found in the 18th-century iterations of green, such as found recurring in various places at Sanssouci Palace or even on a Ladurée macaron.
Similarly, when looking to the design of the bottle and packaging, the commercial and the idealistic had to find a point of congruence. SARAH BAKER is committed to creating “gender-optional” fragrances. Nonetheless, commercially, signalling relevance to male consumers with more traditional attitudes was one aim, helping to extend the brand's reach to new markets not yet penetrated.
The result was to look to the sleek and simple lines of 1920s bottle design. Today stereotyped as “masculine”, in real perfume history terms, the 1920s and 1930s saw a proliferation of more affordable eau de colognes with this style of bottle aimed specifically at younger “modern women” eschewing marriage as their only option in favour of employed independence. Yep, especially during a logistics crisis, it was the sweet spot.
Last but not least, there was the tone of voice and copy. As an artist, Sarah Baker is above all else a storyteller. This was brought home both in the copy and in the straplines—”telling scented tales”—elaborated on packaging and all channels.
The story so far…
The launch of the S.BAKER Collection in Summer 2020 was met with both a high level of press and consumer interest and acclaim by influential reviewers and opinion makers.
In the months following its launch, the collection gained a lot of attention in relevant target markets and forums. A number of the fragrances in the collection received glowing reviews by highly regarded editors in top fragrance titles. Better still, a number of the fragrances have achieved longevity in their praise. This, in turn, assisted their high performance during the key Holiday Season retail period 2020/2021.
Moving into what might be called “cult fragrance”, they soon took their place among the house’s bestsellers, a status they currently retain.