After two years in winter, The Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition is back where it should be. The theme chosen by the exhibition’s coordinator, Alison Wilding RA, is ‘Climate’. Whether as a crisis or opportunity, or simply an everyday experience, it is an all-embracing subject. And as art critic Janet Steadman suggested, ‘It is time brands as well as artists stop constantly feeding the consumer new, better, quicker, faster. They would be better served to study and learn from what has been before in order to preserve what we have left’.
And it is with the focus on sustainability that brands, particularly in the luxury sector, are being led back to explore their cultural heritage. It is this transparency and traceability that is in the forefront of consumer’s minds today. From touring supply chains to an insistence on greener credentials, customers are not only interested in understanding brand history, they are now insistent on it. As Krishma Singh Dear, Head of Design at The Londoner, Edwardian Hotels said recently, “In the luxury hotel business, hotels are celebrated for constantly refurbishing their spaces to be fresh and newsworthy. We want to change that trend. For us the foundations of sustainability lie in our ability to explore our past, learn from it and re-use, rather than expending to renew”.
As a result, brand archives both old and new are being viewed in a very different light. What were once, at best, collections that brands had a historical duty to preserve are now being recognised as the richest of mining fields. Not only for the visual history of a brand that can be studied, learnt from, recycled and renewed, but also for the stories that accurately and truthfully explain a brand and provide an increasingly demanding target audience permission to connect.