Nordstrom and luxury brands help The Smiley Face celebrate its 50th anniversary
It’s the face that launched millions of licensed products.
When The Smiley Company was formed in 1972 to market a single work of art – a simple drawing of a smiley face on a yellow circle, licensing experts predicted it would be a short-lived fad at best.
Fifty years later, the company has not only proven the naysayers wrong, but shown it has the cachet to land collaborations with fashion designers, luxury brands and high-end department stores.
The Smiley Company has created a limited-edition collection of 50th anniversary products, on sale in stores worldwide, including 10 Nordstroms
Nordstrom chose Smiley for a [email protected] installation that opened today at its flagship New York store and nine other stores across the United States and Canada. The pop-up stores will sell clothing, beauty, home decor and lifestyle products from 30 different brands, including Alice + Olivia, Carolina Herrera 212, Moschino, Sandro and Thierry Lasry.
The items, which will be in all 10 Nordstrom stores through April 17, will also be sold online through Nordstrom’s website.
One of the secrets of Smiley’s longevity, according to Nicolas Loufrani, who runs the company founded by his father in 1972, is that brands and consumers have turned to him repeatedly over the years for his message of positivity. As he approached brands during the pandemic in preparation for the 50th anniversary, he found that many believed the message was exactly what they needed now.
While shutdowns and business closures made it harder to pitch birthday ideas, the brands he was able to reach at the start of the pandemic told him “you come with the best message right now,” Loufrani said. “You come with a positive message. We wear masks and you tell us to smile,” he said.
After gathering enough brand partners, he was able to line up department stores and other retailers to carry the products.
Olivia Kim, vice president of creative and home projects at Nordstrom, which manages that retailer’s Pop-in installations, called the Smiley Shop “a bright, upbeat collection of merchandise that features everyone’s favorite logo.” .
“Smiling is the easiest way to convey happiness and kindness, and I’m thrilled that our customers are immersing themselves in a fun and feel-good experience through the store and I hope it inspires them to spread smiles in their daily lives,” Kim said in a statement.
The Smiley Company’s collaboration with department store Galeries Lafayette opened on February 21 and includes a giant art installation in the Paris flagship store on Boulevard Haussmann, featuring graffiti artist André Saraiva on the Smiley logo. There’s also a Smiley-themed skate ramp outside the store, and a Smiley game zone with original arcade games and virtual reality game consoles.
The Galeries Lafayette exhibition lasts until April 3.
The Smiley Company was born after French journalist Franklin Loufrani designed the yellow smiley face logo for the France-Soir newspaper. The face, along with the words “Take time to smile”, were used to highlight positive and happy news.
While others created logos with happy, smiling faces, Loufrani trademarked the “smiley” name and began licensing his logo. He became an icon of the 1970s, but declined as the image aged. Smiley was relaunched over the past decade by Nicolas Loufrani, who forged creative partnerships with high fashion brands.
One strategy Loufrani has used successfully to create these partnerships is to pitch design and product ideas to potential partners, rather than waiting for licensing partners to come to him.
The company has managed to survive for 50 years and continue to grow thanks to its creativity and “its ability to reinvent itself”, said Nicolas Loufrani. “Each season we produce over 24 style guides and hundreds and hundreds of product concepts for our partners. We are reinventing graphic direction based on the latest trends,” he said.
The company has more than 400 licensing agreements worldwide, and Smiley-licensed products generate more than $573 million in annual sales, with more than 68 million items featuring the Smiley image sold each year, according to the company.
The company also helps create marketing campaigns for its partners, designed to boost social media engagements and thereby increase sales. For the Nordstrom partnership, “Smile Ambassadors” will operate an interactive photo booth for Smiley selfies, hand out surprises and spread the message “take time to smile” in parks in Manhattan and Brooklyn on March 13 and 14.