Brand Master Class: How to Get Ahead

Geremy Campos • If you’ve ever wondered how Louis Vuitton became Louis Vuitton, it breaks down to a few things. The products sold, the customers buying them, and the brand’s public image all make a Balenciaga bag stand out from a Faded Glory. You get the idea. It culminates into the large concept of branding, that which makes a product sellable. It starts at the beginning stages of your creative process as a designer sourcing fabric, and extends out to social media and how you might present yourself at a cocktail party. This information reaches the customer and influences them on how (and where) they spend their money (and view your brand).

Bliss Lau and Jasmine Takanikos have worked in the business of brand-building in New York for years. Lau, a former Hawai‘i-native who now lives in New York, is a jewelry designer and professor at Parsons the New School of Design,  and will speak at a masterclass seminar this weekend about her creative process and the business she created—Bliss Lau—alongside Jasmine Takanikos, also a Parsons professor, brand strategist, and consultant with a resume of clients that includes New Balance, PF Flyers, and CORE.

Lau has gained cult acclaim with her body chains and intricately layered bracelets. While her studying at Parsons certainly started her career, it’s her demonstrative ideas of creativity and branding that have brought her works to be sold at Saks Fifth Avenue, Curve (LA), and Hawai‘i’s own I.Am on Kapi‘olani Boulevard. She credits some of her success, or knowledge of approach, to her colleague and advisor Takanikos.

“Jasmine taught me to not be scared to show the public my thoughts and vision, artistically and creatively in language that I use—the way I express my ideas,” Lau said. “All of that was really asking myself questions and what matters to me [...] which can be what types of products I’m making, how I’m making them, what materials I’m using, and how does that inform my customer. How is everything I put out on people reflective of my brand?” She adds that, ultimately, all the choices she makes within her own line finds its way to her customer, but one should never lose oneself in the process.

“Just acknowledge what you want to do, versus what other people like. That’s the most important thing,” says Lau. She also brings up one of the great buzzwords of our time, Instagram. Businesses ranging from locally owned boutiques to international corporations have an Instagram account nowadays, and use it to reach their own clients as well as prospective customers. It’s no different for Lau’s namesake label. “I’m a visual artist, so before Instagram existed I was already taking pictures of everything that inspired me. Though as someone who makes product and ideas, Instagram is one of the best avenues for me to show that.”

Bliss Lau’s collections of fine jewelry have graced nearly every major fashion publication known to the industry, but she’s still privy to her recognition of pitfalls. “Learning from failures is important for anyone. I’m a firm believer of not being a repeat offender so, ask yourself: Why did something not work? How do I make it better? Also, keep your eyes open to the world and be aware of your competitors.” Lau has successfully navigated her way to be one of the foremost modern designers of our time.

Brand consultant Takanikos explains that it’s always good to unify ideas between operating a business and successful ways of branding. So, what are the bare essentials of branding? “It’s about business development. Ultimately, to create a brand is to create something participatory—whether it’s a product or store—you have to get people to engage: branding about who your customer is, what is the design, marketing to reach your customer with PR. It’s a big puzzle and every piece has to be looked at to create something that works.”

Takanikos also looks at how a brand’s culture interacts with its customers, and how to get added value from engaging with social media. But, that, too can require heavily calculated ways of distributing information. She says that not enough brands understand their content strategy. “What does that end up doing to your subconscious, which really ends up ruling your conscious when you look at bad content?”

All in all, it’s important to have constant awareness of the information you choose to give your audience. And since many individuals or businesses may find it daunting to alter the ways they might conduct their businesses currently, Takanikos says that you don’t have to start over completely from scratch. “You can reposition, update, and reevaluate. I think that it is a scary process that’s unknown, but in the end, you’ll know more.”

As for what we can expect from “A Masterclass in Design and Branding,” hosted by Hawaii RED Style and taking place at the Waialae Ballroom in the Kahala Resort and Hotel on Saturday, Lau says she will take attendees on an interactive discussion by asking a series of socratic questions to guide them onto a new path of understanding their own brand. She’ll also speak more directly about her experiences as a creator and designer. As for Takanikos, participants will hear her perspective on personal branding. Takanikos, with such a wide range of clients, is an authority on key strategies for most fashion designers, boutique owners, real estate agents, students, and distributors.

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