Smythson Is Rebranding With a Short Film Starring Phoebe Tonkin


It should go without saying, but heritage brands bank on their heritage: the history, the archive, the customer base who knows who they are and rely on it. Toying with the equation can be tricky, if not downright dangerous, but sometimes a slight rejiggering is needed to adapt to the times. Such is the case for luxury British label Smythson, who’s allowed new Head of Brand Nicole Bahbout to re-think how the modern customer should perceive and shop its wares (there’s also a refocus on the brand’s travel DNA, both in the just-released campaign video and in the content populating the site).

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To be sure, it’s not an overhaul, but a gentle retool that started with the existing foundation. Here, a quick how-to-rebrand-for-dummies guide.

Lesson #1: Don’t erase DNA.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a reinvention; I see it as a revelation. There is nothing to reinvent; this brand has been a hidden gem for 130 years. [There’s] a rich history just waiting to be discovered, and all I want to do is give it a voice and show the world our incredible heritage of quality, craftsmanship and innovation. It is these three pillars that made Smythson what it is today.”

Smythson Panama Marshall Travel Wallet, $595

Courtesy of Smythson

Lesson #2: Explore the archives.

“A brand with such a long and rich heritage is a living, breathing thing. You don’t have to reshape it—all you have to do is listen to its history and honor it. The Smythson archives [are] an absolute treasure trove. You’ll find old catalogues from the early 1900s featuring everything from cases designed for a train carriage, to foot rests for the first motorcars and bespoke stationery for the Concorde. Travel accessories have been a Smythson signature from the very beginning.”

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Lesson #3: Take the campaign you’d classically do, but make it digital.

“Smythson Travel is a 360-degree campaign that reaches back to the core identity upon which Frank Smythson founded the brand in 1887 and brings it into the present day with a clear digital strategy and consistent messaging across all channels. We are working closely with some amazing influencers including Grace Coddington, Jefferson Hack and Sarah Harris to produce a highly-curated list of tips, quirks and habits of the well-traveled.

The short film accompanying the new campaign, directed by Sophie Edelstein, stars Phoebe Tonkin as a modern-day Alice in Wonderland.

Courtesy of Smythson

“The new film really brings the dream of travel to life—and as a digital campaign it introduces Smythson to a much wider and digitally aware audience. But Smythson’s heritage will always be front and center of our messaging, and we would never discard anything.”

Smythson’s price points will remain the same as they’ve been. Read some of the travel-focused interviews that are new to the brand’s online presence here.


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