You know that old adage “don’t work with babies and animals”, this runs quite true with me as I believe that I am so not baby proofed and have very many sharp edges. In fact, mostly the only animals I can tolerate are horses. Although I have days when I ponder whether Family should be added into ye olde bit of wisdom as well.
But really, I kid, or do I? In truth, working with family is a learning experience, one that helps you realise things about yourself and the people you share DNA with.
And it’s recognising these funny nuances of someone with whom you are so closely related to. This was particularly apparent to me when I worked with my younger sister, Nadiah on creating a rug for her store. I had run through this gauntlet before and being her older brother, I wanted to give her the solutions right away and be done with it. Upon reflection, that wasn't too great because this was a process for her and she had to arrive at things in her own time - good or bad. It’s the learning process that we all need to go through. Nadiah is also a mother of 3 kids and taking on this monster of a project while still being there for her children, in fact you had to look at this project as the brith of her 4th baby, really.
But I get ahead of myself, her pride and joy is called MOMA in Bangsar Shopping Centre, Kuala Lumpur and is a lifestyle gift store and bakery which she first started on Instagram. She had started baking a few cakes and eventually had enough orders to warrant a store. To add to the store offerings, she always wanted to extend it to things that would go with buying a cake like cute cards, little knick knacks, beautiful wrapping paper etc, things that would accentuate the overall presentation.
Full disclosure, my sister and I have very different tastes. She is colourful, brash and pretty much every highlighter colour in the box while I live comfortably in 10 shades of taupe and revel in my very restricted colour palette and in its reclusiveness. It’s in those contrasting truths that I have found what it is that I actually love and admire her for. She is unwavering in her personality, completely unapologetic about it and fashions this confidence into wielding colour. To get through this project to her satisfaction and mine, I knew I had to get on board that as well as rein her in.
In conceptualising the rug, I had to put myself into the right head space. For starters, I knew that all her products would have a lot of colour – with all the multi-coloured wrapping paper, gift bags, cards etc – we needed a neutral base so as not to compete with the products. Finally, I arrived on this beautiful shade of what I like to call Mad Men blue because it’s vintage, sophisticated yet full of character - and she loved it.
We went through her logo and packaging and how she wanted the look to be one that was ornate and layered. Personally, I didn’t want to interfere too much but I art directed it when really necessary while given free rein to my sister to make final calls and such. Really, the rug actually became the easiest part because it was an extension of her collaterals and the anchor to her branding. It tied everything together and made the whole theme make sense.
So, was it difficult working with family? Well, we butted heads on a lot of things particularly ironically on colours. What she thought was gray looked beige to me and it got to a point when we had to refer to a Pantone book to be literally on the same page. Currently I’m doing two rugs for her new house and lord knows it’s a process but perhaps that’s a story for another post.
In truth, the biggest lesson I took away from this experience, apart from the family factor, was always taking a firm stand with the manufacturers. You see, this project was very rushed so when the rug was delivered and installed, I thought it looked a little muddy. After I checked it pom by pom, I realised they had not used the exact colours I had specified. As such, I insisted that they redo the whole thing and you know what, now it looks exactly like how I imagined it. It has contrast, it pops against the merchandise, it really sings – like a ‘lil old school soul on a sunny afternoon.