We chat with Sophie Swann the Co-founder and Marketing & Creative Director at Cygnett about their fabulous brand.
Who are the 'three little Swanns' who founded Cygnett?
The ‘three little Swanns’ are Tim Swann, Amie Swann and myself, Sophie Swann – all siblings working together! Tim is the Chairman & Managing Director, Amie is our Business Development Manager and I’m Marketing & Creative Director.
What was your first product? How did it start - where did you get the inspiration to start?
Our first product way back in 2003, was a flower in a can, if you can believe it! Then, we started to realise the potential for creating some interesting accessories for what was then the new iPod. We’ve since developed digital accessories for each of the Apple iPhone, iPod, and iPad iterations and expanded into Android devices like Samsung, Blackberry, HTC, Motorola, Kindle; as well as audio, power, stands and holders and screen protectors. Twenty-five years ago, our father, David Swann, established Swann Communications, a successful global security and tech company, so his entrepreneurial spirit obviously inspired us!
Ten years later, you sell in 85 countries and 80,000 outlets - did you ever expect to get this big?
Yes, it’s been quite a ride! When we first started, Cygnett was located in an office above a pub in Melbourne – where we also kept our stock. Now we have 120 employees (and counting), with offices and distribution hubs across Melbourne, London, in California, Hong Kong and China and, as you mentioned our products are in 85 countries. Of course, we’re always striving for world domination :)
ICON Art Series - how did you select the artists to collaborate with? Do you have any more in the offing? Tell me how this series came about?
For the ICON Art Series, our design and development team have done extensive research to seek out iconic artists and practitioners in each of their fields. We’ve collaborated with artists who have an exciting vision, so we can create officially-licensed accessories that are aesthetically dynamic and have meaningful stories behind them.
The ICON series began with Nathan Jurevicius, who created Scarygirl – subject of a 1.5 million player online game, a designer toy set, series of graphic novels and a feature film in production. We then collaborated with internationally-renowned, Bronx-based professional muralists, TATS CRU, who spearheaded the battle to change the public perception of graffiti, since the early 1980s. From the early days of subway graffiti, TATS CRU has helped elevate graffiti to a public art form. TATS CRU has painted the famous Graffiti Hall of Fame in Harlem and mural advertising and art all over the world for brands such as Coca Cola and Sony. We then collaborated with world-renowned Australian Aboriginal artist, Ronnie Tjampitjinpa, who won the Northern Territory Art Award (1984) and Alice Prize (1988). Tjampitjinpa is considered an innovator and one of the grand masters of the Central and Western Desert Art movement.
The Jewel and Pastel pallets for the Samsung Galaxy S4 - how did you select these?
For the Form and Feel cases for the Galaxy S4, Cygnett’s Trend Forecaster Toyah Perry researched emerging trends from the catwalks, high streets, celebrity looks and cutting edge movements to match these colour selection to the upcoming seasonal fashions. She identified cultural currents moving towards 1960s palettes;
Toyah explains the Form colour selection, “These rich and opulent jewel hues, Sapphire Blue, Ruby Pink and Emerald Green, reveal a baroque influence. The audacious 1960s gowns in vivid gemstone tones mirror the movement towards coloured stone jewellery – a departure from the customary frosting of diamonds. Of course, the vivacious ‘Joan Harris’ (Christina Hendricks) is the contemporary icon of this va-va-voom colour spectrum, but we’ve also seen Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Chastain and Mila Kunis embody gemstones, not to mention voluptuous, jewel-hued silhouettes from Lanvin and Giambattista Valli.”
Torah, describes the Feel colour selection, ‘We’ve explored the pop-pastel Fairy Floss, Lilac and Mint shades in this range. They evoke a desaturated palette, delicately elaborated by Jennifer Lawrence and Anne Hathaway at the 2013 Oscars (well-accessorized with gold). Certainly, ‘Betty Draper’ (January Jones) epitomizes this 1960s infantilized elegance – the fresh-faced Hitchcockian beauty is the poster-girl for pastel. This graceful trend is influencing an array of fashion currents; from the gorgeous Lilac Jimmy Choos, Salma Hayek in figure-hugging lilac, Diane Kruger verdant in mint, and Anya Hindmarch’s confection-coloured leather bags.”
How do you select your products in general - what's the process? How collaborative is it?
Our product development team includes expert Industrial Designers, Product Managers (specialising in devices, particular accessories, audio and the like), Product Development Specialists and Trend Forecasters, who design and develop each new range. The proposed products undergo product steering committee analysis to ensure we create and release the right products at the right time. It’s certainly a collaborative process, we want to ensure we always present an ever-evolving a range of high quality digital accessories.
You have many projects on the go, from the London Underground tie ins to the Indigo Denim project - do you find a brand that you want to work with and then come up with the ideas or does it work the other way around?
Often times, our design projects evolve over time; particularly where the success of a project leads our designers to keep pushing the envelope and continue to evolve a concept across different devices, creating new functionality and features – we’ve seen this particularly with the WorkMate, UrbanShield and Vector series. Sometime, we come across a brand like London Underground or an idea like the Indigo project and these take on a life of their own. The design projects are in essence about satisfying our passion for creativity and continuous development.
What's your favourite product from your portfolio?
I think my favourite product in the portfolio is WorkMate – simply because I have seen it evolve since the iPhone 4, with iterations made since for iPhone 4S, Galaxy SII, Galaxy SIII, iPhone 5, iPad mini and Galaxy S4 – it’s certainly been our most successful and exciting project to date, but there’s some exciting designs in the pipeline!
Which brands in your industry do you admire?
What's coming up for Cygnett - are there any projects in the pipeline you can tell us about?
We always have projects in the pipeline at Cygnett – next after the Galaxy S4 launch, we’ll focus on the next iteration of iPhone, with an exciting highly-protective case in development.
What kind of case/cover do you have on your own smartphone and/or tablet?
I have an iPhone 5 and I have the ICON Art Series Ronnie Tjampitjinpa ‘Rainmaking’ case on right now – but of course, we all swap our cases over fairly regularly here!