Tennis, cobistyle and Saved by Pillows

Today I did the ladies tennis drop-in at the club.

This was a big thing for me.

I'm big on lessons or playing with friends, but when it comes time to join anything more formal that annoying high school voice that says things like "you're not athletic" starts to whisper in my ear. But today, I showed up. And that's 85% of life, right? And it was fun. Like, really fun. As it turns out, people actually like to be better at stuff than you and so they are happy to help and instruct. It was good, the weather was stellar, and I even got in a few good shots.

And as I was marvelling at the idea that I was playing sports with strangers, I was thinking that in life you get endless opportunities. In certain circles, you are trained from a young age that you have one shot: get the grades, get into the school, get the guy, get the job, get the house. It's a linear and upward trajectory and if you fall off the path, you're done.

This is a lie.

You can decide tomorrow - oh, why not make it today - to be different. You can decide that you now play tennis, that you are going back to school, that you are a redhead*, that you like camping*. This is the reward for being an adult. It won't be easy. It might not be pretty. You might have to downsize your home about 8000 square feet. And some people might no longer want to hang with your new self. But that's ok. There will be new people, new places, new opportunities. But the only person who can make it happen is you.

* Note: this will never happen


OK, so yesterday was busy busy. In the morning, I went out to my beloved SOFA to see Cobi Ladner give a talk about branding.

We sat in the Canadel space. The chairs are sooo much nicer than folding ones:

Cobi was editor of House and Home for 18 years. Her cobistyle line, including furniture, fabric, drapes, lighting, and accessories, is now carried in over 1000 stores across Canada. Her look is relaxed, playful, fun, and channels the good life. It's prep and chinoiserie and colour and the kind of well-bred bohemian elegance that would actually fly in the more daring parts of Oakville. Love!

I had to leave early to get to a meeting at the school, but I did manage to capture a few takeaway points to share.

Cobi started her talk by defining what she means by brand. She referred to a quote from marketer extraordinaire, Seth Godin:

A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.
I love this definition. It's so very relevant to the world of design. Cobi pointed out that the feeling you create is more important than what you sell. Building a successful brand - especially a successful home decor brand - is really about telling a story for your clients. If you are Ralph Lauren, you are tapping into a customer's desire to feel established and surrounded by luxury. If you are Kate Spade, you know that your client likes her life to feel playful and fun. Martha Stewart is all about bringing order and calm to a chaotic universe (that she was able to maintain this story while in the hoosegow is more proof of her team's business genius.)

On the fashion front, I can see a consistent branding message from Milly.  The collaboration line for Banana Republic channels a relaxed summer-in-the-Hamptons vibe that is very appealing to me in light of my desire to enjoy the new summer house space.

Cobi is the first person to admit that the world does not need another pillow or a vase. What the world needs, she's concluded, is more stories. I was reminded of my beloved Scalamandre Zebra pillows.

She's obsessed.

I love them not just because they look interesting, but because the pattern conjures up memories of the The Royal Tenenbaums set and the feeling of eccentric, faded luxury the film implies.

I love House of Hackney for the same reason. Reversal of Fortune Chic.

With fabric and furniture and lighting, we can create a backdrop against which we can live our ideal lives. As a decor company, having a strong brand identity means that people know who you are and what you represent and if they buy your goods or services, it's because they want to tap into that vision. Not only does this help move product, but it  also elevates the profession. We are not selling pillows or lamps or curtains: we are providing a better life for our clients. Saved by pillows.

I like that Cobi gets that too.