“We’re three ex-advertising people who’d had enough of selling ideas to make children eat chocolate cereal,” says FEATHR’s Finnish co-founder Anne Puukko. “So we jumped from our day jobs to focus on the things we actually care about: art, big ideas, design, craft, having our socks knocked-off and originality.”
It wasn’t the first item on their list, but when Anne and her English husband Tom Puukko were seeking wall coverings for a London home the opportunities for developing wallpaper dawned on them.
“In shop after shop, we’d been shown the same designs, by the same limited range of ‘designer’ brands. This seemed a little odd to us – whether it’s fashion, furniture or food, the world is now full of ways to buy from independent, artisan makers. So we started doing more digging online and found the choice was little better there. That was when we hit on idea for a ‘digitally native designer wallpaper brand’.”
Helsinki-based FEATHR has invited graffiti artists, surf-wear designers, illustrators, fine artists, tattooists, typographers and fashion designers to contribute designs, and some 200 have responded so far.
“We also used crowdsourcing and crowd-curation to discover emerging artists and keep our doors open to all sorts of unexpected talent,” says Tom. “Doing this has helped build up relationships with artists all over the world, including Mexico, India, USA, Pakistan, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong as well as Finland.”
You order wallpaper, you get art
With their creative director and co-founder Oliver Greene, the couple have grasped what Anne calls “the opportunity to be the first to bring independent artists into designing for wallpaper – and supercharge it all using digital business, marketing and production techniques.”
She continues: “Underpinning all of this is how we use digital technology to empower artists. We use digital, on-demand printing, which means we can do small runs of innovative designs – so artists don’t have to design for the mainstream. The FEATHR community helps curate our collections, getting fans for artists even before we start selling their work. And we use digital channels to cut out the middlemen, so that we can be keener on price and kinder in rewarding artists.”
As of late January 2015 and in preparation for a March retail-site launch – and after just three months in business – FEATHR had attracted 750 design submissions and a community of over 20 000 people, with nearly 30 000 votes cast to help curate the first collection. It’s also attracted the attention of design publications such as It’s Nice That and Dezeen. Design talent on FEATHR’s ‘books’ includes Supermundane, Otto Press, Insight51, Dave Towers, AskewOne, Peter Judson and Robin van Wijk.
“We’re launching our retail in the UK first – it’s a leading market for wallpaper, worth about 450 million euros per year,” says Tom. “Soon after that, we’ll roll out sales to Northern Europe and the USA. So 2015 will be about making our first wallpaper collection a success, but beyond that we feel we have an idea – more art, less decoration – that could take us to all sorts of amazing places in interior design.”
Text: Tim Bird