Paul Smith + Evian, redux

By Ingrid Fetell Lee

Today I have guest post up on Brandchannel about the Paul Smith + Evian collaboration. I did a short post here about this earlier in the week but hadn’t really formulated an opinion about it yet. I’ve been turning it over in my mind all week and trying to figure out exactly why I find this to be such a striking and significant partnership, despite the blasé reception it’s had from the blogs.

You can read my take over on Brandchannel, but the gist of it is that I think it represents a remarkable shift in aesthetic values for bottled water, and an interesting example of an emergent tendency towards aesthetics of joy being used in a premium context.

I also think water’s blankness makes its packaging a particularly interesting cultural barometer. Water is the ultimate commodity. Product differentiation is nearly nonexistent, so the packaging become the prominent driver of the story. Because of this, water packaging trends tell us a lot about the underlying cultural mood. That mood right now is hungry for some relief from the strictures of responsibility that come from our down economy and damaged environment. It’s not a desire to shrug off that responsibility entirely, but for moments of joy that give us a bit of release, lightheartedness, and hope.

I find the video has a twang of insincerity when Smith talks about his long history of drinking Evian. Designers do things for the money every day; I’d rather that tacit understanding than a disingenuous justification. Nonetheless, it has some beautiful words from him on the design and his inspirations. I particularly like the way he says, “My whole life is about being childlike. Not childish. Childlike.” It’s an approach that obviously really resonates with me.

Happy Friday, and have a great weekend!

Xx Ingrid

September 25th, 2009

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