Features Industry Profiles

January 25, 2013 •
Rachel V. Ivey

Crane & Co. is one of the most cherished brands in the stationery arena; their wedding invitation suites are as timeless as a Chanel suit. When it hired Rachel V. Ivey as its vice president, creative and product development, stationery division, Crane brought in someone with not only a passion for design, but someone distinctly suited to honor the heritage of the brand whose paper Paul Revere engraved banknotes on to help finance the American Revolution — and bring it up to date for a modern audience.

Ivey is no stranger to major brands, having stints at Wal-Mart, Williams Sonoma, The Gap and Banana Republic Home prior to joining the Crane team. Stationery Trends interviewed her to learn more about her vision for it.

Building Blocks

ST: You were the creative director of color and trend for Wal-Mart. What obstacles did the company face in terms of branding and trends integrated into its merchandise mix?

RVI: At the time I joined Wal-Mart they were interested in growing their home accessory/decorative accessory goods and developing a broader, more relevant approach to the seasonal business. Wal-Mart supported their internal brands a great deal and also was very open to trends in the market. The tough part of the job was to decide when to pull the trigger with a trend so (they) would not alienate their base but also appeal to the market and gain share.

ST: Do your goals at Crane correlate at all to the challenges faced by Wal-Mart? What role do you think larger industry trends play in Crane’s merchandise offerings?

RVI: Wal-Mart had a much more global focus, and therefore I was sensitive to the needs of both the domestic market and international business. My immediate goal at Wal-Mart was to create a world-class design and studio team and train them in the development process. Crane is established in the market as a classic brand and is already known for its superior products. Instead of starting from scratch I have been working to enhance what we are already known for. I’m not interested in chasing trends, but am always inspired and influenced by what’s happening in the market. Our customer is looking for us to build on the timeless and classic products that we have been making for over 200 years.

ST: You were also head designer at Williams Sonoma. Is there anything you specifically learned during your time there?

RVI: Williams-Sonoma finds a lot of inspiration from Europe. I was always aware of Chuck Williams’ dream to bring the best of Europe home to Americans who haven’t taken the trip. The biggest lesson I learned (there) was to have passion to dream and if I could imagine it, it could happen.

The Crane Experience

ST: Perusing the Crane archives with Historian Peter Hopkins must have been incredible! What stands out most?

RVI: Peter Hopkins is a wonderful person and was very gracious to welcome me into the archives. It was important for me to immerse myself in the incredible history of Crane before beginning to design collections. Walking through the archives and seeing invitations to such events as presidential inaugurations, the opening of the Empire State Building and the dedication of the Statue of Liberty was an awe-inspiring event. When it comes to design, I believe it’s my responsibility to honor the heritage and legacy of Crane. It’s a true privilege to be a part of a company so rich in history and quite cherished by many consumers.

ST: With the ability to hold so many historically relevant pieces in your hands — from Gerald Ford’s personal stationery to Mrs. John F. Kennedy’s sympathy card — what did you take away about Crane’s ability to marry quality to the personages’ most private and essentially, historic moments? How did you infuse the Americana Collection with this quality?

RVI: I’m truly in awe of the role that Crane has played in the lives of many notable leaders. Given that it is an election year and Crane’s history is so intertwined with that of our country, Americana was a natural evolution. It allowed us to have some fun with approaching a younger market and still maintain our classic sensibility.

ST: How do you bridge the gap between keeping Crane’s rich history and traditions alive with updating it for today’s audience?

RVI: At Crane we understand our aesthetic and have a deep understanding and appreciation of our customer. My goal is to create timeless and classic designs that are aligned with our brand but also appeal to a younger audience. There are so many smaller stationery companies that do an amazing job addressing trends, but that isn’t who we are. I am aware of color and pattern trends but they don’t shape every collection I create. A classic brand can stay current with what is happening in the world by reinventing classic but staying true to who they are.

Personal Notes

ST: Do you collect anything?

RVI: What don’t I collect? I personally collect Astier de Villatte stoneware. It depends on what I am up to. Tomorrow it could be something totally different. I have always been a collector of paper and ephemera.

ST: What advice would you give to new or young designers or companies?

RVI: I think it is really important to expose yourself to everything. I find inspiration in unlikely places. It is a designer who finds the inspiration in the smallest things and not the obvious that I think will always find success.

ST: What trends do you currently find interesting?

RVI: I am watching how the younger generations are becoming more and more aware of how special it is to write to someone and place that sentiment in the mail. Texting and email will never go away but I do think that we as a culture swing back to basic, simple rites, which always have a classic sensibility.

ST: What other stationery designers or companies do you admire?

RVI: I just came back from Paris for Maison et Objet and spent some time walking around the city looking at what the engravers are up to there. Some really beautiful, classic work truly inspired me.

Rachel V. Ivey

Rachel at a Glance

Q. If you could travel through time and space and land anywhere you desire, where and when would it be?

A. I would love a chance to get to know Mr. Darcy in “Sense and Sensibility.”

Q. How would you define Crane’s signature style? Do any new pieces epitomize it?

A. Crane is known for its timeless and classic designs. Our new wedding collection builds upon our classic aesthetic but with a modern twist.

Q. What’s new for 2013?

A. We’ve expanded on a great deal of our boxed product to create well rounded, stunning collections including In the Garden, Architectural Details, Under the Sea and a wonderful Pet collection.

Q. What one design or product from your new releases do you think is really going to be hot and why?

A. Our new wedding assortment is truly spectacular. We spent a great deal of time laboring over the right mix knowing that this is our opportunity to capture the next generations that will have their first experience with stationery potentially.

Q. Which new pieces do you feel reflects the overall direction of your line?

A. Crane’s aesthetic should not change too much over time as we have a market that comes to us for a classic look. We have played with the concept of classic at times mostly in boxed where we can get away with being more playful.

Q. Do you have a personal favorite?

A. That’s a very difficult question! It’s like asking someone if they have a favorite child. They are all so very important to me.

Q. What other designers, music and movies inspire you?

A. I am inspired by those who have acted as mentors and taken the time to teach me and guide me throughout my career. I’m in awe of Tom Ford as I truly respect him as a designer and a businessman. I am also riveted by Lidewij Edelkoort, who started Trend Union. She and her team are constant source of inspiration for me.

Q. If you couldn’t do this, what would you do instead?

A. As a child I wanted to be an art director in film as I thought it was the most amazing profession to direct art and design and help tell a story. As I grew older, the idea of breaking into Hollywood seemed to be a daunting task, but I believe that I am able to tell a story and touch the emotional spirit through art and design, only with paper.

— By Sarah Schwartz, editor


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