This week, we’ve turned our attention to Hotel Creative. Hotel are a multi-disciplined creative agency that specialise in bringing brands ideas to life. Over the last 10 years, they’ve played a big part behind the scenes at some of our biggest launches.
To get a better understanding of how they create their work, we sat down with Hotel Creative founder Mitch to find out what goes on behind the scenes!
Footpatrol: Hey Mitch how are you? Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today! We have worked together in the past and know all about you but for our audience can you give them a little insight into yourself and what it is you do?
Mitch: Hi FP, thank you for inviting me to do this. I am well and sane (I think) hahaha. I have 3 dogs and a lovely garden, so they are helping my sanity in this weird time. I think we have technically worked together for almost 10 years now. A decade, WOW time flies…. as for me, I am the Founder and Creative Director of a company called Hotel Creative. We are a design agency based in London (but work globally) behind the scenes to help elevate brands. We are a team of Creatives, 3D Designers and Project Managers. We help brands launch products. Our aim is to create amazing experiences for consumers, hopefully entertaining them while they learn a deeper story behind the product itself.
FP: How did you go about starting the agency? And what difficulties did you have at the beginning?
Mitch: We started the agency in 2010, and to be honest Nike supported us from day one. They wanted us to do this and gave us our first job on our first day of business. It was scary how quick it all happened. The difficulties we had in the beginning were always the boring stuff; Admin, Tax, Money, DULL. We shared offices with the amazing 125 Magazine at the beginning until we could afford to get our own place. We had amazing contacts that believed in us and gave us credit to allow us to use their production and print services in our early days which massively helped us as a young agency. We have always tried to be stealth, designing and working during the day then installing behind the scenes over night when the stores are closed to make the brands and products look the best they possibly can be. (As you know when we’ve done installations in your place LATE!!!!! Haha).
FP: What were you doing prior? Was it a creative job? Freelance? Or something completely different?
Mitch: I have always been in the creative industry since graduating from university. I went to uni in Leeds at the College of Art & Design and I studied BA (hons) in Visual Communication. I loved it. It was Graphic Design but much more concept based, the course was perfect for me and is now super relevant to what we do now. ‘Pure’ Graphic Design was changing then and closer to what it is now. I’m much more into the big idea than I am into the pure design. Obviously I want it to look great, but I care more for the big idea. I actually started out in the music industry, thinking it was going to be the dream, but I entered as that industry was changing to digital music, but it just wasn’t for me. Then I worked in the drinks industry which also wasn’t for me but I needed to survive and I learned so much. There I worked with some amazing people (one I still work with today at Hotel) we worked on some amazing brands like Coca Cola / Powerade / Bacardi-Martini and I built my portfolio over time to get my next job. Not every job will be your dream job. But while you’re there learn what you can, soak it up, as it’ll only be beneficial to you in your future career. Even it’s a bad experience you will learn so much of what not to do in the future. I found that’s a good way to learn; be scarred so you never do it again Hahaha.
FP: What we would like to know is how you get from concept to reality. Would you be able to choose ONE project that you have worked on and summarise into 5 steps the process from the client’s initial email to what the consumer sees?
Mitch: Well that’s a complicated question to answer, but I will do my best as every project is different and has its own issues and different people involved. What I would say is that it’s BEST when there’s less people involved and you are working directly with BIG decision makers. We have no issues as a team coming up with killer creative and it’s our job to justify and sell that into our clients and the brands saying that this is the best way to go or the right thing to do. We are fortunate enough to work with great people & great product, so it’s not hard to sell and most of the time it sells out fast. So we need to create a DEEPER connection. What do the consumers leave with? What do they learn? What do they see? What do they experience?
The 5 Steps: (I will try my best)
1. Understand the brief / the ask. What are we all trying to do together? Sell products of course – that’s a given. But what more do we want to give the consumer? What do we want them to leave with? Learning something new? A deeper knowledge of something old? Seeing something they have never seen before? Understanding the original inspiration behind the design and why the product was developed in the first place? Ultimately our aim is always to make a meaningful connection between brand and consumer. That is way more valuable than the profit margin on a pair of shoes.
2. Innovation: Always try to do something new. Find new inspirations, yes everything has been done 10x over, but we always try to be innovative and push outside of the obvious ‘design’ approach, be inspired by what’s been done before but flip it to something new. We take inspiration from other worlds; Cultural History, Fine Art, Cinema & TV, Music, Dance, Fashion, Performance etc. Give the consumer something new that they haven’t experienced before.
3. Design: Always to the best of your ability. Time and money are always the key factors, but manage your effort vs time and budget and you can still achieve good quality work. We also always try to over deliver; give the client something unexpected, something new and beyond the limitations of their original brief.
4. Production: Work with people that understand you, get your style and taste levels and want to be part of the journey. You can’t just design it then dump it on production to deliver. You need to work together. Otherwise who is going to do the quality control and make sure it’s up to our standards?
5. Installation: Being there and making sure that everything is up to the standard it needs to be, and always document it. Photograph it, no matter how big or small, always take pictures of the installation as you’ll never know when you need it in 10 years time. Maybe for your book, or retrospective at the V&A in 20 years time when you’re mega famous or dead. Ha
Final point / my summary: Ultimately you need to have great people around you & you can’t always do it alone. It’s great to have that ability to do so. But it’s better to question things with others, ask others for help and get them to push you further than you can go yourself. Be agile & evolve with the times. No matter what happens on the project, you have to make the output the best it can possibly be in the time and money. In these weird times now we are having to evolve the way we work. But out of situations like this comes a whole new way of thinking and level of creativity. You have seen the memes, the live DJ battles, the lip-syncs, the parodies, the dances, the empowerment videos, the challenges, the cooking classes, the workouts on social media. This is creativity out of adversity and if you look back through history that is the time when major things happen. When people need escapism, new movements start. The world moves forwards and the brands need to catch up.
FP: Would you have any advice that you could share with our readers?
Mitch: My professional advice is always to anyone that comes to see me, why are you different? What is your unique selling point? Why should I work with you or the brand want to work with you? What can you bring to the party? We have had some great talent come through the studio and not been able to employ them or start them there and then. That doesn’t mean we didn’t love them. Don’t let that dishearten you in any way. You’ll get knock backs. I get them every day. It’s how you deal with them that counts. It’s all about timing and if there’s work at that moment in time. I like having different types of people in the studio. At Hotel, NONE are alike. Each team member has different skill sets and brings different things to the party and that’s what we want and need. As a punchline, always Be Real, Be You, everyone else is taken. If it’s right and meant to be it’ll work itself out.
My personal advice is you can never know enough people, EVER. There are so many talented people that go on to great things at different times in their lives. I have been fortunate to meet so many people at parties / launches / events through this industry. I have employed people from FP that have gone on to be fantastic designers and doing global huge campaigns and installations for Nike. The point is go out (after quarantine) see people, support launches, see the product, touch the product, smell the product. Go to your favourite stores, support them, meet the team, whatever city or country you are in. I always try and pop in the store and have a catch up with the FP gang and you never know who you’re going bump into. I do the same in other cities, whether that be in Paris, Amsterdam, NYC, LA, Shanghai wherever work takes me. I have met the most talented people just from being at stores, launches or even just shopping, we then have worked together at a later date. I bumped into Gary Warnett (R.I.P) multiple times outside FP just me and him. Talking about dogs, not even shoes. Even though now I would love to tell him I bought all of DAME DASH Nike Air Force 2’s. He’d FLIP, he loved that shoe. As do I. So underrated, compared to how big the AF1 is.
So there, the point is there are so many talented people out there at different stages in their careers. Support each other, ‘show love’ share or ‘drop knowledge’ as Gary would say, educate and elevate people, help each other and BE NICE. I think isolation has hit home that we need each other more than just virtually.
FP: How are you coping with the current lockdown. Is there anything particular that’s keeping you going?
Mitch: Fortunately, we have been working, but my intentions are to focus on ‘betterment’ looking after my mind, my body, my team’s minds and my team’s bodies. I am working on some behind the scenes things at Hotel and taking some design & project management workshops internally with my team to inspire them with some guest speakers. We have just done our first ZOOM virtual workshop as a morale boost with @heyniek Niek Pulles from Nike at WHQ, who we’ve been working with on Nike I.S.P.A. It was so good, hilarious actually and he’s such a great personality that it was a superb morale boost for the team to create an experiment together.
Outside of work, I have my painting to finish off my Art Deco Hotel in Miami, I’m STILL painting and I have a new one to start. I’ve also been gardening lots, looking after my bonsai’s and working on installing a Japanese Garden in a section of my garden (I’ve been reading lots of Japanese Garden books). I also need to get fit (which I’m trying). I normally play football, as you know from when we have our Hotel F.C. vs Team FP matches, but instead I’ve been skipping for fitness at home. And also playing loads of Fifa. Ha (does that count as fitness?) I miss sport so much. So Fifa is filling that football void.
FP: And finally as it was trainers that brought all us together originally – what would you say is your staple go to for the following:
Hahahahahaha yes back to footwear. I actually need to sort out my footwear archive, that is on my quarantine plan. I bought so many racks from Costco (chrome ones with the wheels) and got someone to sort out all the box styles to match on the same racks, so Nike Sportwear boxes together, Air Force 1 boxes together, Jordans, Nike Lab, etc. so there is some order!!!! But I need to log it. I want to do it Mariah Carey stylee and put polaroid’s on the outside of boxes so I can send people in to the archive to get stuff rather than always me. Ha. It’s happening trust me.
Working out – In quarantine I’ve been skipping everyday actually, I want to master it and I’ve been wearing the Nike Alpha Savage designed by the talented footwear designer Leon Witherow @Prestology I’ve also actually started running again, and I bought the new Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% and they are just insane. I am not a huge running fan unless I’m chasing a football, but these make it so much easier. The hardest part is getting hold of them. As they are SO FAST, literally, to run in and to sell out.
Casual every day – I think in quarantine / Walking the dogs / SURVIVING I’ve only been wearing Nike I.S.P.A.’s hahahahaha, how perfect is THAT. Improvise. Scavenge. Protect. Adapt: There has never been a more relevant time for this incredible collection of footwear and I think they are so amazing. We’ve actually seen some of the future things coming up from the design team @team_team_team_team_team_team Gang. They are INSANE. In the future these shoes will be so iconic, as they are so advanced. It reminds me of when the Air Max 1, 90, 93, 95, 97 originally came out. Society wasn’t ready for them, people STILL think the silver bullets 97s are too crazy in 2020. Hahahahaha. Imagine what that was like in 1997!!!!!!
Impressing someone – This changes daily, and according to who I’m trying to impress, or currently who we have on video conference calls, as we are locked in. First of all anything animal print. Haha. As you know I love leopard after my last FP interview. Currently it’s the new Nike Duck Camo 90’s (SO GOOD) we did so much great work for that launch, but wasn’t allowed to happened unfortunately due to the current climate. Oh and the Baby Pink OG 90s. Also the F&F UNDFTD 90s are on my bloody desk at work, which I regret not bringing home Ha. I LOVED the Size? 2020 95’s they are INCREDIBLE!!!! The Greedy II 95s (NEED THEM). And…. The best for last… the Baby Pink 95s (I’m in LOVE WITH THEM) God I’m on a 90 / 95 vibe currently then without noticing.
Staying at home – My house shoes are 2 pairs actually… they are Birkenstock’s, (same as Tom Breaks, as I read in his interview, haha) not just any Birkenstocks though, they are RICK OWENS Birkenstock’s. I have the black furry pair and the grey ones. The actual best Hahahahahaha, and they are also my gardening shoes. It’s hot currently. So no socks, but I am fully into warm socks and Birkenstocks when its cooler and I’m home. There you go.
Thank you, stay safe! (& sane)