HAPPINESS is…: We interviewed Michael Scarpellini
Some overnight successes bloom and wither in the space of a day, while the Happiness brand just keeps on flowering and putting out new shoots. So what’s the secret of their success? We talked to the founders of Happiness, who are busy forging ahead with brand extension
Brand Jam: The Happiness brand shot to fame a few years ago with “Happiness is a $10 tee”. It sounds more like a slogan than a brand?
Michael Scarpellini: Yes, Happiness was founded in 2007 with the idea of creating a product that would have a real impact, more social message than fashion phenomenon. Michael, Eiman and Yuri Scarpellini teamed up to design the first T-shirts, which they unveiled at the Milan Fashion Week, causing quite a stir in the fashion world.
B.J.: The basic concept behind Happiness is fairly easy to imitate, how do you manage to stand out?
M.S.: Yes, the concept is simple, but on the other hand it’s the simple things that are really hard to understand and invent. What makes us different is our team, our Happiness Family as we call it. A whole world of artists, kids, students and experts who come up with new ideas and projects every day for us to present to our partners and the world in general at trade fairs and on our websites.
Sure, we’ve got competition, but that’s good because it keeps us on our toes and moving forward. The only cloud on the horizon is in Italy, where unfortunately you get imitators coming out with virtually identical projects and creaming off the benefits of all our hard work. It’s confusing for consumers and sometimes it’s so blatant that our artists get even angrier than we do; after all it’s their energy and creativity other people are freeloading on.
There’s a very strong, close-knit creative team behind the Happiness brand, brimming with ideas on fashion content and how to create job opportunities for young people. And we’ve already exported this project to 10 other countries around the world.
B.J.: Yes, we saw you at Magic in Las Vegas. How’s the foreign market responding?
M.S.: Very well, because the competition is healthy. There are all the best out there, some of them Italian like us, which is really stimulating and strengthens us all. It’s a bit like playing in the national football team. You have to have talent and ideas to get selected, it’s not just the brand.
We’re currently doing well in Europe, the USA , Japan, the Emirates and Hong Kong. The only limit to expansion is in people’s minds and here at Happiness we’re free thinkers. Just last September we opened new offices in Los Angeles where we already have two stores, Mycloset Italia Melrose and Happiness @ Fred Segal.
B.J.: Partnerships: what have you got up your sleeves after Rolling Stone?
M.S.: Nobody ever manages to keep track of us completely because things are happening here on a daily level and by the time the press release comes out we’re already working on our next project:-). We work with other companies on various levels, because Happiness is a bit like a blank page that everyone can jot their ideas down on. Recent examples include the Italian daily Gazzetta dello Sport, EMI MUSIC, and projects with Italian Design Schools IED, MARANGONI and FIDM. Then we work with bloggers like LePerlediPinna, who’s very well-known on social networks, and artists like Marina Maggi, an underground artist who does portraits of famous skeletons.
We also have an agreement with Smemoranda for a Happiness School line, which is aimed at making school fun, thanks to the simple things like a cute pen or scribbling in an old-fashioned diary.
B.J.: Having bounced beyond T-shirts to a total look and then on to kidswear, sneakers and eyewear, where are you going next?
M.S.: The great thing about our brand is we don’t really have a cut and dried business plan. For example, today we’re in Korea for Project Runway and we’re probably opening a Happiness brand store in Seoul next month with local partners, who knows what tomorrow will bring?!
But apart from Happiness Shades, we’re also launching Happiness Tech with covers and accessories for handsets and other types of hi tech, manufactured by a leading company in this field.
All our product launches are meticulously researched and handled by our team as if they were the first thing people were going to see from us. And that’s the type of energy we want in our Family, it’s what we want our customers to feel when they buy and wear our products. We want them to feel part of something real, part of a Family that’s working hard to revolutionise lifestyles in Italy through the Happiness brand.
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