Many top brands looking for original retail or event displays, or head-turning store windows, turn to creative experts 22 Collective at Clopton Park – home to a diverse range of enterprising businesses.
For co-founders Richard and Victoria Ford, their talent for creative visual merchandising has built a hugely successful business in the Suffolk countryside. They work with leading brands such as Tom Ford, Dior, Gucci, Cartier, Fendi, Harvey Nichols, Liberty London, Harrods, Selfridges, Maui Jim, among a roll call of high-profile names.
Explains Richard, “We work as brand ambassadors for our clients, treating our customers like friends and staff like family. It’s about building relationships.” Their work-ethic has paid off, as the company has worked with many brands, particularly in eyewear, for years.
Ingenious, ground-breaking ideas like their ‘Window in a Box’, can roll out a bespoke new window display to multiple locations. It’s then assembled by the retailers’ own teams from the kit in each box – no fitters needed.
The company has client-specific areas on their website where a selection can be made of stock or bespoke three-dimensional display elements for a specific store window. This is then priced automatically and sent to the client’s marketing team for authorisation and to their Clopton Park base for action once the order is approved. It’s market leading software that saves money, saves time and offers a seamless end-to-end process that clients love.
Larger projects are tackled with the same level of design ingenuity and creativity. A 300 sq m exhibition for Calvin Klein needed a team of 30 onsite for three days to assemble the stand: “It’s never about a lack of resources, it’s only a lack of resourcefulness,” Richard recalls.
Build quality of each part of a design is ensured by a team of staff and freelances, plus the latest technology and equipment to work with wood – they use a lot of real wood! – and plastics. Electronics increasingly play a part with interactive displays, digital screens, even facial recognition.
Richard is the lead designer and, with retail becoming a lot smarter, is continuously looking for new techniques such as augmented reality technology with 3D mapping to show a client what their displays will look like in-store.
22 Collective can ‘build’ an entire store window using photo-realistic AR software.
The company started small but, since arriving at Clopton Park as the first new tenant in 2016, they’ve become part of a thriving business community. This gives them access to specialists in metals, spray painting and vinyls to complement to their own hi-tech workshops.
“It’s a very supportive site, networking and collaborating. I even opened a new coffee shop, First!” (Find out more about that in another feature).
Richard says that the parts of a job many companies find difficult are the ones they relishes. Every project starts with an idea, a concept: “You can’t fight an idea, it comes to you.”
He loves focusing on the detail, and making sure that every design can be replicated. With more complex designs, that’s a challenge. It’s what sets 22 Collective apart from its competitors. Whether they’re working on Manchester United’s Old Trafford store or popup environments for a PGA tour, the team has the same attention to detail.
Richard and Victoria’s enthusiasm is as strong as ever for the venture they started in a bedroom before expanding and moving into a custom-designed unit at Clopton Park.
“When in life do you get the opportunity to build everything exactly as you want it, in rural Suffolk? It’s an oasis that has given us a chance to express our creativity and develop it.”vv