MDR Brand Management’s Daniel Avener on the design-led approach to crafting authentic partnerships for Amy Winehouse

Daniel Avener, CEO at MDR Brand Management, discusses MDR’s approach to celebrating and protecting the music icon’s legacy.

Last year saw the first products and experiences launch from the partnership between the Amy Winehouse Estate and the award-winning team at MDR Brand Management.

MDR has set out to celebrate and protect the iconic artist’s legacy through creative, authentic brand extensions. The first launches include a make-up collection from Illamasqua, an exhibition at the renowned Design Museum in London and a limited-edition turntable from Roberts Radio.

We spoke with Daniel Avener, CEO at MDR Brand Management, about the company’s design-led approach to crafting brand extensions.

Daniel Avener, MDR Brand Management, Amy Winehouse

Daniel, it’s great to catch up. Before we dive into your recent exciting activity with the Amy Winehouse brand, for anyone new to MDR Brand Management, talk us through how you approach working with brands?
Before starting any client relationship, we go through a rigorous process of brand immersion and deep dive into the brand. The idea is to discover the brand and define the brand extension objectives, strategies, geographic opportunities, retail channels and categories for expansion.

We also work on a creative strategy and visualise opportunities from the get-go to bring our ideas to life. The final proposal and brand extension vision is bespoke to each client and brand, but we consider this to be an essential part of the immersion process.

“Design is at the heart of everything that we build for the brands we represent.”

As part of that focus on immersion, how important is design to MDR when it comes to crafting brand extensions?
It’s essential. We have an in-house strategic design team that are embedded in our day-to-day work with our clients. Design plays a role at every level; from the pitch process and design strategy through to executing product design and packaging.

We take creative very seriously and make sure our brand extension programmes really lean on the brand’s key equity and existing assets.

It sounds like you’re quite hands-on when it comes to working with licensees through the design process.
Yes – design is at the heart of everything that we build for the brands we represent. As part of our brand management process, we have an intrinsic connection to product innovation and design.

Our brand and creative team is involved at every stage of the design and approval process, but MDR also strongly believes in a collaborative process that allows our partners to let them explore creatively.

Daniel Avener, MDR Brand Management, Amy Winehouse

On that, you’re doing some really creative work with the Amy Winehouse brand. Why did the brand jump out as one to work with for MDR?
Needless to say that Amy is a real talent that the world lost too soon. Her legacy has long been undervalued and with the 10th anniversary of her sad passing, MDR felt it was a pivotal point to celebrate and protect her legacy.

We also want to continue to help the Amy Winehouse Foundation. The charity was set up by Amy’s family in her memory and works to inspire children and young people to build their self-esteem and resilience, so that they can flourish.

“All partnerships that we have carefully curated are with brands that Amy either had a relationship with during her life, or we believe she would have today.”

From a creative point of view, how are you approaching building her legacy into a brand? What core brand elements are there for partners to engage with?
The Winehouse family, and MDR, are lucky to have access to an incredible archive of Amy’s handwritten personal notes, lyrics and sketches and personal items to draw from. MDR is working hand in hand with Amy’s family and the foundation to ensure authenticity in every partnership that we bring to market.

Daniel Avener, MDR Brand Management, Amy Winehouse

Let’s dive into some of these partnerships. Roberts has launched the RT200 x Amy Edition turntable. Why did this partnership make sense for the brand?
Roberts was very close to Amy’s heart and truly expressed her retro style. Amy owned Roberts radios, and her beloved pink Roberts Revival is currently on display at the Amy: Beyond the Stage exhibit at the Design Museum

“Roberts was very close to Amy’s heart and truly expressed her retro style.”

The new Amy inspired Roberts limited edition turntable uses Amy’s signature, doodles and design inspiration. All partnerships that we have carefully curated are with brands that Amy either had a relationship with during her life, or we believe she would have today.

You mentioned the Amy: Beyond the Stage exhibition there. It’s running at London’s Design Museum until April 10th, so people still have time to check it out. How does it highlight Amy as a brand with design-thinking at its core?
The exhibition explores the life and visual stylings of Amy and aims to provide an “intimate connection” with her creative process. It showcases her distinct personal style through a range or artistic photography and outfits she wore during her greatest performances, from high-street picks to designer brands such as Moschino at the Brit Awards in 2007, Dolce & Gabbana at the Grammy Awards and Luella for Glastonbury in 2008.

Visitors can see her impact on the fashion world and learn more about the designers who collaborated with Amy, including Fred Perry, and explore the culture behind Amy’s favourite and memorable accessories.

Daniel Avener, MDR Brand Management, Amy Winehouse

Looking ahead, what other areas are you interested in exploring for the Amy brand?
We are looking at Amy’s unique aesthetic style, which crosses all categories including fashion, beauty, music and home. Amy was an influence beyond her music and this is what we are exploring with the protection of her legacy. Amy was ahead of her time and drove trends such as the mixing of premium and high street brands which is completely relevant today.

All of the partnerships that we have carefully curated had brand relationships with Amy, or would have today; they share Amy’s values, cues and aesthetics.

Great answer. One last question: How do you and the team at MDR fuel your creativity?
As a team, we are constantly immersed with new brands and come across several creative challenges on a weekly basis. We follow trends and see how those trends can align with the brand we represent and how they are applicable to our work.

Daniel, a huge thanks for taking time out for this. I’m looking forward to seeing where you take the Amy Winehouse brand next.

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