How the Smiley became pop culture’s biggest celebrity
A smile is contagious
Trends may come and go, but the Smiley face is clearly here to stay. Nicolas Loufrani, the man responsible for taking his father’s creation and making it into a brand, talks about how the Smiley transcended being an emotion to being an icon. The simple yellow face with its unique set of features spreads its message of happiness after years of hard work, effort and strategy. Loufrani, the face behind the face, credits business vision to the popularity of the character. Currently in India, along with Dream Theatre, Smiley is all set to spread the cheer after the Smiley X ONLY capsule collection sold out in record time.
How did the Smiley become pop culture’s biggest celebrity?
Nicolas: “Smiley wouldn’t live without the products, it lives through products and marketing campaigns that are spreading the message. All these brands like Zara, Moschino, or Lifestyle in India, they like the values of the Smiley brand, that’s been around for 46 years spreading this message of the smile.”
The best selling product with the Smiley face on it?
“If I look at it through the decades, it’s always been T-shirts in apparel that carry the smiley. And then in food, it’s the potato chip — the potato Smileys. But last year, it was water. Two hundred million bottles of water with the Nestle group, that was the product of 2017.”
The oddest place you’ve ever seen the Smiley?
I’m very open-minded, so nothing is weird to me. I think even if I was seeing a Smiley on a coffin it would look normal to me. I haven’t seen it, maybe it will be on my coffin…”
What do you think about the smiley on runways?
I always like to create collections with fashion designers and put them on the catwalk. To be in the cooler stores as a way to create very iconic pieces even celebrities would wear. Pop singers are going to wear only very creative pieces, like the line we created with Jeremy Scott. We like to be aligned with the music scene. Music makes us very happy, it brings happiness in people’s life, I think.
So why is the Smiley yellow?
Yellow is the colour of the sun, it gives us life, it’s the colour of the brand. But in terms of the product, it can be anything; black and white, sequins, in colours. But we don’t change its features. We have a very unique way of drawing our Smiley, it’s not like an emoji.
Did the emoji make the Smiley more popular?
Emoji is basically a copy of the Smiley, we have our own art direction. They’ve followed our concept of a universal language for communication. But it was originated by me in 1997 as a project and emoji has taken it to a different level. I think it’s a positive thing for us, I always say when you start an art movement or a fashion movement, it’s the best proof that you’ve created something unique and created an impact on the world.
What’s your favourite rendition of Smiley?
There’s this French designer, after his shows he always comes out with his red beanie hat. So we created a Smiley for him wearing the hat. It’s the collection I wear the most.
If Smiley were a person, who would he be?
That’s me. The original Smiley is my father, a larger-than-life character. The Smiley was launched two weeks after I was born, we’re twin brothers.
In India, where would you like to see it?
Actually, I was asking about charities. We have the Smiley fund, I was asking what are biggest foundations in India. I would like to align with them and our own foundation. And do real good. We spread happiness through our products and the real life aspect of it is doing real good and spreading happiness like that.