Meet Dafne, the creative studio behind this frame-worthy lookbook

Olivia Wendel Fashion Lookbook Newspaper designed by Dafne

For designer Olivia Wendel, the scarves she prints with her own paintings are an “accessible way of sharing art.” It’s a sentiment that Dafne, the creative studio behind Wendel’s new campaign, took to heart when creating her Flora and Fauna lookbook.

With a single sheet of newsprint, Dafne created a catalogue that also functions as frame-worthy wrapping paper – “like the children’s book illustration of my dreams” is how one happy customer described it.

Photographer Frances F. Denny and art director Catherine Duffy launched Dafne in May 2017.  Since then, they've worked with fashion brands like Catbird and Otem and have produced two campaigns for Wendel, who was "irrationally excited" about the lookbook they created.

Below, Catherine and Frances take us through the design process for the newspaper and tell us which brands – other than Olivia Wendel! – are inspiring them lately.

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Photographer Frances F. Denny and art director Catherine Duffy launched Dafne in May 2017 (Photo via Dafne)
Why a newspaper for this lookbook?

The newspaper format is appealing because it’s familiar but versatile. With loose pages there’s an opportunity to subvert an otherwise traditional book-form – you can play with page orientation and freely re-sequence pages. In the case of our lookbook for Olivia Wendel, we only printed one sheet so we re-imagined the newspaper to become a unique poster/wrapping paper.

Once we realized that the digital tabloid would be a perfect fit to wrap Olivia Wendel’s scarf boxes, we were so excited about making a special, simple piece.

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Olivia Wendel Flora and Fauna lookbook designed by Dafne. Printed as a digital tabloid (Photo via Dafne)
What was the design process like for this project?

We take a lot of time and care developing a lookbook concept that’s executed in the photoshoot and then represented in a digital design on the client’s website. Since we designed the printed piece after those elements were already established, the newspaper came together very naturally.

The wrapping paper/art side of the piece is Olivia’s lovely botanical painting. Printed on newsprint it becomes an arresting piece of casual art! The opposite side shows off the collection in a straightforward grid, but we re-oriented it vertically to transform the content into a vibrant poster.

The visual world of brands is very tuned into authenticity at the moment — to us it’s an exciting pursuit of the perfectly imperfect. Olivia Wendel’s scarves are luxury items, but they are also very accessible and wearable pieces. Using newsprint to showcase her collection expresses her brand perfectly.

What response did the piece get from your client? From customers?

Olivia is really pleased with the newsprint – nothing makes us happier than that!

When making a physical piece of ephemera you have to ask yourself if it’s something you might want to keep, display, hold onto, or look through again. This piece answers YES to that question for us. It’s a wonderful object to have as a poster and the dual-function as wrapping paper feels fun and clever.

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Brand work for Olivia Wendel by Dafne (photo via Dafne)
What's the biggest challenge of collaborating on a project?

One of the risks of being a duo creative team is that you could lose sight of the fact that one of us is specialized in graphic design and one of us in photography. Although we pow-wow on every creative decision during a project, we also respect each others’ expertise and will defer to that partner on a decision if it’s in their realm.

Luckily, we're almost always of the same mind about most creative decisions. But it’s been useful to generally respect one another’s fields of work so that person has last say about any particular choice.

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Behind the scenes at the Olivia Wendel photoshoot (photo via Dafne)
Do you listen to music in your studio? (If so, what’s been on repeat lately?)

Catherine: I grew up playing the cello, so I basically listen to NYC’s classical station WQXR from dawn to dusk while I’m at my desk.I can’t work to music with lyrics so I only have to switch it off if opera comes on! Rare times that I listen to non-classical music while working it’s gotta be an album I know really well – might be The Frames or Radiohead.

Frances: Never when I’m working at my desk (too distracting!), but when we’re shooting I like to try to match the mood of the music to the vibe of the shoot. That said, I do have some music in frequent rotation–Solange, Sylvan Esso, Grimes, Drake, and The Weeknd.

Can you tell us about the project you’re most proud of from the past year?

Ooh it’s hard to choose! It was wonderful working with jewelry designer Erica Weiner this year on her fall/winter campaign. Erica was happy to give us totally free reign to dream up an editorial, and once she approved our concept, we executed it from start to finish. It’s really satisfying when that happens so seamlessly, and it’s great to feel like your clients trust you 100% to execute a shared vision!

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Photography for jewelry designer Erica Weiner by Dafne (photo via Dafne)
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about running your own business?

F: We were glad we hired a lawyer to draw up our partnership agreement before we launched because it forced us to work through some thorny questions and hypotheticals (like what would happen to Dafne if someday one of us wanted out?).

It’s easy to get really excited about how fun and rewarding it is to work with your bud and creative collaborator and not think about the trickier things that could arise. Best to get it all out on the table before jumping in!

C: It’s so much fun! Which is not really a surprise. I’ve always felt like being a graphic designer is the luckiest, best job in the world, but having a creative business with a partner feels so much more whole.

I enjoy being in control of creative projects, and I perform best when I’m providing a service to someone. Being accountable to a partner in addition to clients creates ideal conditions for my creative practice.

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Olivia Wendel Flora and Fauna lookbook designed by Dafne. Printed as a digital tabloid. (Photo via Olivia Wendel)
What’s the role of print in marketing for fashion brands like Olivia Wendel or Catbird?

F: Whereas digital mailers can be overlooked in a heartbeat, printed marketing materials are so valuable – they act like a little art piece that catches the eye! Plus, they’re hard to throw out if they’re really great.

The ideal is that the piece is re-usable in some way, either as gift-wrap in Olivia’s case, or perhaps even as a poster or something to pin up on the wall in your office.

C: A brand that produces a material good as its core offering inherently values the tactile nature of objects. Printed materials resonate with that ethos.

Rifling through the pages of a beautifully designed newspaper or handling a luxurious piece of cardstock enhances the customer’s understanding of the care that goes into everything a brand produces — from their signature good to the marketing that represents them.

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Brand identity for Olivia Wendel by Dafne (Photo via Dafne)
What are some brands with visual identities you find inspiring?

F: I just discovered a skincare line called Drunk Elephant, and I’m going gaga over their visuals (and their products, which are clean and well-sourced). The brand feels elegant and refined but fun and contemporary at the same time – not at all crunchy or fussy-fancy.

C: I always feel Acne does a stellar job in the branding department – creative, yet clear. I am also generally inspired by understated and ‘undesigned’ design like Slow and Steady Wins the Race or APC (use one typeface and call it a day!)

And finally: Where’s your favourite place to read a newspaper?

F: In bed!

C: My parent’s kitchen table – I love the tradition of reading the paper at breakfast when visiting them.

Olivia Wendel's lookbook was printed as a digital tabloid on 90gsm paper.


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