Cog in The Works: Phil Handford, Campaign

I live in London four days a week, and Cornwall for the other three days. I’ve just passed my flying license so I fly down there and back. I decided I wanted to do it a year ago so I set about it. It takes about an hour and a half to London with the wind behind you. I fly into a couple of places in London like Elstree, near where the film studios are. There are lots of little planes and helicopters that fly into near there. The weather has been great recently, but it’s turning and becoming a bit too tricky for someone with only a little experience. You could get lost in the clouds somewhere.

I either land at Newquay airport, which is a big one and then there’s me landing in my little plane on this massive airstrip, or in Perranporth, which is this beautiful, old World War Two airstrip on a cliff top. Learning to fly in Cornwall over the landscape down there is just stunning. Flying over the north coast of Cornwall over the rugged coastline that has been battered by the sea is just beautiful.

The view from the skiesWe are interior designers at Campaign, predominantly for shops. But we also do events. There are quite a lot of companies that do we what do in London – it’s quite big business because retail is so competitive, so stores and brands are always trying to recreate themselves and present themselves in a new modern light to capture people’s attention, and get them to come into the store to spend time and money.

Everything we do is really different. We love creating consumer experiences, so it’s the design of the whole space and challenging what is a ‘normal’ store. We have done quite a few experimental projects that we have funded that have led to quite different projects – one for Selfridges, for example.

The most out-there one we did was creating a sweet shop. We invited 150 people into the sweet shop, including all our potential clients in London. We did online research before they came so we knew a bit about them. They had a time slot of half and hour; they knocked on the tiny door of this gated mews, and we had an actor that welcomed them into a really lush lounge space. They got a menu to choose which drink they liked and the actor would chat to them and knew a bit about them, which would disarm them! Then they walked through a series of spaces, and we defined their perfect sweet at the end of it. We monitored everything they did and built a profile around them, which we presented back to them at the end and picked the right sweet for them. The idea is it is creating a retail experience that is tailored for individuals. People loved it.

We did that a few years ago, and we have since done one for Selfridges. They gave us a budget of £200,000 to fit it out – it took all that to fit it out for six weeks. People paid £65 for a fragrance and we put them through a series of spaces and monitored what they did, touched and liked, we used some technology as well. These were the windows of Selfridges that they went through.

I’ve talked about this whole idea of experiential retail at the V&A and in all sorts of different companies. That’s the really interesting end of pushing what is the future of retail. Online has grown rapidly and how people use it is developing. Bricks and mortar is about the enjoyment of going to a quirky space and being treated really well. Rather than there being rails and rails of products, I think stores will become really fun.

We started off doing work for Burberry. We are now doing a huge project for Selfridges. They want to be doing something bold and interesting so it’s quite fun, and challenging. Right now we are also designing the lounges at Virgin, which are based on Space Odyssey 2001. So you depart from the airport and you go through a minimal white space and there’s someone dressed in a red Virgin outfit at the end of it. It’s quite abstract. We’re having lots of fun with that!

I originally wanted to be an artist; I love art installations. I tried to get on a degree in Brighton and they wouldn’t have me. So I looked into architecture, but it’s seven years and I couldn’t wait that long to get a job. Interior design seemed like quite a creative course, so I did that down in Brighton. I then spent twelve years working in interior design for shops, and started Campaign six years ago. I’d worked with Christopher Bailey at Burberry and he told me I should work for myself – so I did!

Mr Bones, Phil's dog

I used to rent a flat on Brick Lane, in an old Huguenot building. I’ve been at PW for five years now, and it brings with it a brilliant team. Everyone lives near here; there is a lot of activity around here including all our competitors. Perseverance Works itself looks great as well.

There are about ten of us here. And we’ve got Campaign in Shanghai, which I set up a year ago with a business partner based in China. He’s really established out there. I’ve been going out there quite a bit and we’ve got our first big client. They’ve got 3,000 stores and more money than Burberry but you’ve never heard of them. That’s China. Massive – it’s a head-spin. The dream is to have New York, London, and Shanghai. A nice spread across the continents and something that could be more valuable in the future, but who knows.

It’s been a real learning curve. Every week there is something interesting going on. The big challenge is juggling – wearing a few different hats. Being finance director, creative director, doing big presentations to clients, being a dad, being a husband, a son, and having a dog. Mix all that up together and it’s a big challenge!