By David Gill
NEW YORK–Nearly a year after its return to the home products scene, the Portico brand has made two significant moves.
Last month, the company announced its partnership with Summer Rayne Oakes for a new campaign to raise the awareness of Portico as a brand offering environmentally friendly home furnishings across the United States and Canada. Oakes is a model, media host and brand strategist who has become an authority on environmental sustainability, sustainable style and environmental communications. She is a featured participant on Discovery’s PlanetGreen Web site, on which she models and provides advice on the “green” lifestyle.
Later that month, Portico announced the hiring of Jodi Riviera as its chief creative director. A veteran of the home fashions industry, Riviera has been operating her own business, Jodi Riviera Inc. in Mill Valley, Calif., designing high-end products for a variety of companies, including Crate & Barrel and Williams-Sonoma. A Portico statement credited her with the development of the Favorite Things trademarked brand of bed linens, bath linens, table linens, kitchen textiles, dinnerware and seasonal products.
For the positioning of the Portico brand, Riviera has been focusing on “green” design and product development for the past couple of years. One of her goals in her new post, she said, will be to “integrate green values and positioning into [Portico’s] creative platform and product assortment.”
With these two moves, Portico has underscored its mission statement, which involves combining “an eco-friendly and socially responsible business foundation” with “an attainable sophistication and design aesthetic to the market for all home product categories,” according to a company statement.
The moves have also furthered the brand-management strategy set out by Portico’s two owners, Gregg Haft and Charles Schlang, when they acquired Portico in June 2007. “We like the idea of brand-management companies,” Haft, who is Portico’s president, told HFN. “When we acquired Portico, our model was to acquire brands that represented niche markets, and that we could roll up together.”
Portico was also attractive because it is a brand that held some power over consumers. Earlier this decade, Portico had stores across the nation, including five in the New York metropolitan area and locations in Boston, Las Vegas, Chicago and San Francisco. Hit hard by the economic slump that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the chain filed for bankruptcy in 2004 and later closed all of its stores.
Even though the brand had disappeared for some years, research among consumers showed Haft and Schlang that the name still had some weight. “Our surveys found that Portico was a destination shop for many design professionals,” Haft said. “We took that unique aesthetic and turned it into a focus on product and timely lifestyle trends.”
Those surveys also showed the two principles which lifestyle trend to direct Portico. “The environment is the biggest lifestyle trend today,” Haft said. “People are sensitive to it. We’re years away from it, but there will come a point in time where the environment becomes a standard for design and product development.”
The two principles believe they have made strides toward developing this aesthetic, leading up to the partnership with Oakes and the hiring of Riviera. “We have the only true organic home and spa brand,” said Schlang, Portico’s chief executive officer. “As a brand, Portico now represents the green lifestyle culture, and this culture is not just one piece in a broader product line.”
Portico products are available in two segments: Portico Home and Portico Spa. Under Portico Home are the company’s textiles offerings in fashion and utility bedding, soft and hard bath, soft and hard kitchen, room decor such as wallcoverings and window treatments, decorative accessories and furniture. The Portico Spa line encompasses personal-care lotions, gels, soaps, body and loofa brushes, and kits including a variety of these products.
While Portico has established itself as a green brand, both principles view the Oakes campaign as crucial to pushing this identification forward.
“It’s easy for other companies to put words like ‘sustainable’ on their packaging,” Schlang said. “If Portico does its job, the consumer will become more educated and will ask, ‘Where can I find product like this?’ ”
The education campaign is about more than promoting Portico’s “green-ness.” According to Haft, the campaign will direct consumers in their own efforts to convert to an overall environmentally friendly lifestyle.
“Over three-fourths of the people we surveyed said they want to live responsibly, but don’t know what that means,” he said. “The connotation of it is no harmful ingredients, and in textiles this means the materials that touch your skin are healthier.”