Hot brands on pink sands - Harbour Island
Rejuvenation comes in many forms, but I have to say 2 nights with stellar female company in Harbour Island is the kind of memory making, soul quenching fun that replenishes the depths of my feminine sensibilities.
My heart, mind and soul and my funny bone are feeling very stimulated and inspired not only by the hilarity that only gal pals over 40 can appreciate, but coupled with the sensory delights of a tropical paradise that is brimming with glamour and creativity at every turn…..it feels like festival of inspiration and renewed energy.
Not to mention the warmth and joy of the people and children of Harbour Island we spent time with, gives you an incredible respect for the natural evolution of tiny island communities.
Bombing around in a golf cart is just fun full stop and many of us living in The Bahamas are used to this mode of transport when visiting the family islands. But when you are pottering through the streets of Briland, with fun friends drinking cold Kaliks in a brown bag, feeling the buzz of energy from friendly locals and tourists and admiring the picture perfect vignettes that explode visually with authentic nostalgia, pastel eye pleasing palettes and seductive charm, you start to dream of a way of life this idyllic.
It was a last minute invitation from this long time lady crew of Nassau gals, that I was generously invited to share in a prize won that gave us the great opportunity to stay at The elegant and historical Dunmore hotel.
As much as I am visually entranced by the island’s natural beauty, the brands of the island are my heart’s first call in terms of stimulation of my own internal musings.
So after ravaging a lunch time welcome "Bahama Mama"...literally the best cocktail I have ever tasted…my attention was to soak up The Dunmore brand offerings.
The Dunmore Hotel logo, simple and honest, which features a rooster and you only have to spend 5 mins in Briland to spot one, they are everywhere. We were fortunate to see one with 5 or 6 chicks trailing behind it in a row when we landed…quite the island welcome. The logo is a simple shield with a rooster a top with an italic D in the middle. The logo is fitting, and most of the graphics throughout were simple and in keeping. If I were being really picky and I am because I should be…I would change that D…to a more characterful character, possibly a few serifs to add to the nostalgic nature of this beloved resort.
But that is literally the only aesthetic thing I would change about this visually stunning place.
Aside from the hilltop views of the incredible pink sand beach, the understated island chic of The Dunmore is not only incredibly stylish, it symbolizes an intelligent approach to island design. It is not frivolous or pretentious in anyway, nor self-indulgent or overly exclusive. The simplicity and elegance are portrayed through the subtle play of light, colour and texture. As with any brand especially luxury brands the authentic story needs to be told.
Here blends traditional island style elements that are signature - cane, rattan, sisal all present and correct, then of course the white woodwork with natural treasures of carefully but casual fresh island fauna, paired with beach and sea treasure of coral, shells and starfish…..beautifully appointed and casually placed amongst the coffee table books and tasteful artifacts.
Then you get the substance of a fifties vintage pavilion black and white stripe that can be found consistently through the various buildings and accommodations, it is an added design signature that boosts the luxury aspects of the brand. It also compliments the softer coral stripe that can be found throughout the dining room and patio, bringing a warmth and charm that speaks true to its long history and provides a strong sense of elegance and character. The dining room walls are framed with simple picture rails, but feature stacks of vintage Bahamian photographs, advertisements and graphics that convey a bygone era and are a feast for the eye. A real treasure trove of portraits, each one telling a story of the diversity of culture and history, a truly lovely gallery, of mixed frames and sizes that expresses and honours the glamour and real life beauty of the islands and its people.
If this were a travel blog I would regal the finer details that were to be found and mused upon during our stay, little luxuries that tuned into your wellbeing. Even pretty straw hats and bags were provided to ensure you were keeping with the island chic dress code.
But I want to focus on the overall brand of Harbour Island. This fascinating seaside village, that has managed to beautifully blend the nostalgia of small island living with the upmarket aesthetic needs of the glamour set. I have to praise local business owners who have cleverly tapped in to the high end traveller who want a authentic island experience, but can still find amazing gourmet restaurants and boutiques that cater to their tastes.
Like The Dunmore many of the local restaurant and retail brands have identified their target audience and have played to their strengths, as any decent brand should.
The stand out brands for me are the usual suspects that I am sure any travel blogger would have named. Namestays such as The Rock House, Pink Sands. Coral Sands, Sip Sip, The Landing, Valentines, The Blue Rooster, Calico Trading, Bahamas Roasters, The Sugar Mill. Plus the island original brands from Daddy D’s to Queen Conch, Arthurs bakery etc.
Plus Harbour Island lifestyle royalty India Hicks who in my opinion has been the trailblazer for exposing the potential of this potent mix of island sultry, waspy beach goddess…and respecting the heritage and era of vintage pink sand living.
India Hick’s brand is a master class in self awareness, authenticity, and clever extraction of detail and simplicity. The Sugar Mill skull and beetle motif are really unexpected when you consider the variety and beauty in Bahamian nature and history to draw from. The skull and beetle represent neither, but instead speak to the depths of the brand creator, her British sensibility, humour and wonder in all the glory that island living brings. The sense of discovery that she explores through her children’s eyes and the importance of elegance and civility that she revels in through her family’s royal upbringing. How she has cleverly woven so many aspects of her contradictory life, yet has somehow remained accessible and down to earth, has really set the tone for similar brands looking to flourish in this unique environment.
During my brief but exhilarating stay, I came across one of my own recent brand creations. A new addition to the harbour side landscape was the rebrand of Burns house Liquor stores that have just been unveiled.
It was interesting to see this island wide brand situated in a smaller island setting, alongside the eclectic mix of brands.
My lady crew and I were having a blast with old friends of theirs in a local bar “Beyond the Reef” and while sipping my cold Kalik Light, waiting to photograph the pending sunset. The power was off…luckily we roll with our own tunes, and we had managed to score some conch fritters from the Queen Conch while her oil was still hot. One of my gals mentioned that I had created the logo, which was beaming at us from across the street to some of the island residents in our circle. So of course feedback was offered and gratefully received. I learned that one guy loved it and appreciated the national colour scheme and reference to the “700 islands of The Bahamas” …the other guy was a little more reticent in his assessment. He said that he did indeed like it a lot, but he was concerned that it didn’t speak to the Harbour Island aesthetic. To him it felt more New York/Chicago…not in keeping with the natural island stylings that so many local brands rightly embrace.
At first my ego took this as a compliment, I have always enjoyed being compared to big city agencies, as a London born and British trained designer it is important to me to stay connected to global trends. But then once I checked myself and actually listened, he was educating me on his island brand, one that I have revered from so many angles.
I wanted him to know that I had very much considered the thoughts and feeling of our fellow countrymen and women as well as many other demographics that would be using it. I explained my brief of having to appeal to so many different types of people, from fishermen to Lyford Cay champagne event planners, to New Yorkers flying in, to Floridians hitting Bay St from a cruise ship. Such diversity to imagine shopping for their individual liquor needs. I also had to consider the immense history of the company and its place in Bahamian life. Plus highlight the uniqueness as a brand which is how many stores there are serving the nation, across so many of the family islands. We needed to unify all of our past logos into one bold brand.
The name was decided first, born from our island breadth uniqueness, “700” islands, which set the direction of it honouring its legacy as a Bahamian grown brand. Therefore the brief was concluded that the look and feel had to reflect the nation. So it was a natural evolution through the flag colours, but we also agreed it should be bold, progressive and modern. Designed to be spotted throughout the varying neighbourhoods of New Providence from East to West, as well as provide a level of recognition throughout the islands, as any nationwide brand should.
As I finished my icy cold Kalik, I pondered his comments, I knew he was right, this was not gelling with the Sugar Mill or The Landing, it was bold and jarring against the soft island sunset light that had began its iridescent descent. But it was bold and eye-catching and absolutely Bahamian. I had done my research, I had known this brand intimately before and after its makeover, I am a Kalik maven, I have created past campaigns for Kalik and I have been creating Bahamian brands for 20 years, but suddenly I looked at my logo in a different light literally….I saw it through his eyes.
On my return to Nassau, I let his feedback mull in my mind for a few days, I looked back through my photos. I drove through Nassau seeing it pop everywhere, listening to my kids shout out…”mum , there is your logo”. Which always warms my heart, and allows me to forgive myself for the missed time with them for the long working hours to make these brands successful.
Could this brand possibly speak to the very individual personalities of each of the symbolic 700 islands that it represents. The diversity found from Cat Island, to Long Island and every other unique island community. Our mission to unify the 53 stores, to show strength in our togetherness, to provide a reassuring sign of quality and variety, and to let our customers know we are progressive and unifying, a symbol of pride and celebration across the nation…..I wonder if he likes the tagline?
A strong brand must speak with one clear voice, I hope that this voice speaks to the many islanders, I hope it helps them feel connected to one another. I am so glad for the honest discourse and proud that my creation generated such a discussion.
I feel so inspired by the entrepreneurs of Harbour Island, the founders, the trailblazers and the new generation adding their own stamp to this successful brand story. Their spirit is a reflection of what is possible and how a strong brand can really help you shine.