Responses by Peter Hale, creative director, GBH.London
Background: L’Hôtel du Collectionneur is the largest five-star hotel in Paris. The hotel wished to redesign and refurbish its flagship restaurant to attract younger diners—not just hotel guests. The brief was to create desirability and charm to pair with the restaurant’s exceptional quality of food and atmosphere—to create a product that was complete as a brand and destination, but would also cast a positive glow back to the hotel.
Reasoning: We wanted the restaurant to feel like the best that Paris has to offer. Our client also loved the idea of a brand being personified by a character. Our strategy came from the hotel’s name: L’Hôtel du Collectionneur, which posed many questions: Who is the collector? What collection are they collecting for? What are they collecting? Why are they collecting? And what is a collection anyway? It made perfect sense to call the restaurant Le Collectionneur (The Collector).
We loved the idea of choosing a magpie as a collector as they are famous in England for being attracted to bright shiny things, and then stealing them for their nests. For a fine dining premium restaurant, this added an extra level of cheekiness to the identity where we can see our client’s grandmother’s antique gold Rolex sit next to a ring pull from a drinks can. We amplified this by setting every table with entirely mismatching cutlery, as if we’ve plucked them directly from the magpie’s nest.
Challenges: Creating the magpie. The authenticity of the project relied on creating an authentic and believable character around the image of the collector. We trawled the portfolios of the UK’s leading wildlife photographers and worked with the talented Danny Holden at Smoke & Mirrors to enhance the beauty of the images we had discovered.
Favorite details: The intense, beautiful detail of bird anatomy; the mismatching cutlery; and getting a scavenging creature into a restaurant without putting diners off their dinners.
Visual influences: We wanted to capture the verisimilitude of Victorian naturalist illustrators, but without the luxury of time or a generous travel budget!
Time constraints: We desperately wanted to raise a baby magpie from birth. We seriously looked into the possibility by talking to a leading UK bird trainer and devised a plan to achieve this with her. However, the owner’s desire to open the restaurant in record time meant that this tantalizing idea proved to be not possible.
Anything new: While creating the slo-mo film of the bird dropping the stolen items into the nest—with help from Gecko Animation—we learned that even the most robust items wobble like crazy, which is a bad thing when they bounce off the floor at 4000 frames a second.