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Why Johnnie Walker Turned Pollution into Beautifully-Designed Bottles


Artists from New Delhi to Warsaw used Air-Ink to create a special set of Johnnie Walker Black Label bottles. Global brand director Julie Bramham talks to Laura Swinton about handing over the brand’s most important canvas

Why Johnnie Walker Turned Pollution into Beautifully-Designed Bottles
Whisky brand Johnnie Walker is staying true to its famous ‘Keep Walking’ tagline with its efforts to champion and partner with innovators who are taking the world forward, one step at a time.

That’s the driver of a new collaboration with Graviky Labs, a sustainable tech hothouse that has created Air-Ink, an ink created using upcycled industrial carbon emissions. The brand has partnered with artists around the world, from Mexico City, New Delhi, Warsaw, Bangkok, Istanbul and Madrid, who have used this ink to create beautiful bottle designs inspired by their local cities. Only 2500 bottles of each city edition will be available in each city.

We caught up with Johnnie Walker’s global brand director, Julie Bramham, to find out more about this artistic upcycling and how it feeds into the brand’s broader strategy.

LBB> What was the starting point for this project?
Julie> Our Air-Ink collaboration is part of a wider initiative from us to partner with innovators who are taking progressive steps towards bringing new, sustainable technologies to life and giving them a platform.

We knew we wanted to work with people who are committed to making a difference. We partnered with a select number of artists from around the world and asked them to channel their creativity in developing a bottle design which captured what makes their city so special.  

Each bottle is designed using ink made from local air pollution – beautifully demonstrating the bold steps we are taking towards a more sustainable future.

LBB>  At what point did you come across Air-Ink and decide to fold that into the bottle design - and why was it something you wanted to experiment with?
Julie> Ink made from air pollution is a cool idea and certainly fired our imaginations around how we could work with Air-Ink and partner with creatives to create something really special.

We went to work on finding pioneering artists to create something locally relevant in the cities that they call home, and celebrated those places, known for their vibrant, progressive cultures. 

Through experimentation we got to a design that worked by printing directly onto the bottle. It’s one of those moments where everything connects; celebrating and protecting urban spaces through local artists and ink made from air pollution. 
LBB> Why were you keen to bring illustration and art onto the bottle? What does it do for the Johnnie Walker Black Label brand to engage in creativity in this way?
Julie> When you hand over what is arguably your most important canvas - your bottle – it makes a big statement about how much you believe in the collaboration and the artist’s interpretation. It also proves your intent, how much you want to make this idea come to life in a fresh, interesting and sustainableway. 

We’re not afraid to push boundaries, to champion progress and to experiment with what’s possible, but also that we want to engage with people and culture in a meaningful way. 

LBB> What was the remit for working out which artists to work with? 
Julie> It was about finding people who loved where they lived and came from. We wanted artists whose style and beliefs are heavily influenced by their city, and could capture this energy in a creative bottle design.

Acclaimed Polish illustrator and street artist, Alek Morawski, captured his vision of his home city of Warsaw – creating illustrations that reflect the myths, tales, folklore and famous residents of Warsaw with its progressive, resilient spirit.

While Indian visual artist and muralist Shilo Shiv Suleman created an incredible interpretation of Delhi - imagining a past of winding ancient alleys together with a vivid vision of a freer future, all symbolised by women walking through the streets of Delhi as brave explorers. She says she felt ‘it was like I was immortalising history and the future city we all hope to see’.

From a practical point of view, we had to make sure the illustrations worked in black and white – there were plenty of artists who we wanted to work with but if they relied more on colour, it just wouldn’t make the same impact, so we had to adapt.

LBB> And how did you choose which cities to immortalise in this way?
Julie> We looked for the right kind of artist that we knew could bring this idea to life and who embodied, through their work and their outlook, the spirit of Keep Walking and Johnnie Walker. That then helped us to decide what cities could be activated.  

But this is just the start. The first six bottles are part of the initial phase of our collection. We have plans for more artists to use their own style to craft bottle designs inspired by their home cities.  

The artists featured in the series are: 
The six artists and cities featured as part of the Limited Edition series are:
Alek Morawski - celebrating the landmarks and legends of Warsaw.
Okuda San Miguel - symbolising the culture and nature spilling through the streets of Madrid.
Paola Delfín - showing the soul of Mexico City by uniting its ancient roots and modern spirit.
Shilo Shiv Suleman - depicting a mystical Delhi where nature and civilisation co-exist.
Mr Hure - depicting the unique influences that have shaped Istanbul.
Gongkan - symbolising the hope and power of Bangkok’s next generation.
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Categories: Spirits, Alcoholic Beverages

LBB Editorial, Thu, 14 Jul 2022 15:56:03 GMT