Tag Archives: content agency

Content Marketing, Brand Integrity and Porter Magazine

We always say at Rhubarb Fool that the key to successful content marketing is treating that content the way you would mainstream media, ensuring that you produce a quality product that only stands out for the right reasons.

For example, when we’re putting together a visitor magazine for a well-known UK shopping village, we approach it the same way we would if we were suddenly handed the reins at Vogue.

Despite the project’s overarching commercial characteristics, we still maintain editorial and creative integrity, which results in a high quality end product. It’s the only way to truly achieve the marketing objective: enticing visitors to spend time there, and enhancing the brand’s overall international reputation.

The same must be true of all marketing content, whether it’s fashion magazines, a professional newsletter, or VIP tourist information. Deliver quality content, and you’re far more likely to achieve your aims.

All marketing and content marketing studies come down to the same thing: people are unimpressed by sub-par content, and are only likely to engage with and share the quality stuff that interests them.

It stands to reason – if your first reaction to a piece of branded content is ‘Ugh’ or ‘That’s shoddy’, then you are unlikely to consider that brand worthy of your notice in the future.

One of our favourite content marketing success stories – albeit on a grand and international scale – is the runaway success of new fashion magazine Porter. It is in some ways a companion magazine to the hugely popular designer shopping site net-a-porter.com, but its true beauty lies in the fact that it stands alone as a brilliant publication.

With an inaugural edition that featured none other than top supermodel Gisele Bundchen on the cover, Porter immediately emerged as a serious competitor to the classic fashion magazines Vogue and Elle. Subsequent photo shoots and interviews featuring fashion royalty like Lara Stone, Sarah Jessica Parker, Karlie Kloss, Penelope Cruz and runway favourite Malaika Firth made it clear that this was no flash in the style pan. Pretty impressive, considering that it was only released in February of this year.

But the magazine is more than just gloss: opening it up you’ll find not only the myriad high-fashion shoots that you’d expect, but insightful articles (covering everything from the prospect of a female president of the United States to a fascinating profile of itinerant photographer Giorgia Fiorio), and little Q&As with celebrities dotted everywhere. What does Yoko Ono think about the Chiltern Firehouse? What art does Claudia Schiffer collect? Find out here.

The real USP of Porter, though, is its e-commerce capability. This is the first publication where you can ‘shop the magazine’ – everything you see is available from net-a-porter.com, and discerning customers can purchase at the click of a button (when they’re using the app, that is). There’s no better way to drive consumers straight from an aspirational article or shoot to your site.

This capability wouldn’t work nearly as well if Porter didn’t stand alone as a desirable magazine in its own right. So take a leaf out of Natalie

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Massenet & Co’s book (or magazine), and inject some originality and quality into your content marketing strategy.

App-lied Science

When it comes to apps, at Rhubarb Fool we like to think we know our stuff – we do build them on a fairly regularly basis, after all.

A recent comment from a certain fashion blogger got me thinking about the role they play in our day to day lives – and how that insight can help agencies and the brands they work with to tailor them to accommodate the consumer as well as meet campaign goals.

The fashion blogger in question, one Tala Samman of myfashdiary.com (who we’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with), admits that she uses apps ‘for everything from organisation, beauty, fitness, social media and the list goes on…’ And when you think about it, this is the reality for most of us.

We are increasingly living in a mobile world, and if you access Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn on a smartphone or tablet, you’re probably going to do so using an app. Maps, email, radio…all of these are day-to-day essentials for which the app is increasingly the go-to.

Where do branded apps fit into all of this? Unless they have excellent functionality or some other USP, no one will bother downloading them. As Tala herself observes, she’s ‘not the biggest fan of downloading brand apps because they always seem really commercial’. The key to a successful app, then, is meeting your customers’ needs as well as promoting your brand.

Looking at apps in a similar way to printed content can help with this – its features should be as original and as well thought out as any magazine. Indeed, some of the most popular apps are those that are companions to magazines and newspapers. Think Vogue, GQ, The Guardian et al…Well researched and elegantly designed content will always sing regardless of the platform it is staged on.

If your brand or company already has roster of printed publications, it is well worth obtaining an app to accompany them. Just as an online presence is mandatory these days, so is having mobile-optimised content at your customers’ fingertips. Look at it like this: with an app, your customers or potential customers can carry you around with them in their pocket. What could be better than that?

If you’ve got quality content and design then you’re already halfway there. There are just a few things to bear in mind:

1. Apps are more interactive than your average magazine or even your average website. Make sure you provide plenty of stimulation in the form of videos, links, images, and full integration with social media. Ideally, nearly every page should link to another feature or page of the app. I.e. a great page on the best restaurants to visit may link to some relevant recipes or other things to do in the area.

2. Functionality is key. No one will bother persisting with an app that’s unwieldy or confusing. This means that the app should be laid out in a logical fashion, fully optimised for mobile devices, and with all the necessary features (like infinite scrolling, for example, if it’s appropriate)

3. It has to do something. Make sure that the purpose of the app is clear in every single part of it. Even if it is just an app version of a magazine, it has to have something to set it apart in what is a very crowded marketplace. An e-commerce element enriches many apps, as does the ability to log wish lists and preferences. Apps that are useful are the most popular.

Social Media Gets Serious

We recently read an interview that got us thinking (again) about social media and how people and brands use it to represent themselves.

Novelist Teju Cole is known for his beautifully slow-paced and well-written books Every Day is For the Thief and Open City, both of which offer a unique insight into the cultural dynamics of Nigeria, America and Europe.

Recently he spoke to The Guardian about, amongst other things, his presence on Twitter. An active tweeter, he gets involved with the political sphere, challenging those opinions he finds either lazy or pernicious.

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This perhaps isn’t unique – plenty of public figures use Twitter as a platform to air their political views. What is somewhat unusual, though, is how seriously Cole takes social media. He admitted to writing drafts of his tweets, stating: ‘When I tweet, I’m still a writer’. One can’t imagine some other prolific tweeters taking so much time over their posts.

Perhaps more of us should follow his example. Well thought out posts that accurately represent and enhance your brand identity make for more relevant, interesting, and profitable conversations all round.

One of the beauties of Twitter is how instantaneous it is – it’s so easy to type out a quick message and send it out to the world. Bite-sized nuggets of information can be transmitted immediately. Just look at how quickly topics become trends.

But this ‘instant-ness’ sometimes fosters carelessness. When it’s so easy to send out a tweet, they can seem ephemeral. Here today, gone tomorrow. That’s not really the case though, is it?

Your feed is a timeline of your activities on Twitter that all of your followers can see, and who knows how many people see each individual Tweet? Even if it’s limited to just 140 characters, it’s still a platform on which to display your brand, your business, or yourself.

Cole, conscious of his role as a writer and all that it entails, aims to ‘create a space’, even with his Twitter feed, admitting that he ‘actually sits and thinks about this’. It’s no bad thing to consider one’s online profile carefully. Through his thoughtful and measured outputs, Cole ensures that he honours his values as a writer and is cohesive across all fronts. This is something brands should put effort into too.

When you tweet, you’re tweeting as your company or brand, and so it’s important that your message comes through even in the briefest of messages. Whether it’s through the careful use of certain hashtags or ensuring that specific company vocabulary is used, it is paramount that you establish a distinctive tone of voice in line with the rest of your brand and run with it.

Aim to create a ‘space’ of your own online that’s dedicated entirely to the showcasing of your brand. Whether you’re dealing with customer service queries or promoting a new marketing campaign, you’re still contributing to the associations consumers have with your company and you brand identity overall.

To use Cole as an example once more, as a Nigerian-American writer whose work focuses on Nigerian people and culture, he often engages in discussion about Africa and the prejudiced opinions that some Westerners seem to have of his native continent.

A cosmetics company, despite being a completely different entity entirely, could use the same principal in their social media usage: posting make up tips and engaging in conversations about top performing cosmetic products would enhance their brand identity and integrity. Consumers are given the impression that they know what they’re talking about and further opportunities to interact with them. Every tweet has a purpose.

The same, of course, goes for other social media platforms as well. Put thought into images you post on Instagram (there’s no shame in setting something up especially, or using some super-flattering filters) and give some substance to your posts on Facebook or your blog.

When you say something online, you’re not just making a comment; you’re representing yourself and your brand.

How Important is Typography?

Writing is the bread and butter of content creation. It’s at the very heart of what we do here.

You can’t transcreate out of nowhere, and you can’t design quality content around ‘Lorem Ipsum’.

All too often, though, the writing part of the design process is overlooked. After all, there are more interesting things to focus on, right? Images, flourishes, colours? Wrong.

Typography matters. First of all, imparting meaning is the main aim of any collateral. Design helps with this, sure, but it’s the words that do the donkeywork. So they need to be clear and legible.

Body copy should conform in a neat font that’s neither too swirly nor serify, and large enough to be easy to read without taking up too much space.

When it come to titles and standfirsts, there’s a bit more freedom and as a result, people like to play with fonts more. Different kinds of typography seem to say different things, and provide another opportunity to project your desired brand image.

For example, Didot and other similar serifs immediately scream ‘fashion’ and ‘luxury’ – probably because we’re so used to seeing it across the pages of Vogue, Harpers Bazaar and other high-end fashion magazines.

Something like Helvetica, on the other hand, is simple and functional, so works extremely well for body copy or in bold for titles on less immaculately designed or ‘flowery’ products.

Our advice? Put some serious thought into the fonts you choose when designing collateral. Do they complement each other? Are they clear? Do they say what you think they say? There’s a tendency to sometimes fall back on ‘swirly’ fonts to give an air of classiness, but they’re rarely as effective as they’re intended to be. Most of the time, they’re either unreadable or a bit naff.

Consider the weight and style of the font you use – P22 Underground in light is a totally different beast than P22 Underground in heavy, and when italicised a lot of fonts take on an entirely different character.

Do your research, don’t be afraid to test things out, and above all, come up with a coherent style guide so that there’s consistency across all your products. Make sure that your typography choices become synonymous with your brand.

Keep Copy Sparkling

We love writing at Rhubarb Fool. It’s kind of like breathing to us, and a part of why we’re so infatuated with all types of media.

One of the things that most helps you to improve your skills as a writer is incredibly simple – just reading. The more different types of writing you encounter, the more words you’ll learn, the more ways of constructing sentences you’ll discover, and the more styles you’ll sample.

That doesn’t mean just classics. As much as we love Austen and Shakespeare and Fowles, Eliot and Auden and Tennyson, we read everything. Variety is not only the spice of life, but enriches you as a writer and as a

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person. It’s not just magazine articles or blogs that can be captivating either, but seemingly uninteresting things like brochures, supplements and information leaflets.

So copywriting – even in its most ‘basic’ form – is important. If that’s the case, then why is so much of it not very good?

Don’t get us wrong, it’s not that common to read something so dreadful you fall out of your seat, but a lot of the time we find ourselves studying copy and finding it generic and uninspiring.

Considering the fact that this is the medium that brands are using to interact with their customers and foster meaningful connections, this seems quite counterproductive.

Any words associated with your company should shine, engage, dazzle, and resonate with your consumer base. How do you achieve that? With hard work. And by engaging the professionals, of course.

A good example is a project we were working on for Westfield recently. The amount of writing required would be considered by some people to be negligible – less than 25 words. But it took us several hours and 3 different copywriters to come up with our final offering. Why? Because we care about maintaining our clients’ voice and personality across all platforms, even on the smallest ones.

A great way to protect the integrity of your brand and associated collateral is to compile a style guide. You probably already have one, but it may relate more to your logo than to your writing style.

Style guides are so useful because they help you to establish a firm tone of voice, a set vocabulary, and unified purpose, which sets a fantastic foundation for any copywriting that will be done in the future. At Rhubarb Fool we are devotees of the style guide. Find out more by having a look over our

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blog archives, or even get in touch to find out more about what we can do.

Harness the Power of Regional Opinion Formers

Rhubarb Fool’s blog has talked a lot about Social Media. This is with good reason – few things are as pervasive and influential these days as platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and the rest.

The significance of social media doesn’t seem to be waning any time soon, so we expect to be talking about it for a good while yet.

We all know that companies, big and small alike, are cultivating an online presence to better engage their customers and to promote their brand. Celebrities do the same thing, engaging their fans and controlling their public image.

But what about the users themselves? They are not all mindless consumers. In fact, many are actually creators. One thing that social media has engendered is sharing on a whole new level, with blogging. Many bloggers have huge social media presences, and achieve a kind of Internet celebrity, particularly in their country of origin. Occasionally, this internet celebrity even transfers to ‘real life’, with bloggers being featured in magazines and television.

A great example is Gabi Gregg of GabiGresh.com. Her fashion blog started out with her sharing her ‘OOTD’ (outfit of the day), and has grown to the point where she is a columnist for InStyle USA, a brand ambassador, and even collaborator on a plus-size swimwear line. By reaching out to Gabi, brands reach out to her followers and receive unique exposure to a specific target market (plus-sized fashion lovers).

At Rhubarb Fool we call bloggers like this ‘Regional Opinion Formers’, and we know how important they are. Not only are they talented and creative, but they provide the opportunity to collaborate and consolidate a powerful social media presence for the brands we work with.

When we create magazines for our clients, in addition to providing great design and well-known British writers, we commission these regional opinion formers to give a sense of authenticity and relevance to the final product. The publication goes hand in hand with a social media comms plan, allowing the bloggers to talk about our clients and the magazine on social media, thus increasing brand awareness and driving traffic to our clients’ websites.

On our magazine for Selfridges, we had the pleasure of working with the fabulous Tala Samman, of myfashdiary.com. Her understanding not only of fashion, but also of the Middle Eastern market gave the magazine some real cultural relevance. Ultimately, her contribution helped to create a better product for the target demographic.

More importantly, through her involvement, we were able to insert Selfridges into the existing fashion conversation going on in the Middle East.

This unique approach is something we’re really excited about at Rhubarb Fool, and we’re already looking forward to applying it to several future projects.

Social Media: Know Your Audience Part II

You should be aware by now that really knowing your audience is a key component of any successful social media campaign.

But what happens when cultural differences obscure your view or prevent your message from getting across? How can you make a meaningful connection with your audience when you don’t really understand them?

The fact is that you can’t understand an entire culture by googling it. That’s why you need to call in the experts – like us at Rhubarb Fool.

We have a network of creatives from around the world who don’t only translate and transcreate, but who also advise on the messages we’re sending out and how they will resonate with our target markets.

Something can be catchy and clear in English, but confusing or even offensive in another language, or to another culture. That’s why it’s imperative that you collaborate with the experts to ensure that you

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really do know your audience as well as you think you do.

A really obvious example is how you might omit any images that show a lot of skin to tailor a product for the Middle Eastern market. But that’s not where it ends – the other day in the office we had a discussion with our Arabic copywriter about the overtones of the word ‘revolution’ and how our audience might read it.

In short – it’s not just the words that need transcreating, but the campaign as a whole.

Another culture in which this is particularly important to bear in mind is Chinese. As well as the quirks that come

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with any individual society, there are whole different social media networks to bear in mind.

RenRen was set up in 2005, and is a Facebook-like social network that tends to be used by younger generations – students and teens. After launching a new mobile app in late 2013, it increased its register users to a huge 194 million and reached 54 million monthly active users.

Weibo is the most popular social network in China by far, with around 280 million active users and 500 million registered users. It’s a globally significant network that’s ahead of the tech curve – many western celebrities and organisations have Weibo accounts, and it rolled out its multimedia functions before Twitter.

You might worry about the fact that censorship seems to have deterred some users – but the worldwide popularity of social media shows no sign of abating, so you simply can’t ignore a whole demographic on this basis alone. And these are just two of the most popular Chinese social networks to consider.

The only way to really be sure which network, angle, or approach will work best for your campaign is to consult with the experts.

Like we say here at Rhubarb Fool – listen, create, communicate.

Social Media: Know Your Audience Part I

We’ve talked about social media before. But at Rhubarb Fool we’re more than aware that sometimes important things bear repeating – and if we blog about social media a lot, it’s because we’re thinking about it a lot.

More specifically, we’re thinking about how it can be used to our clients’ best interest.

We live in a fast-paced age where the consumer rules. These days, people have a whole lot of choice, not only in the products they choose and the brands they ultimately engage with, but in the ads they engage with.

Marketing and advertising campaigns are no longer just inconveniences foisted on people during an intermission or leering at them from a poster on the tube – they are morphing into content that people actually want to interact with – something they’d choose to watch, or look at, and most importantly, share.

You have to be ahead of this trend if you want to make the most of your business. Which is why specialists in content marketing like us at Rhubarb Fool are here to help deliver quality, original content that will captivate your customers.

With that in mind, let’s think about the importance of audience. The most effective social media campaigns – the ones that resonate most strongly – have a keen sense of who they’re trying to target and why.

A great example is Dove’s 2013 ‘Real Beauty Sketches Campaign’. It’s no secret that their biggest consumer group is women, so their social media marketing team zeroed in on that key demographic, focusing on their observation that ‘women are their own worst critics’.

It was with this resonant truth in mind that they created a campaign encouraging beauty as a source of confidence, hiring an FBI sketch artist to draw two portraits of women without seeing their faces – one as described by the portrait’s subject and another as described by a subject’s acquaintance.

The difference between the two portraits was striking – the women themselves focused on their flaws, whilst their acquaintances saw beauty.

Even more striking is how this moved the customer base: over 114 million people have watched the video, which went viral on social media outlets. The compelling video also became the number one viewed online video ad of all time within a month of launching. It is currently the 4th most shared video ad of all time.

The lesson to learn from all this? Knowing your audience is important. Don’t only figure out who they are, but get inside their heads. How do they view themselves? What are their aims and aspirations? What makes them feel good? All of these things will help you to create a successful social media campaign that will engage them.

What social media platforms do they use? Youtube tends to be a safe bet as everyone watches videos on it, and share via other networks. Instagram is becoming the daily go-to

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for most people to look at beautiful images, whilst Tumblr attracts more creative types.

Twitter encourages immediate engagement and up-to-the-minute communication, whilst Facebook fosters more meaningful social interaction and sharing.

If you target the platforms where your audience are most active, then your campaign will reach them and resonate even more effectively.

But what about knowing your audience when they hail from further afield than the western world? That’s one for next week…Knowing Your Audience, Part II.

Time You Got A Watch

When Selfridges engaged us here at Rhubarb Fool to put together a luxury Arabic magazine for them, we knew that we didn’t just want to focus women’s fashion and accessories. We knew that truly brilliant content requires balance, and that we needed a fresh shoot concept to offset our stunning fashion and accessories photo shoots.

The answer? A stark, monochromatic men’s watches and accessories shoot to completely contrast with the poppy metallics, brooding florals, and glistening jewels that take centre stage elsewhere in the magazine. We were even more excited when we managed to snag a top still

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life photographer with a particular specialism for watches.

A still life photo shoot is an entirely different beast to one with a model. Upon entering the studio, instead of being met with an array of hair and make up products, there was a plethora of fascinating props. Spanners of different sizes were carefully painted in glossy black, and large razor blade wheels were polished to perfection to match with our high-end hyper-masculine aesthetic.

The early morning saw a rushed breakfast and a

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dash to Selfridges itself to pull some extra accessories to really accentuate the watches. As anyone who has ever had the pleasure of pulling pieces for a photo shoot will tell you, there’s nothing quite like wandering around a department store like Selfridges with the freedom to pick out whatever you like. The only constraint was the shoot brief. From the fantastic selection in-store, we were able to source some great pieces, from classic Rayban sunglasses to stylish Mulberry cufflinks and finely made ties from Saint Laurent and Lanvin.

Meanwhile, back at the studio shoot prep was well underway. Fishing line wire, delicate

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and near invisible, suspended spanners and watches alike on set, and our stylist and photographer worked to contort the finest men’s watches on the market into stunning shapes. The main aim was to show off their best assets whilst at the same time delivering a creative and unique shot. From an early peek at the results, it looked like the mission was accomplished.

But the day wasn’t over – there were still plenty of amazing watches to shoot, ranging from the latest Chanel J12, to classic models from Cartier, Jaeger-leCoultre, Panerai, Parmigiani, Roger Dubuis and more. Once again, the studio was awash with guards keeping a keen eye on their precious charges.

Ties came alive for the background of the second shot – like snakes twisting and looping in the air. The watches themselves shined next to the sharp-edged circles that gave literal meaning to the word ‘edgy’.

In the end, the day flew by. The vibe of the day was contented and confident – perfectly fertile for the kind of creativity required to turn out amazing shots.

A Day In The Life Of a Jewellery Shoot

On one of the first days of spring, there are few more picturesque places to be than the tranquil surroundings of Kew Gardens. The blooming evidence for the new season was everywhere, and the bright rays of tentative new sunshine were reflected in a gorgeous carpet of yellow daffodils.

There were plenty of people taking advantage of the fine weather and enjoying a relaxed walk around the gardens, tourists and Londoners alike – but we were there with an important job to do. Photo shoots, especially those on location, require a great deal of hard work.

Our task? To create images that speak of a tropical world; sultry, humid, and a little dark and brooding, to contrast with Selfridges’ pick of the Autumn/Winter collections’ amazing floral prints and the array of stunning high jewellery that can be found in the infamous Wonder Room.

The day dawned more like our shoot brief – that is, brooding and a more than a little foreboding (thankfully the fog gave way to sunshine as the day wore on). After meeting up with our location contact and our Winnebago driver in the wee hours of the morning, we parked up outside of the Palm House and got straight to business.

The first job was to unpack and put the location vehicle’s built-in rail and steamer to good use. The dresses were like pieces of high jewellery themselves; Mary Katrantzou’s Autumn Winter collection covered with artisanal embroidery and glittering embellishments, Giambattista Valli’s creations finely covered with lace, and Dries Van Noten’s crafts adorned with iridescent silver flowers. Stunning creations from Chanel, Erdem, and Peter Pilotto were also present and correct. The once innocuous rail was transformed.

The crew squeezed in breakfast in between the all-important shoot prep. Photographer Matilda Temperley and her brilliant assistants headed off to the glasshouse to scope out the best locations for shots, and our stellar hair and makeup team set about transforming our model into a tropical goddess.

By mid-morning, we were ready for the final touches – the most spectacular jewellery that money can buy. Each high joallerie brand sent their

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own guard to ensure the safety of their precious cargo. When fastening a gorgeous floral necklace from Van Cleef & Arpels, its guard warned us to be careful – it was worth over £500, 000. As if it wasn’t already abundantly clear, that moment epitomised the extreme high-end aesthetic of the shoot. And the fact that we were in a single room with the equivalent value of several properties!

Each brand got its chance to (literally) shine, with the exquisite pieces showed off in a myriad of original ways. A Cartier brooch found a new use as a stunning hairpiece, and our talented art stylist/art director (Thea Lewis-Yates) played up the glamour of rings by the contrast with earthy branches and overhanging palms. Chanel pearls and diamonds glimmered in the shadows.

The resulting pictures were breath-taking – the shadow-play from the palm leaves overhead and the sunlight just piercing through created the very atmosphere we’d imagined would

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compliment fine jewellery and Autumn/Winter florals perfectly. Our beautiful model and her glamorous gems took the place of Henri Rousseau’s brooding tiger (from the painting Tiger in a Tropical Storm) amidst the sultry palms.

As the afternoon flew on, we found ourselves tasked with everything from guiding bodyguards to scouting around for prop leaves, to fielding last minute deliveries and emails. By four, no one wanted to stop shooting – the atmosphere was too good to leave behind. It was time to turn on the charm with the events manager, and we managed to wangle an extra half an hour to capitalise on the flowing creativity and get those final shots.

With the camera down at 430, everyone felt satisfied. We all knew that the amazing team (including photographer Matilda Temperley and stylist/art director Thea Lewis-Yates) had done an amazing job and gotten some incredible images that will undoubtedly give the magazine the hallmark of high-end authenticity.

A few days on, our best suspicions were confirmed. Selfridges were as thrilled as we are. We can’t wait to share the final product with the world! Keep an eye on the Rhubarb Fool website, because you won’t want to miss these fantastic images when we put them up.