Counting Justin Bieber and Margot Robbie as loyal fans, Poppy Lissiman has added a brand new capsule to its quirky sunglasses and viral shoulder bags. Meet The Pet Collection, a range of serotonin-boosting totes, bowling bags and coin purses/key chains inspired by kitschy 70s dog shows, fusing synthetic and retro gaudiness.
Marrying highly saturated shades and pet portraits, the graphics are generated with the assistance of AI, and giving an unusual vibe that’s “not-quite-right” yet totally obsession-worthy.
“The originality is in the prompt.” Lissiman, the brand’s eponymous founder/creative director, says of the element of AI in her most recent collection of designs. The Australian native is currently a resident of Tokyo, and speaks to me on her business trip in New York about the use of AI in the design process, as well as the much-debated argument on where the line should be drawn so designers are not rendered obsolete by computer technology.
“I think it’s important to remember that you can’t generate an original image without an original prompt, and to create an original prompt you still need an original idea. And those ideas come from us! And the idea of chucking some slightly skew-whiff Shih Tzus on a vegan leather handbag still came from my brain. There’s always a human element.”
The collection sees three prints — Yap Yap, Crusties, and Pom — available in four fun styles comprising of Bowling Bag, Book Bag, Coin Purse, and Keychain, with two additional prints, Duchess and Mezies, available for the Keychain only.
Lissiman refers to the images generated by computers today as “still a bit wonky”, but in an endearing manner. “For the aesthetic part, we’re talking about a technology that’s still in its early, imperfect stages.” Lissiman continues, “Rather than critique the way images turn out, we wanted to embrace it as an aesthetic in itself.”
As a result of the cost of living crisis hitting deeper in Australia and Europe, Lissiman has seen her fans going a little bit more conservative, with the brand’s best-selling colors for sunglasses at the moment being either black or Blanc, whilst a couple year ago it was electric blue.
But you never know how a design or collection would perform commercially, accordingly to Lissiman. “I was a little bit worried just before the Xandra Rhodes collection came out just because everyone was erring more on the side of conservative — and the the pieces are pretty out there. But people have been loving them, and by coincidence we couldn’t have timed it better: lots of pieces come in the shade of pink like Xandra’s iconic hairstyle, and as it happened they all dropped at the same time as the Barbie movies.”
Like the Xandra Rhodes collab range, designs with particular aesthetics, like The Pet Collection, takes some forward vision and courage in business decisions. Collaborated with Lissiman’s brother Andre, the realisation of their shared love of slightly-off images generated with the assistance of AI paid off amid all the potential risks.
Causing a frenzy on social media, the collection of bags are loved by Gen Zs in particular for its individual take on “cuckoo” yet “cute” aesthetics. As for me, a millennial dog lover, I find the design incredibly joyous and fun, plus oddly comforting.
Speaking of the brand’s e-commerce strategy, Lissiman says thanks to Poppy Lissiman’s accessories nature, they do not adhere to traditional collections or go on sale. “So we drip feed stuff as we make it and as it comes out, whilst trying to be intentional at the same time.”
The die hard PL fans would be happy to know that Lissiman and her team are also working on an archive store, which will be a password protected, VIP experience for the brand’s loyalty users who will have access to original samples and one-off pieces.
Given Lissiman was still replying to a lot of customer emails herself up until late 2021, the brand has come an incredible long way. Despite admitting that she only gets to do her “favorite part” of the job — designing — only “2% of the time”, Lissiman says she’s incredibly lucky and grateful to be in New York as we speak and get to live in places like Tokyo. So is this the best part about having her own business?
“I guess being your own boss is very good. And I’ve been doing it for so long, I can’t imagine it any other way. So that’s probably my favorite thing, the kind of freedom that comes with it.”
The Pet Collection, together with other Poppy Lissiman classics, are available at www.poppylissiman.com.