Nielanell

From Shetland to the Saatchi Gallery

Establishing a brand for the alternative Shetland knitwear.
Branding, identity, digital

We have helped this tiny knitwear label transform its profile to become a premium, free-spirited brand with international reach.

With increased sales and profit margins, the business now makes a growing contribution to the Shetland economy.

Nn rough image4
Nielanell branding mood board showing colour, photography direction, illustration style, textured background and designed clothing tags.
Nielanell branding mood board showing colour overlays for website, window design decals and background textures.

We know our knit from our purl, and in 2013 we were commissioned by Nielanell to rebrand the label.

We created a new website, reworked the logo, designed new garment tags and printed collateral, and art directed photography. We collaborated closely with textile specialist Fiona Duff of Tactile PR, who devised a communications strategy and crafted the tone of voice.

We have continued to help steer the brand. In 2021 we revisited and refined the brand strategy, and launched our second website for Nielanell.

Model wearing Nielanell Byre scarf in front of brick wall with large Nielanell N overlaid.

A RURAL MICROBUSINESS, OR A BRAND?

Arriving in Shetland on a wild October day, we found that everything at Nielanell was wonderfully unconventional—right down to the designer herself.

A former criminal defence solicitor, at this point Niela Nell Kalra ran her eponymous knitwear label seasonally and almost single-handed.

Black and white photo of cold morning in Hoswick car park, Shetland.
Hands touching and arranging a blue Nielanell Marlet wrap.

Limited marketing activity meant the rich and interesting story of Nielanell wasn’t always being communicated.

This was a business, but not yet a fully-fledged brand.

Gail Turpin in a test shot in front of landscape and building in Hoswick, Shetland for Nielanell.
One of the test shots we took on our first visit to Nielanell.

Brand positioning for craft

With knitwear made by skilled Shetland craftspeople and a relatively high price point, Nielanell needed to be a premium brand.

By digging into Niela’s artistic and anti-trend approach to design, we saw that Nielanell could be positioned as a different kind of luxury knitwear label.

Yellow screenprinted and grey litho printed clothings tags sitting on top of Nielanell knitwear.
Nielanell leaflet showing models in knitwear, typography, landscape and typography.
I have a bit of an aversion to the word ‘brand’, but through collaborating with Gail and Astrid I’ve realised that building a brand does not mean sacrificing integrity; Nielanell retains a bit of anti-brand attitude.
Niela Nell Kalra
Designer & founder, Nielanell
Model, Fiona Duff, wearing Marlet wrap in front of shed in Hoswick, Shetland.

Visual identity

A confident, grown-up visual language adds gravity.

In addition to the new N logomark we used colour, texture and photography to create a cohesive but layered visual identity. This anchors Nielanell in Shetland as a contemporary craft brand.

Art direction and styling

Photography reflects those who wear Nielanell, the inclusive ethos at the label and its location in Shetland.

Working with a brilliant group of non-professional models and photographer Angus Bremner, we art directed and styled a photoshoot in Hoswick.

We still art direct photography for Nielanell with various photographers. Sometimes remotely!

 

Digital design

Nielanell, but more so. Our second website for the brand launched in late summer 2021.

Use of colour and texture has been refined and extended; page layouts and e-commerce interfaces have been updated and modernised (the site now runs on Shopify); more space is given to the interesting narratives behind the collections.

Sales performance has already been extremely strong—the label had its best ever Christmas online.

Visual of Nielanell website showing Rani collection.
Visual of Nielanell website showing Byre capelet.
 
Nielanell knitwear on display at the Saatchi Gallery, during Collect 2018—Craft Council's international fair for contemporary craft.
Nielanell knitwear on display at the Saatchi Gallery, during Collect 2018—Craft Council's international fair for contemporary craft.

The Impact of good branding

Over eight years we’ve seen the business grow and the emergence of a more assured Nielanell.

Staff are employed year-round, collections have become more sophisticated, online and in person sales have increased considerably.

Nielanell is now recognised at a national level and has been involved in projects at V&A Dundee and Decorex. The knitwear has also been shown at Saatchi Gallery during Crafts Council’s prestigious Collect fair.

Nielanell X Karlyn Sutherland throws, Future Heritage at Decorex London.
Nielanell X Karlyn Sutherland throws, Future Heritage at Decorex London.
Wool cones, painting and wooden drawers in Nielanell studio, Shetland.

A note on our approach to branding

When we started working together, our client had never commissioned work on this scale.

We are sensitive to the fact that the branding process can sometimes be frightening for clients.

We have carefully guided Niela with a collaborative attitude and practical advice drawn from knowledge of textiles, craft, fashion and retail.

Gail and Astrid are not ‘just’ designers. They have an artistic hinterland, and wonderful attention to detail, which is combined with real commercial nous. They have become an integral part of Nielanell.
Niela Nell Kalra
Designer & founder, Nielanell

Team

Branding strategy and design Gail Turpin Design
Brand and digital strategy, content design, development Ast & Red
Communications strategy Fiona Duff at Tactile PR
Photography Angus Bremner, Astrid Johnston, Austin Taylor, Anna Caitlin Harris
Copywriting Astrid Johnston, Fiona Duff