We have recently received a fair amount of attention for our denim-inspired “Genuine” Collection. I remember the day we had discussions in our office about developing it. Everyone had a slightly different opinion about what 'denim-inspired' meant, what it could look like, what people would expect, etc. I had some ideas of what I wanted in the collection and how to convey them artistically. Of course, in the end, Sam put her own sophisticated twist on it, so everyone could grasp the collection. We all facetiously said, "Well, yeah! That's sort of what I had in mind."
I found it serendipitous how the collection name of one of our liveliest collections summed up our brand. Being genuine can mean something a little different to everyone. This is because we are all just a little bit different. Unfortunately, from a young age, most of us were conditioned to be alike and trained to be this, that, or the other. It is my personal belief that, at the core, most of us don’t want to be what we were told to be... we just want to be who we are. None of us wants to live in fear, cower to authority, feel ashamed, judge others, or say things we don't really mean. In other words, we may or may not truly believe what we sometimes find ourselves doing.
When we started Authentique, I remember sitting by a fireplace in our home pondering what I could do to help this new venture. I tied up some brand and domain names, a few were catchy, some were meant to help drive search engines, some were too basic, some too elaborate, and then I thought of the word authentic, the French version Authentique followed, and it clicked for me. I shared the name with a few close associates and it resonated with them as well. We wanted to build a brand that subtly reinforced being oneself.
I said from the start I wanted to build collections to help those recording memories highlight who their child 'already is,' who they themselves are, and what they’ve experienced; not just what they did on such and such a day. I summed it up by telling our team that at Authentique we’d say something more like, "It’s amazing watching you grow," than "Happy Birthday." Of course, both are great, but they convey different emotions which is the entire point of Authentique.
When it comes to my children, all three are very different. I could list the reasons why, but anyone with children understands this. Kids come differently. My children seem so wise, like they’ve known what makes them unique for a billion years. I think, deep down, they know who they are and want permission from us as their parents to so become.
One of the most precious things any of my children has ever said came from my nine year old son. He recently shared, “Dad, today at school some kids called me a nerd. I don’t care. I am kind of a nerd. I guess I like being a nerd, because I love all of the stuff that other kids think is nerdy.” I smiled, then choked up a little. I had nothing to add to this exchange, other than to tell him I was pleased he felt that way and we moved onto other topics.
Now, back for just a moment, to some people thinking my views on scrapbooking are a bit heavy. I get that it’s just scrapbooking, but to me it really is much more. Paper-crafting is done by mothers who are building homes and building amazing young people. The albums and projects they create will outlast each of us. They are tributes to children, life, and our experiences. As a brand, Authentique is meant to help focus our efforts around who children are, not only what they did. There will always be a little cliche’ in life, and of course there will be some of that in our products, but at the core of our collections, you’ll find emotion-based quotes meant to celebrate life.
Effort is always more important that outcome and children especially need this reinforced. They need to be encouraged and told to try. They need to be told to compete with themselves, not others. They need to know their best is good enough. This is why recording memories about their life is so valuable; it reinforces who they are and doesn't make life appear a competition. We cannot tell children too many times what impresses us about them.
So, when someone says, “Bret, you’re too dramatic, it’s just paper,” it doesn't really bother me and I think they've perhaps missed the whole point. I suppose in this sense, I am not unlike my son who was fine with being called a nerd. I am okay with being referred to as a little serious about this stuff. It is my profession. I owe it to my employees and customers to take it seriously. The industry doesn’t need more owners who think it’s just a game. I’ve done this a long time and I’ve always taken it seriously. I don’t think life has to always be serious, but I think it is a serious responsibility to help children reach their potential. Big or small, anything we do that helps a young person know we respect the things that make them unique is a big deal... and I’m being SERIOUS!