More than ever, our world is desperate for optimism right now. Influencing generations of positive thinkers and creative innovators, The Smiley has charmed its way into the zeitgeist and cultural fabric of our physical and digital universe for decades to reach its status as a global counter-culture icon.
The symbol has been reinvented and redefined by generations of activists, artists and creators. This year, Smiley is celebrating 50 years of flashing defiant optimism in the world’s face with 50 collaborations that show why smiling back at the world, together, is how we reclaim what comes next.
To pay homage to the iconic artists that have subverted the Smiley over the past 50 years and to mark Smiley’s 50th-anniversary milestone, the brand enlisted renowned graffiti artist André Saraiva to reimagine the iconic Smiley logo.
The Swedish-French artist, better known as his alias, Mr A, fell in love with graffiti on the streets of Paris and his cartoon character quickly had him recognised as a leader amongst the city’s early graffiti movement. Saraiva’s signature style has since taken his work across six continents and exhibited in world-renowned museums, shows and galleries, collaborating with Off-White, Chanel and Louis Vuitton, and taking the helm as creative director of L’Officiel until 2015.
The world is going through tough times, but we should never give up on being united and trying to strike for peace, equality and happiness.
“I started doing my Mr A happy character at the end of the 80s,” he explains of his own use of the symbol. “Paris was busy with graffiti, the walls were being covered with tags. You could barely read the names. Doing Mr A was a figurative way to replace my tag; my signature. He became my alter ego.”
For the anniversary collaboration, Saraiva has customized Smiley logos and placement prints which will set to feature in over 50 brands’ anniversary collections for Spring/Summer 2022, with the graphic numerals scrawled across the Smiley face playfully capturing the essence of boundless positivity that has become synonymous with the symbol.
Smiley has built its cheerful reputation through sharing its positivity with the world’s leading creative innovators, from fashion stalwarts Karl Lagerfield, Raf Simons and Moschino to household name lifestyle brands Casetify, Eastpak and Champion. For Saraiva, the YellowPop collection particularly stood out. “I think the neon is perfect,” he smiles.
Saraiva’s work will continue to travel the globe with Smiley as the designs make appearances across pop-ups and live experiences as well as the brand’s global street art manifesto, which sees the world’s most famous cities postered with Saraiva’s reworked designs throughout February and March. The manifesto is paired with the slogan ‘Take The Time To Smile’, a motto that unites Saraiva and Smiley’s work. “The world is going through tough times, but we should never give up on being united and trying to strike for peace, equality and happiness,” says Saraiva.
When Smiley first appeared in the newspaper France-Soir, a storm of ominous stories was clouding any inkling of optimism. Like a signpost to somewhere better, the Smiley directed readers to some feel-good news, an antidote to the frenzy of global strife and forecast of doom. Even as people sought solace in elaborate imaginary worlds, Smiley emerged as an emblem for anyone preferring to swap a narrative of despair with possibility and promise.
Saraiva explains, “I think the powerful part is the freedom we have while creating Mr. A or Smiley. For me, a symbol becomes even stronger if it leaves space for people to adopt it and make it their own, that’s what makes it timeless.”
Rather than a naive way to negate the reality of the world, Smiley’s emblem serves as a means to project a better future through positivity, creativity and collaboration. For Saraiva, he’s focusing on the future for the next generation of artists. “As long as Graffiti stays a subculture, an underground movement, the next generation will use it as their language to express their freedom,” he says hopefully.
Learn more about the Andre Saraiva x Smiley designs and shop the collaboration collections now, exclusively on smiley.com.
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