Danish company Franck & Fischer are quite simply one of the most stylishly cute toy brands on the market. Founded in 2005 by designer Annemarie Franck and business economist Charlotte Fischer, the products range from bags to height charts and toys from baby rattles to domino games. Every piece features one of Annemarie’s adorable characters – monkeys, bats, penguins, puppies – in timelessly classic colour schemes. We had the opportunity to catch up with Annemarie and learn a little about the inspiration behind her adorable brand.
What prompted you to set up Franck & Fischer? I trained as a fashion designer at the Danais Design School, but I always had a playful, ‘childish’ way of thinking. I had been working in fashion for some time when I was asked to work for LEGO as a designer. Of course I simply had to, even though it didn’t seem to relate to my work as fashion designer… it was a dream job for me in which I used my childhood as well as my skills from the fashion industry, combining fantasy and my knowledge of fabrics and experience in spotting trends. In 2005, LEGO had financial problems and I stopped working for them, but I loved designing toys and now I also knew I was good at it. However, there were no other jobs I could apply for as a toy designer, so the only solution was to design my own toys and make my own company.
What artistic traditions inspire your designs? Denmark has a really long tradition for design, specifically interior design like furniture and lamps. The focus was very much to rethink design and functionality, get rid of what is not necessary, and make good quality products that are affordable for ordinary people. I think that architects in Denmark succeeded more than anywhere else in making products that were not only simple and beautiful, but also very functional. This design tradition is a very strong inspiration for all Danish designers.
How did your own childhood influence the designs you have in your collection today? When I was nine years old, my father died. I had a lot of responsibility at home and soon became very adult, but my way of working through the grief was to draw and create my own fantasy world. All my childhood I loved being creative, drawing, sewing, and making paper cuttings and so on… I still use the ways that I thought and drew as a child for inspiration in my toys and prints today.
Why is design important during the early years of life? Design may not be something a child is aware of, but good quality, function and play value is important. Personally I think there are so many ugly toys on the market; when my children were small I would have loved to have deliciously designed toys to keep in their rooms.
Why are animals such a motif for Franck & Fischer? I love animals, and I am a member of several associations that protect and help animals around the world. I also have a dog at home named Pluto that the whole family loves. Animals will always be a pseudonym with Franck & Fischer.
How do you balance parenting and setting up a business? I have a wonderful husband who has always supported me – he is a great father who has taken good care of our children. Without him onboard, I could not have started Franck & Fischer.
What are your favourite pieces from your collection, and why? I love our monkeys “Frida & Frederik”. As a child I would have liked to have a monkey like Pippi Longstocking’s, but I never did get one, so now I’ve designed my own! I also adore our elephant pull toy “Noah”, because the baby elephant pulls the mother’s tail. The coat rack “Oskar” reminds me of a coat rack I had as a child upon which I would hang all of my homemade strings of beads, so that has a sense of nostalgia for me.
What is new or upcoming for Franck & Fischer in the next 12 months? There will be 25 new products in 2014. I’ve designed a brand new toy line with digital printing, a new way of printing on organic cotton. In addition, I have included orange to our colour palette – a color I have not used before, so it gives a new “retro” life to the collection.
What is your motto in life, design and work? Life is like a roller coaster, it goes up and it goes down, but enjoy it because you only get one trip. Be positive, do your best and think of someone other than yourself.
See our report from 2014 Toy Fair in Nuremberg where we will reveal Franck & Fischer’s exciting new designs… and read more about Annemarie’s gorgeous designs in our individual product reports on our Toys and Products channels.