The Smiley celebrates its fiftieth anniversary, and it’s a French invention

It’s a little yellow face that everyone knows. With its two ovals for the eyes and its generous arc as a smile, Smiley celebrates in 2022 half a century of good humor… and flourishing business. An anniversary that will be celebrated, from February 21 to April 3, in all Galeries Lafayette stores around the world. The operation, led by Sarah Andelman, the founder of the former Parisian concept store Colette, will highlight more than fifty brands – from Vanessa Bruno to Raf Simons – having reinterpreted the emblematic logo, revisited by street artist André Saraiva. More than ever, Smiley is smiling.

His birth dates from January 1, 1972, when Franklin Loufrani, then a journalist with “France Soir” inaugurates, on the front page of the daily, a column called “Take the time to smile”, devoted to good news – and illustrated with a colorful and smiling circle. The success is immediate. And Franklin Loufrani, who had the ingenious idea of ​​patenting his design at the National Institute of Industrial Property (Inpi), intends to make his work bear fruit.

The sequel after the ad

Nicolas and Franklin Loufrani

His Smiley is thus available on twelve million stickers distributed to motorists, then on two million T-shirts, sold at the Nouvelles Galeries, at Monoprix and Prisunic. In the aftermath, the little yellow man appears on stuffed animals for children, clothing, candies, decorative objects – and even becomes a character in the comic strip “Prez”, from DC Comics. An emblem of pop culture at the end of the 20th century, it was used on the cover of the Talking Heads and Nirvana albums, illustrated house party leaflets and stamped (despite itself) ecstasy tablets… “The proliferation of partnerships during the 1970s and 1980s completely exhausted the logo”, recognizes Nicolas Loufrani, the son of the founder.

Department stores seek eternal youth

50th Anniversary Smiley Logo by André

50th Anniversary Smiley Logo by André

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It was at the dawn of the 2000s that Loufrani fils took over the reins of the company, reducing derivative products and betting on the emergence of the Internet. He thus launched a dictionary of symbols, emoticons hitherto used online in the form of punctuation. A clever idea… but taken up by technology giants, like Apple, who are starting to develop their own emojis, inspired by the Loufrani Smiley. Emoticons, emojis or smileys, whatever their name, these little drawn faces then become essential: “Their range of emotions made the written conversation more complex and enriched”, underlines Maria Candea, co-author of the book “Le français est à nous!” (Ed. La Découverte).

Galeries lafayette PE 22 LB- Black men's sweatshirt Smiley Karl Lagerfield

Galeries lafayette PE 22 LB- Black men’s sweatshirt Smiley Karl Lagerfield

Logical, therefore, that fashion ends up taking it over. Over the past fifteen years, the smiley has been reinterpreted many times: in 2008 by Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, in 2009 by designer Ora-Ito, in 2011 by AMI, at Colette. Four years ago, pop star Justin Bieber was inspired by Smiley to design the logo for his clothing brand, Drew. “We no longer count the number of brands that communicate around positivity or a smile”, slips Nicolas Loufrani. With 45 employees and 350 million euros in turnover in 2021 and more than 400 partners among the big names in fashion, design or art, Smiley seems to have indeed found the magic formula for happiness.

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