22nd January 2015

Mount Elbrus in Four Days.

Rocks, snow, ice, whiteouts, violent wind and crevasses. What’s not to like??



Dawn at 5300m Elbrus South Side.

As a kid growing up in Ireland we had relatively inneffective log and peat fire heating in our home. So when it became cold you put more layers on and did manual work to keep warm. It felt like living outdoors but we were inside. Waking up on a winter’s morning with my woolly hat on in bed and scraping the ice off the inside of my bedroom window was commonplace. So, it’s not too big a jump to push myself into uncomfortable situations for pure enjoyment, and I love the feeling of achievement it brings.


Elbrus expedition flag 2014.

Climbing mountains is something you do because you love it or perhaps you are just plain crazy. You can’t imagine what it’s like to wake up in the morning above the clouds. It’s an amazing experience.


Sunset at 3700m Elbrus North Side.

I always loved the mountains and spent a lot of time as a child with my Father in the wilds. In 1989 I read the book Seven Summits by Dick Bass and Frank Wells. They were the first to climb the highest mountain on every continent and this I found inspirational and a task I have now set myelf. Of these 9 peaks, Mt. Elbrus’s is the highest in the Caucasus Mountains and in Europe – and this was to be my third attempt.


An inscription from the first Imperial Russian army scientific expedition led by General Emmanuel that attempted Elbrus in 1829 is still visible in a field in the valley.

Elbrus was first summited in 1874 by an English expedition led by F. Crauford Grove and including Frederick GardnerHorace Walker, and the Swiss guide Peter Knubel.


Waking up above the clouds at high camp Elbrus North Side August 2012.

Elbrus, also known as Mingi Taw, the eternal mountain, is not a technically difficult mountain, but all the same it has many dangers. The death toll averages from 15-30 per year. Like all mountains you must be prepared, have ability and be vigilant as the weather can change in a heartbeat at altitude.


My climbing partner Mikael Sjöberg at 4700m, Lenze Rocks Elbrus North Side August 2011.

In 2011 prior to my departure the Russian military closed the mountain to climbers because of terrorist activity on the South side of the mountain. Bullet holes can still be seen in the windows of the cable cars on the South side.


Bullet holes in the glass of the cable cars. Elbrus South Side July 2014.

I was determined to go anyway and managed to get onto the remote North side with the help of my Russian guides. An uneasy agreement was made between the military and the climbers. It was forbidden to take any pictures of their presence. We would pretend to each other that we were not there. This led to some surreal situations.

The Russian Mountain troops were removing a crashed helicopter bit by bit every day from above Lenze rocks.


A photograph that used to reside in the high camp. Elbrus North Side August 2011.

In the evenings they would use the boulders on the glacier for target practice shooting tracer rounds into the night. That year I met my Elbrus climbing partner Mikael from Sweden. We had a difficult time and didn’t make the summit due to very bad weather but came back with many stories to tell. I went back again in 2012 but this time approached the mountain from the North. Again I had more difficulty and wasn’t able make the summit. On the descent I snapped the ACL in my left knee. That was the end of my climbing for a year. I was operated on and had it replaced using part of my hamstring.


Turning back from our summit bid at Lenze rocks. Elbrus North Side August 2011.


Russian special forces dropping into our camp in the valley for a coffee, North Side August 2012.


Russian climber, Elbrus North Side.

In July 2014 Mikael and I returned to the South side of Elbrus determined to summit. We spent two days in the Balkaria valley and summited Cheget mountain on the Georgian boarder to acclimatise. Then up to the famous barrel huts on Elbrus.


Cheget Mountain looking towards the Georgian Boarder. 2014.


Barrel huts. Elbrus South Side July 2nd 2014.

Operating physically at altitude is not easy and it affects each person differently. Your body needs adjust. The air gets thinner and thinner the higher you go. This is something that you cannot experience watching climbing documentaries on TV or by walking below 2000 metres. We spent two days training on Elbrus up to 4800 metres, getting further acclimatised to the higher altitude. Both Mikael and I were in good condition and were experienced and eager to get this done.


Mikael Sjöberg taking a breather at 5550. Elbrus South Side July 4th 2014.


Checking my gear and taking in the view at 5550. Elbrus South Side July 4th 2014.

On July 4th we set off in the early hours of the morning, heading up into the darkness. Elbrus ascent from the south takes about 6–9 hours, with a total height difference of 1700m  between 5718m  and  6542m, from the Barrels Huts to the West Summit. This time ‘Grandfather’ (as Elbrus is nicknamed by the locals) gave us perfect weather – clear skies and little wind. We achieved the summit by midday. For Mikael and I it was the end of a long journey.


Mikael Sjöberg and Seán O’Mara on the summit of Elbrus 5692m. July 4th 2014.

Within 10 minutes of being on the summit the weather changed completely and it started to snow heavily turning to a complete white out. The descent was treacherous. Descending off the summit un-roped, I slipped off the side onto a steep slope on my back but managed to flip over and self arrest with my ice axe. That was a wake up call. Then came the long descent. 7 hours. Then a well deserved celebration beer and a warm bed. We achieved in 4 days what we had waited 3 years for. Our motto is never ever give up!! With two of the seven summits under my belt, Aconcagua’s next!

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Allegro Vivo!


We like nothing better than a great creative brief. And this one from our friends, the Austrian investor and developer Immofinanz Group, is nothing, if not that.

The challenge laid down is ‘to bring the big city shopping experience to small regional cities through our new chain of small retail centres called Vivo!’. This type of brief is where design really starts to earn it’s keep. Why? Because a regional city development has a regional city budget, not a capital city budget – and clever effective design is the best way to make the most of that budget.

We are delighted with this appointment and the faith shown in our design ability and market understanding. Our scope involves bringing the essence of this young, energetic brand to life throughout the interiors, graphics and navigation elements. We are to write the basis of design manual which will facilitate the roll out of the concept across a number of sites across Eastern Europe.

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21st January 2015

Truly state of the art

Wijnegem is the largest and one of the most successful shopping centres in Belgium with over 250 retailers on two floors. The refurbished centre was relaunched in August 2014 following an extensive interior overhaul.

Our brief was to design and deliver a new navigation system. interactive and digital interactive system to building the signs and integrating the hardware. We acted as main contractor for the system. Specifying hardware, build and integration. Also developing the software platform for the interactive navigation and information system. Quite a challenge…


Working with our specialist team we used a moulding technique never before used in a signage system. The ridged wave form in the Corian was created by press forming the Corian sheets on both sides using a 25 ton press. Also engineered into the directories was a 42inch touchscreen unit using the Baanto Shadow Sense multitouch technology, backed with a 55 inch static screen directory.


Having control over your visit to a SEC is the key to feeling relaxed. So being able to navigate the environment easily can only help improve the visitor experience. These signs are the most advanced we’ve built and arguably the most beautiful. Wijnegem’s visitors now have a very comprehensive, multichannel system and yet one that is simple and efficient to update.




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A maverick positioning for mall in Dresden

Centrum Galerie is a shopping center on the Prager Strasse in Dresden. Originally developed by Multi it opened on 17 September 2009. In a famous location it took its name from the former Centrum department stores of the trade organization of the GDR.


What do you do if you have a shopping and entertainment centre only a few yards away from a mid market powerhouse. Perhaps the best thing to do is to not to take them on head-tohead, but rather develop your own unique position. Perhaps give the people of Dresden something inspiring; something for them to be proud of. But what?


For Corio the answer lay in understanding the city. With a largely overlooked student population of 36,000 we had a ready made market of young, dynamic, fast-fashion consumers, just looking for a place to call their own. Blend this with a fast fashion leasing approach and you’re onto a winner.


So our path was clear. Establish a young brand position and deliver this within a system that allowed for the brand to become a maverick – irreverent, dynamic and constantly changing. A brand designed to inspire individuality.


“Our experiences of working with Air have been both pleasant and successful. Their approach has been comprehensive from start to finish: from understanding the brief, working within tight timescales to produce great results, proving that we made the right choice in appointing them. The branding documents that were produced are the basis for our local teams in developing and strengthening the brands of our malls. The cutting-edge nature of Air’s work is definitely outstanding.”

Caspar Blume, Senior Marketing Manager, Corio Deutschland GmbH

17th November 2014

Best is getting better

If you are the best, how do you get better? Not a question asked very often – but it was the question asked here. Metropolis is arguably the most successful shopping mall in Russia, but the new owners still saw great potential. We were appointed to develop a new brand positioning for the next phase of the mall’s life.


At the heart of their improvements is a strong push to develop reputation as the definitive retail place for the best, new fashion in Moscow. We took inspiration directly from the fashion world, where you can rely on certain style publications to direct you in your fashion journey. So Metropolis would be the physical equivalent.


Curators of Style is a simple position to adopt. A place where we bring to the latest and best from the fashion world – and importantly allows us to constantly develop and reinvent the offer, moving with the times. We also redesigned the visual identity, publishing a brand book and visual identity guidelines.



22nd October 2014

Air designs signage for Planeta


Air has been appointed by the well-known Russian developer – RosEvroDevelopment – to design a signage system for their new shopping and entertainment centre Planeta in Novokuznetsk. Inspired by the new direction for interior design that was developed by Sonae Sierra, our team is looking to create new ideas and solutions. The results of this cooperation can be seen when the scheme will be open in late 2014.

21st October 2014

Importance of research for branding



In today’s fast moving and competitive retail market, the role of branding and design is becoming increasingly important, as brands have to operate at the cutting edge and push boundaries. The design vocabulary is constantly changing. Colours come in and out of fashion, minimalism gives way to opulence, and so the story continues…

Most tenant brands have their fingers on the pulse, so if a mall seems not to understand what’s in fashion it can affect how retailers view its ability to understand other aspects of the business. It’s therefore essential that malls stay in tune with style, and show this through the design and branding of their assets.

For an industry dominated by greying male decision makers, often based in countries thousands of miles from their assets, it’s ironic that engaging the young female audiences and understanding local sensitivities is often seen as the key to success. Qualitative research is therefore an essential tool for ensuring brands and marketing communications are positioned correctly, having contemporary validity and local relevance. That said, it is surprising how rarely such investments are made, especially given the high costs (and risks) of developing a new brand. Get it wrong and these can go off the scale, with mistakes sometimes taking years to rectify and affecting sales and footfall.

Consumer research need only take a few weeks, and shouldn’t cost much, especially if you’re able to do it internally.

Samples can comprise of existing and/or new customers from the relevant demographic. We’d normally propose conducting at least four focus groups of 6-8 people, lasting a couple of hours, though one-on-one interviews depth interviews also work well.

The topics covered depends on your objectives but typical areas can include:

- Favourite retail brands (at your mall, if it already exists, and elsewhere)
- Malls visited, likes and dislikes
- Social media, reading and TV habits
- Lifestyle – leisure time, hobbies etc.
- Aspirations – what you’re into, looking to buy (or be bought!) next
- Favourite meeting places, and what makes them special?
- Likes and dislikes of your mall, what type of image does it have?

Research also presents the opportunity to introduce visual stimuli and test proposed brand and/or marketing concepts.

If you’re looking to attract lapsed or new customers there needs to be a focus on why your scheme currently fails to attract them, and what it needs to do to change this.

As well as informing the creative aspects of branding and positioning, research can also influence leasing, operations, facilities, human resources and all many of aspects. After all, a brand isn’t just a logo, it’s the values people associate your mall, which are shaped by their physical experience of it.

Nevertheless, try to keep your expectations in check as findings don’t always offer new insights and sometimes just tell us what we already knew, or at least thought we did. In these situations research acts more like insurance, helping us avoid making costly mistakes, or giving us the confidence to make tough decisions when faced with uncertainty.

All that said, try not to let research stifle creativity or innovation. As Steve Jobbs once said, “it isn’t the consumers job to know what they want”. Often the most valuable (and fun!) research you can do is your own, reading blogs and magazines, trend-spotting, visiting new malls and retail concepts.

By David Kemp

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20th October 2014

More events on our schedule

Our team just can’t stop moving.

Alan Robertson, David Kemp and Elena Rozanova are all at MAPIC in Cannes on 19th to 21st of November. Elena Rozanova will also attend ICSC Retail Strategy and Trends Forum in Milan on 27th and 28th of November.

Contact our office to set up meetings and catch up over the events.


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6th October 2014

Storytelling in branding

Real Estate Development & Marketing - Made in London Business tour

Alan Robertson, CEO of Air, is going to give a talk on storytelling in branding during Real Estate Development & Marketing: Made in London Business tour.

The idea about the topic came during a long discussion about the brands and its development and the way they communicate with customers. As humans, we tend to remember stories much easier as they have a certain layout that we know since childhood. So how should brands create, develop and tell their stories to attract and hold the customer? Alan will share his view on this based on Air’s experience and global practice.

About the event:

Real Estate Development & Marketing: Made in London Business tour is organized by Russian-British company Redenex on 20-24 October, 2014.

The Tour will be hosted in London, the city that presents latest real estate development trends and cutting-edge architecture.

Real Estate Development & Marketing: Made in London is:

3 days of rich business programme
5+ world-renown projects of commercial and residential real estate including visiting new regeneration areas
20+ hours for networking with key developers and marketing professionals of the UK
12 British experts in real estate development and marketing
2 optional programmes: Residential Real Estate and Commercial Real Estate

The main Business tour programme is divided into 2 streams:

- Top management
- Marketing directors

Organizers in mutual cooperation with the leading British companies will carry out seminars on the latest trends and first-hand experience of development, marketing, promotion, wayfinding, branding etc. Tour’s participants will visit one of the leading international exhibition in media and technologies Ad:Tech to meet exponents and speakers.

For detailed information, please, contact our Tour key client managers

In Europe:  Marina Logacheva, +44 7554 980981

In Russia:  Anna Ignatenko, +7 960 701 35 11

Or e-mail us: madeinlondon[at]redenex.com

Receiving an unforgettable experience of intensive business communications and getting inspired for the benefit of business development is easy! You can enjoy it too as a participant of the Business Tour “Real Estate Development & Marketing: Made in London”.

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3rd October 2014

We are going to EXPO!


Alan Robertson, David Kemp and Elena Rozanova are all attending EXPO REAL in Munich next week.

The goal is to learn about new trends and ideas and to meet partners and colleagues from all over Europe.

Please contact us if you want to set up a meeting +44 (0)845 450 6575.

See you in Munich!

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