Virgin Voyages designer Callie Tedder-Hares

Virgin Voyages‘ debut ship Scarlet Lady has made quite the impression on the cruise interiors community, approaching almost all aspects of the maiden vessel with an “out with the old, in with the new” approach. From scrapping speciality restaurant fees to disallowing under 18s, Virgin Voyages isn’t doing anything traditionally. In anticipation of the ship’s upcoming launch, we sat down with Callie Tedder-Hares, the woman responsible for the interior design work in 48 public spaces onboard Scarlet Lady. Read on to hear what she had to say about her involvement on the project, designing for an adults-only vessel, and her transition from land to sea.

Hi Callie! Thanks for speaking with the Cruise Ship Interiors team today. Let’s talk about your involvement with Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady…

Volume Creative joined the Virgin Voyages team on this venture in early 2016. Led by four visionary women, Volume Creative is a boutique team of 12 designers, all with our own varied experience. We consider ourselves friends who create together; we’re a close-knit team.   

Tell us how your relationship with Virgin Voyages come about?

We are proud to be considered as an extension to the Virgin Voyages in-house design team. We work seamlessly with Virgin Voyages’ design team, which is led by senior vice president of design, Dee Cooper. We’ve been part of the journey since the beginning, working with Virgin Voyages to set the visions for the design and experiences onboard, and we relished the opportunity to design for a changing cruise industry.

Virgin Voyages made use of several talented designers for this project, including Tom Dixon’s Design Research Studio in London. What areas were Volume Creative responsible for?

The Volume team were design managers of all the public spaces onboard, as well as providing more than 15 art installations. We were also the interior designers of four of The Extra Virgin restaurant, a hang-out space, a lounge, and the retail environment.

Virgin Voyages unclipped our wings and allowed us the opportunity to grow and learn with the project. They have given us huge support and it’s encouraging as a start-up to have an international powerhouse believe in you.   

You were the creative director for the Scarlet Lady’s interior design work of 48 public spaces & shipside artwork, what was it like managing a project of this scale?

Exciting, daunting, and exciting again – each day is different! We’ve conquered new ground, met new challenges, gained vast tracts of knowledge, and made many new friends. 

This was Virgin’s first foray into the cruise industry, were there any learning curves that had to be conquered? 

Pretty much every aspect of this project has been a learning curve for us. We’ve never built a ship and understanding the shipbuilding regulations was an aspect we needed to understand pretty quickly! But that’s what has made this a dream project for us – we love a challenge! Our expertize in designing land-based spaces, creating memorable experiences, leading creative agencies, and understanding the Virgin brands intimately gave us a great starting platform. After all, Virgin Voyages wanted to shake up the industry with a brand purpose of “An Epic Sea Change.”

Virgin Voyages’ figurehead ship, Scarlet Lady, is an 18+ vessel, are there any specific design requirements you need to consider when designing an adults-only ship?

Designing a variety of experiences was key, especially as Virgin Voyages is ringing the changes. It’s a case of finding new ways to make cruising an exciting experience.

There are many limitations, but we’ve pushed the boundaries of the norm. 

With the Scarlet Lady, Virgin Voyages made an active effort to incorporate recyclable and reusable materials across the ship. Can you tell us how this impacted the overall design experience?

Materials are an interesting aspect for the ship, aesthetics are one consideration, but then there is functionality as well. Alongside this, we were driven to incorporate as many products as possible with a good lifecycle. So, we questioned each material in terms of durability, brand identity and impact on our world. There are many limitations, but we’ve pushed the boundaries of the norm. 

You worked as Design Manager at Virgin Atlantic for a number of years, did you find it difficult transitioning from sky to sea?

Luckily, I continued to work with great, visionary people – which in my experience is the heart of the Virgin brand – making the transition a little easier. There were, however, many learning curves and we are still learning, which is what makes this project so thrilling! I also like to think that we challenged the shipbuilding industry as well; Exploring different ways to build and bringing our expertize of land-based design to the table has given a fresh perspective.

Customer experience-wise, our thinking had to be different. In the air, you have a relatively short time with customers, around 12 hours at most, but at sea, guests are with you for days. Thus, the brand story and execution of the brand in the physical environment needed to be approached differently. 

Having worked on projects designed for both on land and at sea, what are the major differences between the two, if any?

Regulations are completely different for sea and sky and as such impacted on how we approached all elements of the project.

Guests are looking for a land-based experience, not one confined to the traditional restrictions, and the modern cruise-goer appreciates contemporary design.

More and more, cruise lines are trying to shed the industry’s former image of outdated interiors. From your experience, what would you say the modern cruise-goer is looking for when it comes to interior design on board?

Guests are looking for a land-based experience, not one confined to the traditional restrictions, and the modern cruise-goer appreciates contemporary design. This means exceptional high-quality spaces, with a choice and diversity of look and feel, all with the most incredible seascapes. We’ve worked with Virgin to create public spaces that can offer variety in aesthetic, and yet all work together for a harmonious design.

Do you have a favorite room on Scarlet Lady, if so which one and why?

From my view, it’s the combination of the great designs from the world’s most exciting designers, the Virgin brand, and the locations that make every space sensational. I do have a soft spot for the pampering places though, like the blow out hair salon designed by Softroom.

Scarlet Lady has several big-name designers involved; how did Volume Creative get the balance right to create a unified feeling?

Our first port of call was to build trust with Virgin Voyages’ Creative Collective of designers.  We are Virgin Voyages’ guardians, but Virgin Voyages appointed world-class designers to push and champion change in cruise design. Our responsibility is to ensure their design visions become a reality, while also keeping a macro view of all areas and how to relate to one another and the brand. We filter the internal needs of the stakeholder teams for Virgin Voyages from operations to IT to ensure that the agencies get the information they need to design.

We’ve met the most amazing creatives on this journey, have learned so much from them and made some lovely friends along the way, what more can you ask for?

What else are you working on right now? What’s next for Volume Creative?

It’s exciting times ahead for the Volume team. Virgin Voyages has awarded us the contract for continued design management of Scarlet Lady, so we’ll be spending most of our time in 2019 in Italy walking the ship as she’s built. We will continue to work seamlessly as an extension of the Virgin Voyages team to bring her to life and ready for the world to enjoy in 2020. Italy will be a second home to us. Bring on the pasta and prosecco!

We have other work in the pipeline as well, including a concept store in China launching later this year, and more will be announced soon. Stay tuned for two new product launches…

Finally, what are you most looking forward to at Cruise Ship Interiors Expo 2019?

We’re looking forward to meeting suppliers and manufacturers at the forefront of developing sustainable products for use in ship interiors, this will be a huge area of growth and innovation. We are a sponge, ready to learn and join those with the vision of a more sustainable future.

We are also looking forward to sharing our stories and hearing others, creating pirate legends and folklore together with new like-minded partners. We love making new connections!