Dani Roche shares her inspiration for Urban Conservatory

Posted by Jen McNeely, April 15, 2016
Dani Roche

With 50K followers on Instagram watching her every move Dani Roche, of hip agency Kastor + Pollux, is an elusive character who translates her bold style into striking images and impeccable design. This month, she partnered with Drake General Store to help launch the Urban Conservatory collection. From the process of designing the Queen West window to picking a colour palette, we get inside the mind of this creative wunderkind.

Urban Conservatory brings curious new life to creative spaces throughout your home. Transform a reading nook with a couple of cacti or vibrant succulents; pick up a box of PLUCK Free Spirit or FloristTea; make a pretty table setting the Portuguese Tableware Collection; maybe you need a Pink Poodle Watering Can to go with your Future is Female t-shirt? Secret garden treasures or thoughtful gifts for Mother's Day (hint)?

Dani Roche Urban Conservatory

What does “urban conservatory” mean to you?

I always make very literal interpretations of everything, and when I think of "urban conservatory," I immediately picture a truckload of plants in the city. Since this is essentially what this window is, I guess my interpretation is pretty spot-on.

When you were working on the creative for Urban Conservatory, who or what were you envisioning?

This project was really timely, as I was pretty fixated on the idea of getting a traditional "Mom" tattoo when I first started designing. Icons – be they insignias (or personalities!) – are so key in our society. Not only are they widely recognized, but they also represent something specific. Something like the "Mom" tattoo is so commonplace, but at the same time, it's quirky because it's so obvious.

From there, I began to think about different styles of line art, and botanical illustrations reminiscent of textbook diagrams seemed like a good progression. I like things with strong connotations, and I think that main illustration definitely sets the tone for the rest of the window.

I realize that entire explanation might seem a bit roundabout, but I promise this was my literal thought process! If it helps, how about I just sum up this way: the project was inspired by the types of tattoos I would want to get to freak my mom out. (That's probably just as accurate, ha!)

How did you go about choosing your colour palette?

Colour has always come super naturally to me. It's the first thing I determine when I start a project, and it takes me about thirty seconds to put a palette together. I wear a lot of black, so I guess when it comes to every other aspect of my life (graphic design, my hair, housewares, etc.) I always gravitate towards a "fun" colour palette. This one was based on the fact that I wanted to use fluorescent orange spray paint, but this varies depending on the project.

What pieces in the Urban Conservatory collection do you love most?

I couldn't stop laughing when I saw the dog watering cans – specifically the pink poodle. I love it a lot. Other than that, all the planters are really cute, and I definitely have my eye on those pleated Umbra Shift vases. I own the Portuguese Tableware Collection already, but I may pick up a set for my mom so we can match.


How does one go about designing a store window?

That's a great question. Before this project I had no prior experience in regards to window displays, but as with anything else I do, I kind of make it up as I go along. I hope admitting the fact I am hugely under-qualified is charming and not scary to you now!

In terms of my workflow – well, pushing pixels around on Illustrator was a big part of it, and then aimlessly perusing Home Depot followed immediately after. Design is very process-oriented. Once you solidify one element, everything else just follows suit. A window display obviously serves a purpose, and following a checklist of objectives is just as important as what the end project looks like aesthetically. When all the elements feel right together, and those objectives are successfully met, it's just about scaling everything to translate perfectly from digital to real life.

Foodie, Feminist, Free Spirit: Which do you identify with most?

I am really bad at choosing favourites and at self-identifying. I'm a Scorpio though, so that probably means I'm not a free spirit (LOL).

What lesson did your mom teach you that you refer to often? Something that sticks with you?

My mom taught me a lot of things, but mostly, I think she demonstrated how to be truly compassionate. Maybe this is just another Scorpio thing, but I've been super sensitive to those around me for my entire life. I grew up as an only child so I really got to witness a parent's unconditional love intensely and directly. I've applied this to pretty much everything I do, from how I treat my friends to how I run my business.

I think compassion and empathy is super important when you're trying to "make it" as a freelancer or at the helm of a business. If your business model is defined by simply your technical capabilities, what sets you apart from everyone else? There are so many talented people out there, and I think setting yourself apart is greatly dependant on your level of care. While I'm really intense and career-oriented, everything is fuelled by my deep-rooted desire to help/empower people and create opportunities for those I believe in (myself included). This circles back to the clients that hire me. If I can't create a meaningful, genuine relationship and go above and beyond a project brief, I may be making money but I'm definitely not growing.

Dani Roche Urban Conservatory 3

What has been the most fun part about the DGS x Kastor & Pollux collaboration?

Kastor & Pollux is built off the idea of exploration and collaboration: two of the most rewarding things for me are learning something new and working with my friends. This project allowed me to do both of these things, so it was pretty much a win-win. Shoutouts to the entire DGS team for being amazing to work with, and shoutouts to Little D (Dani Reynolds) for being endlessly on her A-game!

Are you good at keeping houseplants?

HONESTLY? No. I'm really, really horrible at it. A couple of the plants in the window actually came from my house. I was really excited to pawn them off so someone else could take care of them.

Check out the Drake General Store Urban Conservatory collection here.

Posted in: Drake General Store