Ravi Hampole has always had a passion for creating art that serves “people and their needs” as he puts it. That’s no big surprise, given that this Yale MFA alum was raised by a surgeon dad, who from a young age, instilled this way of looking at art through the perspective of humanities.
In our Q&A, Ravi shares how modern art inspired his colorful career path; from stints with big brands like Starwood hotels, to hot startups like Lyric, and his current role at lifestyle brand, lululemon athletica. Core to Ravi's success as a creative leader is his value for hands-on learning as a catalyst for skills development and personal growth.
In this post from our Q&A series Noah Koff interviews innovators to draw on their approaches and insights for building inspirational products, experiences and companies. The following interview has been edited for clarity.
Ravi Hampole, SVP of Brand Creative at lululemon
WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR FOCUS IN BUSINESS TODAY?
Working at Starwood hotels was where it clicked in place for me. I was designing the full 360 degree experience for guests; from the space, to scent, lighting and service. This body of work set the experience in motion for guests, it set expectations and created emotion. The role helped me truly understand what it means to create a brand experience.
WHAT WORK OF ART CHANGED YOUR LIFE?
Back in 1997, I was a 21 year-old intern at a design studio in NYC, when I saw Matthew Barney debut Cremaster 1 in a tiny movie theater. Matthew was new on the art scene and I just stumbled across his opening. I’d never seen a film that was also sculpture and it was truly experiential. Sound, light, movement and form all came together to describe an idea; in this case to express the body’s reproductive organs and to juxtapose that with mythology and sports from another time. His artwork was the catalyst for my interest in the Yale art program.
Matthew Barney's Cremaster 1
HOW DID YOU BECOME A CHIEF EXPERIENCE OFFICER?
I joined Lyric to help them create their brand. When I started, I realized Lyric didn't have a clear brand positioning in the marketplace, including a distinct product experience. So first I built a team to define the product experience. Then we defined the brand experience, including the name, and ultimately the brand that was needed by our customers. Within a year, our team shifted the product, the brand and our organization to a place that attracted outside interest; investment and eventually property management deals. All of these changes really shifted my position to a senior executive from what was initially more of a functional leadership role.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST REWARDING PROJECT TO BE PART OF?
Lyric has been the best thing for me so far. The project was focused on changing the way we live when we travel. The core thought is we all want to feel more “at home”; and to experience the world, not as travellers but as “locals”. We just want to feel welcome in our surroundings, and comfortable, so we can truly experience what a neighborhood has to offer. By designing compact apartments we aimed to offer that experience to a whole new class of travellers, workers and world citizens. Embedded in all of that was a belief in creativity and inspiration, and that if we could both feel welcome and inspired, we could create more compassion in the world. What was once foreign is now known and understood. Our ultimate goal was to create a more creative and connected world, one neighborhood at a time. It was a powerful thought and one that I was so excited to be part of. Being in the hotel industry inspired this thought - the need for a thoughtful interior design, real artwork, good coffee, authentic music and bedding. If you’ve spent 100 nights in a hotel room you know that many hotel experiences suck; you don’t get good sleep, and there’s a real unmet need to elevate the whole experience.
KNOWING WHAT YOU KNOW NOW, WHAT WISDOM DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUR 25-YEAR-OLD SELF?
Just believe it can be done, because in all likelihood it can. And if it can’t -- you have to find a way. That goes for anything -- living in a new city, finding work, changing roles, moving house -- whatever it is -- it can all be done. Some things may take longer, or are harder, or cost more. But there’s always a way. “Where there is a will, there is a way,” as my dad says. I believe that trying to do more in life is key for success; and regular challenges spark personal growth and development.
And we must learn how to build stuff: spaces, things, products and experiences. Because by building things, we can better understand how people interact with them. Especially when we apply logic, emotion and empathy when we build. It's also important to test things out, so we can equally learn from successes and fuck-ups. And to build something great it's also important to learn what a brand is, and what it means to experience a good one; like Apple, Spotify or Allbirds.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW THAT'S INSPIRING YOU?
I'm branding and repositioning lululemon. It’s a big job, but I’m working with a really amazing team to ensure that this new brand experience will resonate with our guests. The company has a long, and controversial past, and has done some amazing accomplishments. It’s a brand rooted in yoga, and mindfulness, which are two things that the world needs right now. We all need to focus on being well, and there are only a handful of brands that can pull this off in an authentic way. lululemon is one of them, and our focus, as well as our innovations in performance fabrics, make us well positioned to spread this message in a meaningful way.
Noah Koff's mission is to help ambitious founders become the best version of themselves, by developing their mindset, skillset and toolset. He is an entrepreneur who has founded and built multiple companies from the ground up, including Redwood, a successful consulting practice based in Portland, Oregon. His wisdom comes from decades working for respected agencies and INC5000 recognized companies big and small. Noah's roots extend from global business hubs; San Francisco, New York City and London, where he's worked across diverse categories and business models.