10 Minutes with … Wain’s World on What’s Trending for Art Licensing

Liz Wain, founder of Wain’s World, reflects on creating her own agency and coming trends for art and design.

Barbara Smith , Digital Editor

May 20, 2024

4 Min Read
Liz Wain.
Liz Wain. Wain's World

Ahead of Licensing Expo, Liz Wain, founder of Wain’s World, talks with License Global about the changing world of art and design. 

License Global: Can you talk about how you started your agency?  

Wain: Honestly, Wain’s World, as a licensing agency, was an unintended, organic progression of my 30-plus year adventure working in product design, development and licensing.  

Back in 2015, I was planning a career pivot. At the time, I had just completed an all-consuming, corporate creative gig. I knew it was time to once again, begin something of my own. I had no idea what that “thing” was. What I did know was that I wanted to marry my experience and global network doing something I loved: product design and development.

I started consulting; a couple of clients were licensing agencies. From time to time, artists would contact me for advice on who they should consider to represent their work for licensing. As time allowed, I reviewed portfolios and introduced artists to agents where I saw a fit. One day, a portfolio came across my desk that was truly unique. I really liked the artwork and I thought to myself, “Why should I pass this talent to someone else to manage and develop … I should represent this artist myself.” I signed my first artist, Patty Rybolt, whom I continue to represent today.   

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One by one, I added artists who possessed unique brand voices that differentiated from the sea of same that often fills the marketplace. Collaborating with my trusted network, I began to place product programs for my artists.  

With time, I consulted less and developed artist brands more. Early 2019, Wain’s World, the licensing agency was launched. Today, Wain’s World proudly represents 24 artist brands.  

What is trending in art and design at the moment?  

Retailers are more aware than ever of their customers’ diverse backgrounds and are offering a greater range of products to appeal to a broader range of customers.  

Micro Trends has become the buzz. Cheerful, icon-driven conversationals instantly making you smile are hot. Retailers are introducing products in a more rapid cadence, working to gain consumer attention. We are there to supply the creative content.  

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As a counterbalance, the Grand Millennial trend is evolving, becoming cleaner and more sophisticated with toned-down hues. Everyone loves dusty blue and blush. 

Preppy is back, a cheeky refresh of the ’70s and early ’80s phenom.  

Pretty florals are always a consumer favorite. Contemporary floral patterning is up-trending while traditional watercolor floral designs continue to be the foundation of the business.  

How do you see licensing as a whole changing over the next five years?  

Technology will continue to shift the retail landscape. Today’s consumer has many options to purchase products that speak to their personal values and aesthetics, and they are looking to reinforce their own personal brand.  

Because of the rise of social media and influencers, end consumers have direct access and influence with the design community. As positive dialog ensues, consumer appreciation of emerging artist brands will continue to rise.  

I’m finding that my clients are no longer solely looking for beautiful and trend-right design; rather they come to Wain’s World seeking designer brands with authentic brand voices offering something truly new to the market. Brands with something to say and the creative chops to flex and deliver quickly.  

What excites you most about creating new collaborations?  

Each new collaboration presents hope and excitement to create special and meaningful products for the consumer. The journey from concept through point of sale is always an adventure. I get a thrill working with artists developing their artwork into collections of products that people use daily. For me, the excitement never fades. There are so many variables in the mix; there are no two days alike, and my work is never boring. Every artist is different. Each collection of artwork created is unique, presenting limitless product opportunities. My job is fun. 

What can we expect from Wain’s World for the remainder of 2024 and into 2025?  

Five years young, Wain’s World’s artists placed $23 million at retail and we are anticipating a 25% growth for 2024. Wain’s World’s retail footprint continues to grow across tabletop, paper and gift categories. These strong partnerships have led to new collaborations in home décor.  

2025 placements are already off to a great start. A la Mode: Classic, timeless preppy porch aesthetic is strong across several of our artist brands as well as novelty, clever conversationals. Regardless the artist brand, count on Wain’s World to provide constantly new and consistently innovative creative content. 

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What sets the Wain’s World agency apart from other licensing groups?  

Through my creative career, I have worn most every hat in the product process: licensor, licensee, retailer, manufacturer and retail merchant.   

As agent and creative director of the agency, I partner with licensor and licensee facilitating a more efficient process for our licensees who are even more pressed for time than ever. I believe that my 360-degree licensing experience paves the road for success for all our partners.   

About the Author(s)

Barbara Smith

Digital Editor , License Global

Barbara Smith is a Digital Editor for License Global. Based in the U.S., while Barbara's remit is general news coverage, she enjoys focusing on apparel, travel and social media throughout North America. Barbara loves all things fashion, fitness and food!

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