Social Web & our increasingly generic culture

I think today a lot of consumers talk about wanting to be unique and having their personal style, but in actual fact, almost everyone belongs to one of a few sub-groups of style. Since fashion went digital, everyone has access to the same information at the same time. And a lot is still very influenced by what goes on at the large luxury houses. Most shopping centres and main shopping streets have the same stores — many of them vertical retailers owned by multinational corporations who all have the same goal: to make money and expand. In order to do so, they have to look at what trends can be adapted for the mass market, which means the products are pretty much the same everywhere…..It’s all about the packaging and the advertising, [and] ultimately the brand experience. — Jörgen Andersson, co-global chief marketing officer at Uniqlo & former chief marketing officer at H&M in conversation with the Business of Fashion.

Jörgen Andersson’s comments encapsulate the truth about our connected planet and our increasingly generic culture. Two years ago, I observed the rise of new brands and the New New Globalization and noted that:

  • Planet is more connected because of the Internet and that allows brand messaging to spread much faster.
  • The consumers are more global.

Since then Twitter is bigger. Instagram is bigger. Pinterest is bigger and Facebook is bigger. We are taking photos of the world around us a sharing them with the planet. Today, the culture and cultural trends spread at light speed, replicated, reformed and are adopted at network speed. It has made standing out much harder and only very few can standout.

“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months” Oscar Wilde once said. Make that every six weeks! I am not a fan of big chains like Uniqlo or H&M and the whole fast fashion movement that is thriving because we are a planet of constantly changing tastes, creating waste in our wake.

From the 1900s to 1950s, American consumers spent approximately 12-14% of their annual income on clothing. Today, we spend about 3%. But our closets are actually bigger. The average American house has doubled in size since the 1950s and closet space has increased, too, particularly with the advent of the walk-in closet in the 1980s. We likely have more than five times as many clothing items as we did in the first part of the 20th century. (Quartz)

After years of rampant consumerism, I have slowly embraced the idea of owning fewer and fewer things. I like the idea of fewer and better clothes. Clothes, are merely a manifestation of what’s on our minds. The more cluttered my mind got, the more cluttered my closet did. When I asked myself the question, why I was doing a certain things.


“Life should always be moving towards more simplicity rather than more complexity,” Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard once said. And it started with moving into a smaller apartment, with less closet space. It pushed me to reconsider how much I wanted to own and why, I wanted own something. Every month I try and get rid of few things, making space in my life for things that bring true joy — often from new experiences. (I make an exception for shoes, which are my one true addiction, a better and less expensive one compared to smoking.)


Overselling of Shinola

One of the hottest US brands is a company called Shinola (owned by Bedrock Manufacturing) which says it makes watches, denim and bicycles among other things in the city of Detroit, which as we all know has fallen prey to bad times. Shinola became the white knight for the city of Detroit, which has badly in need for a hero. Shinola’s marketing message: we are bringing back manufacturing to Detroit. The myth of the brand and that do-good-factor has helped it get an entry into high-end stores like Barneys. 

In this story for The Four Pins, Jon Moy takes the mask off Shinola and points out that while creating 150-odd jobs is a great, they might have been overselling the brand and the hype has gotten way ahead of itself. Moy points out Shinola’s Detroit is more marketing, less manufacturing. 

Instead of starting in his parent’s garage, Shinola is a trust fund kid that decided one day he wanted to start a company and had his dad buy him all the cool stuff. And much to my chagrin, all this money seems to paying off. Their initial offering of watches sold out before they were even assembled. Shinola is using my city as its shill, pushing a manufactured, outdated and unrealistic ideal of America.

This is a great and a “must read,” especially if you are considering dropping a grand on one of their watches. 

Marc Newson on Google Glass

Wearable technology is certainly the future, there’s no question about that. Whether or not it’s appropriate to put it in a pair of glasses, I’m not sure. There’s a real risk that you look like a bit of an idiot. What Google have done thus far, I wouldn’t be seen dead wearing. I think it really looks pretty stupid.

It’s a little bit like that wonderful invention called the Segway. It’s such a fantastic piece of technology but you just look like a complete dick when you drive around on it.

So that’s where the bridge to the world of fashion really doesn’t, or didn’t, work. That’s precisely the moment when I think the fashion world laughs at the world of industrial design, justifiably.

Marc Newson, a well known designer is not impressed by Google Glass. Newson is an industrial designed who has designed products for Nike, items for Alessi, clothes for G-Star Raw, cookware for Tefal, Qantas A330 business class suites. Yeah, he is also good friends with Jonny Ive. So there’s that and a few products they collaborated for Bono’s Product Red.  

What I am reading today

XOAB Socks

A few months ago Nick Wilder, a friend of mine connected me to Rich Levine, a former Sun Microsystems engineer who had decided to try his hand at new things after spending a lot of time on the internet. At Sun he did work on customer-facing software and usability work on Sun’s first Intel platform and then for early web and commerce work for and Yup, like me Rick is somewhat old — and if you don’t remember, he did co-author the iconic, The Cluetrain Manifesto. 

Done with the tubes, he moved to Denver and created an organic chocolate brand, Sun Cups. However, that was not where his heart was. Instead, Rick and his brother Neil (illustrator and graphics designer) decided to start making socks. I mean, why not. Socks are something all of us need and despite all the great pairs of socks in one’s sock drawer, there is room for one more. After spending nearly 18 months leaning how to make them and how to warp the business and tech side of fashion, the Levine brothers launched their sock brand XOAB on Kickstarter. The fit, colors, and patterns proved to be a hit and well, rest is history.  XOAB, by the way is shorthand for love and beyond. 

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New York, March 2014

Every year in the month of March Gigaom hosts its annual Structure Data conference in New York. It is a great opportunity for me to visit my favorite city and catch up with friends. Every year, I get to the city a day ahead and I stay back a day later. This year, with slightly more freedom and flexibility in my schedule, I decided to spend about eight days in the city. It was a chance to connect with quite a few of my friends.

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