Recently, while I was dining with friends in New York, Steve Greenwood (who started Brewster) remarked that Al Gore was now separated from his wife, Tipper, and was dating someone else from California. I have no recollection about why that came up, but it was enough for Elle Luna to point out the amorphous and diverse nature of conversations in the Big Apple. It is one of the most enjoyable aspects of New York — the variance of ideas, experiences, and interests.
This past week, while I was on official company duty, hanging out with the New York team, I also had a chance to sit down with Bradley Price, who, after designing phones and other electronics, started Autodromo, a boutique watch company based in Brooklyn. We talked about the Apple watch, Marc Newson, and what other product-design companies do wrong when it comes to product and design. A day later, a master shoemaker from Italy, Riccardo Bestetti, explained to me the meaning of “slow.” A self-taught shoemaker, he does what he does because it makes him happy and then thinks about money, not vice versa. His comments reminded me of what Pharrell Williams’ creative director, Mimi Valdez, said at a Fast Company conference: “Happiness isn’t hiding somewhere in some fantasyland.”
Later, walking on the street, I noticed many women had pastel-colored hair, though I didn’t know why that trend has caught on or what that means. It was here I saw people line up outside the Opening Ceremony store, much like they line up outside the Apple store — though I didn’t see scalpers here. I walked around and saw that while the average girl was better-dressed than one on the East Coast, the fashionista should walk out of the Conde Nast offices to lament the lack of style of boys in tech.
Vanessa Friedman’s column on Tim Cook and tech style was unusually shallow, mostly because I don’t think she quite understands the context of why Silicon Valley’s younger members dress a certain way. New York has views on fashion because culturally and professionally the focus is to fit in and impress those who can further their career. I wish someone as wonderful as Friedman would visit the West Coast before making generalizations. And, frankly, can anything hyped up by advertising and marketing dollars really be fashion? I see Everlane and its basics and I see an emergent Silicon Valley style and aesthetic. It is just different and doesn’t necessarily rely on gaudy labels like Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Gucci.
The challenges of Silicon Valley are more profound than sartorial. The young and the restless have a lot of learning to do: When you want to change the world, it is good to tread lightly, understand the big picture, and perhaps connect the dots. John Borthwick of Betaworks, a fellow New York member of the tech tribe, pointed out that we in technology have become so obsessed with looking at thin slices that no one wants to take a moment and understand the impact of that slice.
Consumer robotics will change society, but its social and cultural impact remains outside the grasp of tech creators. The somewhat childish and bumbling response of the Whisper team to the Guardian story was another example of not understanding that words and actions have a different meaning with “tech” and outside it.
Whenever I visit New York, I have a deep desire to come back here, but I realize too much of everything is never a good thing. New York likes the shiny and new; it lives in the present and no longer invents the future. But it does provide a nice cultural and social context. It gives a sharp focus to the world I choose to live in — on the coast where the future seems like just one crazy idea away!