Thought-provoking piece about the impact of architecture, hope, opportunity, and reality in Hale County, Alabama.
Read it on Fastcompany.
Thought-provoking piece about the impact of architecture, hope, opportunity, and reality in Hale County, Alabama.
Read it on Fastcompany.
Isaac and I are moving to a new apartment soon. We wanted to just stay where we were till we moved to our house, but eh: what can I say: things like building a house take a long time and doing laundry at the laundromat sucks. So!
We’ve lived together for 12 years now and we want to make some actual changes in this next apartments, because things like our books, art and furniture don’t change move to move, and this is a good chance to mix things up as opposed to reinstalling our life in a bigger apartment with a laundry room.
No. More. Malm.
We bought it because it was simply designed and affordable, but I think I have scars on my shin from our Malm bed. And it’s huge! So, we are ditching the bed, and having a low mattress…but not in the way I used to (simplicity in youth looks a little slovenly, now that I think about it). We’ll go for something a little more like this:
Change 2. House Plants everywhere (and alive). I‘ll put in the effort to water, I swear!
I’m emotionally ready to have a ton of plants indoors: trees, philodendron, and some little ones for texture.
Change 3. Get low.
Our current apartment is so small that I always looked up: our dressers and bookshelves are tall to preserve precious square feet.
However, this next apartment is bigger, and has windows on three sides (four if you count the surprising and somewhat creepy ‘building hole’ window), and want to keep it looking wide open. We’ll be making low bookshelves and dressers throughout the house.
all images and their respective links on my Fifth From The Top Pinterest board.
It’s for your tech, but it’s a casual-but-still-a-bit-luxe (amazing leather) update to the rectangular clutch I’ve been carrying for years.
a couple months ago that the Head Designer of COS was moving to the Gap: i was pretty psyched.
Anyone who reads this blog know that I love the Gap, or shall we say, the ideal idea of the Gap: a collection of simple pieces that become the building blocks you create a wardrobe around. Accessible, affordable pieces that you can keep and re-integrate each season.
COS is a pretty awesome simple and elegant line owned by H&M….it’s Jil Sander for everyone, or very tasteful Uniqlo. Honestly, it’s european dream Gap.
Rebekka Bay is the lady in question: and she’s awesome. Elle did a big article with her and you can read it here.
Mostly, I’ve been busy: I’m working a lot, stepping in with lines when they need fresh ideas and new ideas. I like the work and I like working a lot.
But, the real reason is that I’ve been….a bit bummed out maybe?
Lately I feel that some of the movements in design that I was excited, interested, and literally a producing part of, have become the same system of status that I’ve….been proud to not be a part of.
I went to a holiday sales event in LA that a couple of my extremely talented friends had a presence at. Their work is great. A lot of the work there was great. Their work is expensive, and has value: I know first-hand that making a small line and collection means that the product is expensive. There is value: and then, there is expensive.
A lot of the scene has become a checklist of status: get this ring, these shoes, this bag, this hat, yada yada: and now you look great: you look confident, you look like you aren’t playing the game: yet….you are playing the game: and you bought your way in. The same women who would perhaps mock a Dior bag, marc jacobs bag, or rebecca minkoff bag, lined up in droves to buy a [fill in the blank] bag (and no, I’m not talking about a bag, really]: and we all look at our bag and their bags the same way the women eyeing their marc by marc or their neighbor’s marc by marc bag do.
The issue is not about money or the expensiveness of an object. It would be fantastic if everyone was ready to pay for quality of handmade and locally made objects. Quality, innovation, idea and product are worth a lot of money. A handmade piece where the money goes to the makers, and the item lasts for as long as it possibly can is priceless.
Buying status to me, however, has always seemed cheap.
That’s one part of my bum-out, the other part is about individuality from the point of the consumer, something I’ve always attributed to, loved about, and worn the flag of for small lines: it’s not about following a checklist to fit in.
The other issue is about individuality from the point of the producer. I understand these issues too. If everyone is doing indigo, soft leather, natural fabrics, moroccan rugs, and ceramics, and if you want to make a living: and you truly feel the pull of these themes: what do you do?
I’m feeling a little anti-everything right now. Going to this sales event made me want glass, plastic, tech, clean lines, hard fabrics (kidding, kidding, but also: not, not).
And yes, I know fashion pays for my entire life: and that status chasing is a part of what pays for fashion. Maybe I’m too idealistic. Or maybe this is what happens in your early 30s: movements seems to come from, and be for, you and your cohort. But maybe it’s always the same: everything is for sale: these items or ideas are just in your price range, your age range, etc.
Regardless: I’m feeling a bit ready for a sea-change.
Check out this clever holiday video for Clashist’s Kickstarter…and maybe get a James franco tee or two for a crush of your own. Heather and I worked on developing the concept for this line and I’m really excited to see it moving forward!
I’m super interested in tech + fashion overlaps…and imagining all the possibilities of fabrics, changes in production, changes in distribution, etc. This is my industry and I’m excited about the future.
Something that friends and I have been kicking around ideas about for a while is something that other fields already do…total customization. And since the tech world really likes to solve problems, it was only a matter of time till we saw something like Piol.
While the site has some skin tone stereotyping, and other use-ability issues it needs to work out, it will be interesting to see the customer reaction. Personally, I wonder about why none of the silhouettes are really fashionable, why pants (a major fit area) aren’t being dealt with yet, about the qualities of the fabrics, and the scale of the prints.
The main question, I guess, is if it’s worth it to people. On the site, it’s 575 for a poly shealth, 545 for a cotton one. And it takes 3-4 weeks. But it’s made domestically, and to your measurements.
You could go downtown, buy 2 yards of nice silk ($40), nice lining ($20) buy a designer sewing pattern ($18) and work with a tailor (50/hour). Assuming five hours to make your dress and even 2 hours of fittings, you are already saving over $100. Or you could buy a nice dress on sale and have it tailored. Those options take time, though….filling out the website took 5 minutes.
I think there’s a huge opportunity to work with local tailors in a tech way. Just like Airbnb (or that horrible serf-making app I read about in Fast company a couple years ago Task Rabbit,) tech can connect people who were previously unconnected. You could connect customers to tailors, have them upload their measurements, what they are looking to do, etc, connect those people to fabric sales people: you can help the environment, the local economy, help people look their best and save money, etc.
we’ll see…just imagine the future:)
Lately, almost without meaning to, I’ve developed a little vintage Esprit habit. I mean, I mean to, as my eye and hand are drawn to the shapes, colors and fabrics, but that lovely three parrallel line “E” is becoming a deep part of my wardrobe, and competing with my 1980s Liz Claiborne problem.
The pieces are great, but the old ads were even better.
Which was actually a part of the problem with the rise and fall of Esprit.
The whole story of Esprit is a story about the zeitgeist, in fashion, sure, but mostly about culture and that 1960s cohort and their ideals….and it’s fascinating. It seems as almost everyone and everything related to the Esprit story affected or filtered culture in someway.
Esprit was started by Jane Tise and Susie Russell in the 1960s, looking to give American young women a Mary Quant or Biba equivalent. That line was called Plain Jane.
Their third partner, Allen Schwartz, pushed the line into department stores. I think a lot of us know what happened to him.
Susie Russell picked up a young hitchhiker, Doug Tompkins, in the 1960s. They got married. Doug was working on developing his climbing store in San Francisco. That climbing store became The North Face.
Doug sold the North Face and headed down to the Patagonia region of South America to do some climbing with some friends, including his friend Yvon.
After the trip, Yvon founded Patagonia, and Doug became inspired to work on Susie’s growing business.
He encouraged her and Jane to change the name to Esprit de Corps (a hippie play on the Marine Corps). He and Susie started to aggressively move the line and company in the direction they saw for it…eventually buying out the other partners. Jane left in the early 70s. The only thing I could find out about her is that she might be a photographer now.
Susie and Doug pushed onwards. Doug was the head of image and worked on making sure the ads were eye catching, new, and elevated. Susie was the design director.
In the 1970s and early 1980s things were very good.
Here’s their home office. They had a gym, roof gardens, an environmental desk where people could learn about how they could help the environment and days off to volunteer.
Here’s a catalog with Susie and Doug from the 1980s.
But there were problems. Were the ads better than the clothes? Would the money ever run out? With so much growth, did they have a structure in place to handle tightening margins and changing tastes?
Doug and Susan had ultimately different goals for the company, and for their life, and by 1985, they were living apart.
But they were still working together. Doug had his eye on building the company into an empire (and escaping the tastes of mercurial department store buyers) by making stand alone stores. But, just like with the ads, he only wanted the best, and the most high-brow. An example is the 14 million dollar LA Esprit store that’s now a CVS in West Hollywood (more on that location here).
The stores looked amazing, images below from Doug’s book about Esprit.
Remember how we were talking Esprit=Zeitgeist? The Esprit store in LA was where Sarah Jessica Parker’s character worked in LA Story.
By 1986, Esprit grew to be a 800 Million dollar business. However, sales started to decline.
Customers were maybe over big, blocky pastels and primary colored pieces, department stores were asking for lower prices, and Doug’s stores were visionary, but not in the right locations. All the attention had been paid to the front of the house, while the back end was in disarray, and couldn’t cover the deficit in sales.
In 1988, Doug and Susie divorced.
Then things got weird. Doug and Susie appointed an interim board to pick which of them got to lead Esprit. The board picked Doug. Susie left, and Doug kept being ahead of the tide as far as culture goes.
In 1989, Doug took out an ad in Utne Reader, asking for a decline in conspicuous consumption. People were shocked, and the LA times asked, “Did Esprit define the New Spirit?”
He totally had, but the new execs at Esprit weren’t really happy about it.
They wanted Susie, and her on trend pieces, and the sales to match, back.
The way the couple had split meant that Doug was supposed to buy out Susie’s shares. But he didn’t. Perhaps, maybe this anti-consumer move was supposed to lessen the value of Esprit, and Susie’s buyout? Was he being sneaky and trying to ruin the company? So Susie rallied people to take over Esprit. Other companies tried to buy it. It got tense.
Susie came out on top with Esprit.
Doug took his buyout and ended up being a big environmentalist. He owns a huge environmental foundation in Chile, which he runs with his wife since 1993, Kris, the former CEO of Patagonia.
Susie, meanwhile, was at work in 1992: making new lines (Susie Tompkins signature collection bombed…can’t find any pictures)
and new ad campaigns that attracted attention…but not sales.
Maybe you remember this one?
Esprit tried to figure out what to fix. They eliminated all the hippie + forward-thinking perks, and the progressive ads, but the company still ended up being bandied about to several buyers and CEOs.
Susie is now mostly known for being a Democratic fundraiser, and maybe Hilary Clinton’s best friend. She’s currently not funding Obama as of 2012, because she’s disappointed in his environmental leadership.
“The brand has gradually lost its soul over the past few years. The heritage of the brand has been neglected and the company lost its customer focus,” Group CEO Ronald Van Der Vis said in a statement [in 2011].
They planned on dealing with that by spending $6.8 billion Hong Kong ($872.9 million) over four years to reshape its brand. The company will create a trend unit based in Paris and a design center in China so that hot fashion trends can be brought to market faster.
Oy. They posted their first annual loss since the IPO in 1993, in 2012.
A variety of missteps, lawsuits, changing tastes, and maybe just bad taste led to the current state of Esprit. Or, if Esprit is a metaphor about American culture and ethics, and maybe the decline of the company from idealistic brand to being destroyed by it’s own greed and then sold to Hong Kong where it now focuses on fast fashion products for nations other than the US is indicative of the decline of American culture and civilization as a whole?
Nah. It’s just about clothes, right?
Here’s a huge, awesome, exhausting article about Esprit from 1997, which goes more in depth on the legal battle.
I don’t wear a lot of jeans. I have a pair of Levi’s from 2001. I have a high waisted pair from Topshop, and another from the original Grey Ant collection. I have a black pair with ankle buttons from Deener. I have Jbrand lovestory ones. I have a pair of totally generic mom jeans from the thriftstore with a drawstring that I think are the coolest, but, honestly, will probably look back on in pictures and be like, “what’s up with my grandma pants, Lizz?” But none of these are perfect. The closest I got to perfect jeans were these ‘pattern recognition’ (totally anonymous) jeans from japan. They were really great because they were super simple and totally devoid of any branding: they were just jeans. I want jeans to feel like jeans, to me that means 100% cotton. Super stiff, no give. But because I’m not Japanese, the Japanese jeans were a wee too tight in the cross hip, and they were low rise too. They were so close, but not right, so I had to get rid of them because they were so disappointing. Also, if you are a guy and reading this, this might sound like a lot of jeans. I assure you: this is not a lot of jeans.
I found my dream jeans recently: they have the legs of the Japanese jeans, with a cross hip measurement that fits an American-mutt hip, high waisted: Levi’s 606. They are perfect and now I’m obsessed.
next up, the black ones at Shopbop.