Tuesday, December 23, 2008

RIP 2008

Yesterday one of my favorite blog-ish sites, Refinery 29 posted an article listing the fashion industry casualties of 2008. Jane Mayle being the most depressing for me. I pretend to know about her business model, but I do not know the intimate structure, although I am sure we shared some experience. Yet, from my outsider perspective she had these components that were both envious and what I see as the future of shopping culture. For example, a small curated shop in Nolita where she could present a tight clear message, take advantage of foot traffic on Elizabeth St., interact with her customer, possibly create specifically for them (atelier), test small batch production and be accessible to press. Closing the gap between producer and consumer/customer. 
In addition, the actual collection seemed very her; timeless, of quality and thoughtful. 
Read, not disposable and trend chasing. 
I very well understand that despite specific successes there are a tidal wave of components such a rising rent, Troubled domestic and global economies, charge backs, vendor compliance costs, failed production, rising costs of production and minimum requirements, vendor collection issues, etc. that can inspire the most creative to throw in the towel. Usually while making some sort of statement like, "I'm was just trying to design some beautiful frocks, f&*)!"

I can't help but think this is just the very beginning of the RIP list. After reading about all the $40 M plus losses for various department stores I wonder who will be left standing. If the department store continues to operate as is, if they will be around in a year? 

I have personally put my own line, ULURU "on hold" to take a more activist role in sustainable fashion/business models. My gut just told me that continuing to work (and work hard) on a small fashion label was a bad investment of both my time and $$. The risk compared to the potential return was not there. I decided after spending 8 years plus studying sustainable design, materials, business models etc. while watching consumerism and disposable fashion grow and the degradation of our own garment district that my efforts were better spent building the perfect petri dish for which a slow fashion economy might emerge.

Friday, December 19, 2008

my new favorite cocktail

I was recently at a drinking establishment called Weather Up and discovered a smooth (and in my mind) holiday drink called Vieux Carre. They served it with my favorite brandied soaked cherry, a lemon or orange rind and a large ice cube.
i found a recipe today:
This drink was invented in 1938 by Walter Bergeron, the head bartender at the Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans, and is named after the French term for what we call "The French Quarter" ... le Vieux Carré ("Old Square").

The Monteleone is one of the Quarter's grand old hotels, and now features the marvelous Carousel Lounge, which is an actual revolving carousel -- you sit, and it revolves around the bartenders (just slowly enough so that you only get dizzy from drinks, not the ride).

  • 1 ounce rye whiskey
  • 1 ounce Cognac
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon Bénédictine D.O.M.
  • 2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Mix all ingredients in a double Old Fashioned glass over ice; stir.

Labour theory of value

Mr. Ponzi

I have been voraciously reading about the wall street meltdown and have developed a bruise on the underside of my chin due to excessive jaw dropping and open mouth gasping.
Having said that, I came across this lovely bit today that highlights equitable banking alternatives.

I was particularly interested in the "labour theory of value".

Mutualism is an approach to economic life that means co-operating rather than competing, and it underpins an economy based in the heart of a community. It is exactly 150 years since Robert Owen, the foremost social and economic innovator of the 19th century, cashed in his labour notes and took up residence in the ethereal Harmony Hall, whose earthly equivalent he had spent a lifetime trying to create. When he is remembered at all, it is as the founder of the co-operative movement, but Owen’s first economic experiment was with money itself.

Along with many political economists of his time, Owen held to a labour theory of value, i.e. that the value of goods should be equivalent to the labour invested in their manufacture. Although a capitalist manager himself, the profiteering by middlemen enraged him. To address this inequity, in 1830 he set up an Equitable Labour Exchange, where the medium of exchange was ‘labour notes’. These were denominated in hours, and goods exchanged for the number of hours they took to make. The scheme was an instant success among producers, and perhaps a thousand artisans were involved in the Exchange.

I'm all for living wages, but i must be missing something. Aren't their other costs, ie inputs and distribution? It speaks a bit to Natalie's business model where the stitchers name the price of their work.

I have more research to do but couldn't help post prematurely. I was so excited to read something so antithetical to the daily barrage of stories about greed in the NY Times.

A New Hive

Derrick Cruz of Black Sheep and Prodigal Sons curated a most beautiful, intimate pop-up exhibition at Earnest Sewn on Washington St. titled A NEW HIVE. (you will regret not hitting that link and seeing/learning more)

ULURU desinged bags hand stitched by the "worker bees" of Alabama Chanin in addition to hand spun/hand knit alpaca honey comb vests.

A NEW HIVE: by Derrick R. Cruz Opens July 9th in NYC

New York, NY, 20 June 2008 – As part of its ongoing installation series, Earnest Sewn Co. hosts "A NEW HIVE", an installation at their flagship store in the Meatpacking District of New York City in July of 2008. The work takes the current mysterious and alarming en masse disappearance of honeybee colonies as an opportunity to stage a hyperreal environment in which nature and myth return to influence science and industry, causing balance. “The rich folklore and natural history of honeybees inspires an ethereal childlike curiosity in individuals,” said Derrick R. Cruz. “Curiosity leads to contemplation, internalization, and then to genuine concern. I hope A NEW HIVE will help us regain respect for these amazing creatures; after all, almost everything we eat is made possible by bees.”

Van Jones

Mr. Van Jones keeps appearing in my google reader and giving me hope that we will build a real, sustainable economy. A domestic economy that invests in our assets at home, our skilled and potentially skilled workforce.

from www.vanjones.net
A 'Green Jobs' Pioneer – Globally & Nationally
In 2005, Van produced the "social equity track" for the United Nations' World Environment Day 2005 summit, which was themed "Green Cities: Plan for the Planet." As a result of Van's advocacy, the resulting Accords called upon the world's mayors to: "Adopt a policy or implement a program that creates environmentally beneficial jobs in slums and/or low-income neighborhoods." The adoption of these accords marked the beginning of the global movement for "green jobs."

In 2007, Van helped the City of Oakland pass a "Green Jobs Corps" proposal. The City allocated funds to train Oakland residents in eco-friendly "green-collar jobs."

At the national level, Van worked successfully in 2007 with U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), U.S. Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA), U.S. Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) to pass the Green Jobs Act of 2007. That path-breaking, historic legislation authorized $125 million in funding to train 35,000 people a year in "green-collar jobs."

In 2008, Green for All partnered with the Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection to launch the Green For All Academy. The Academy trains U.S. grassroots leaders to effectively advocate for an inclusive, green economy.

On September 27, 2008, Green For All worked with national partners to produce "Green Jobs Now" – the first-ever "national day of action" calling for green-collar jobs in the United States. More than 600 communities in all 50 states participated, with more than 50,000 signing a petition that called for federal government action to spur green jobs.

::new::5 in 1 designer retail collaborative::

Dear friends and fellow local designers,
This is an official invitation to membership of a collaborative designer retail project located in Williamsburg Brooklyn. As the face of fashion retail is changing due to the economic conditions and changing consumer behavior, small designers have the opportunity to take advantage of their nimbleness and flexibility. We are able to create the new “retail”, that can sustain our business and our creative endeavors.

“Consumers” are reverting back to the role of “customers”, the consumption cycle is slowing and we will see a closer relationship between customer and producer (you).
Customers will be looking for access to you, your story, a bit of exclusivity and objects of value and timelessness.

Norman Rabinovich has been generous enough to allow Helena Fredriksson and I (Caroline Priebe of ULURU) to turn the front retail space of 5 in 1 into a space that fosters an alternative, collaborative retail model.

Our space is 350 prime square ft located on 60 N.6th St. between Wythe and Kent. We are surrounded by Williamsburg Music Hall, Built By Wendy, Noisette, and mc&co. A block away you’ll find American Apparel, Future Perfect, Sweet William and Sleep.

We propose the collaboration as this:
- the shop is open on weekends only.
- each member works one full weekend every 6-8 weeks depending on the number of members we organize.
- the shop will be stocked with each participating designers pieces of choice.
- the weekend you work the shop, can be used as an outlet to feature your product, meet one on one with your customers, hold trunk shows, samples sales, test one of a kind and/or new pieces/ideas.
- a few other local designers place goods on consignment in the shop for a 40-60 split. 30% going to the collaborative for maintenance costs and 10% to Norman for credit card fees, sales tax, etc.
- for member designers who work, the split is 20-80. 10% going to the collaborative for maintenance and 10% to Norman for credit card fees, sales tax etc.
- each designer will be expected to add to the PR efforts individually and as a collective. we would like to advantage of power in numbers.
- checks will be cut to members at the end of each month.
- members must keep their own inventory. a simple system will be put in place in shop to log sales and must be tallied at the end of your sunday shift.
- this project will only work if trust is established between designers and a belief that what is good for one of us is good for all of us.

If this proposal interests you, please contact Helena or myself before Jan.10th and we will be scheduling a meeting. If you have any friends or colleagues you feel would be a good candidate for this project please send a referral.

We are hoping to open early to mid February but would like to send out a press release with a finalized list of designer members as soon as possible.