April 23, 2019

No Diploma is about finding your path with or without that piece of paper

No Diploma is a Canadian brand looking to contest and re-write the mainstream narrative around the expectations of the diploma, whether you have it or not. It’s a celebration of the outliers and those setting off on their own journey in accordance with a different set of rules they write. We spoke to Ben of No Diploma for his modern thoughts on what it means to choose your own path.

1. What is No Diploma? Why does it need to exist?

No Diploma serves as a community & education platform. From the dropouts, unemployed graduates, self-employed entrepreneurs, to those with several degrees but use none of them in their field, we are here to spark a conversation: Is a Diploma necessary in this day and age? How can we improve the teaching and learning experience? What are some alternative sources of education?

Our clothing line is a way to support this movement, we create clothes and school supplies that tell stories. Our inspiration hails from university apparel but repurposed for students who follow the new curriculum.

Our existence stems from the understanding that other forms of knowledge can be acquired outside of a school setting. Not everyone will find their purpose in life from school, yet No Diploma is not opposing the educational system, but rather taking a critical look while providing an alternative attitude to the mainstream conception that an individual is defined and limited to their diploma. The brand needs to exist because it gives people a sense of belonging, a community where people can learn from each other and provide resources to support ongoing education & personal growth.

2. What’s the intersection of community and education?

I feel like community is what allows education to become a stronger force. Connecting with like-minded individuals who share a close set of values only enriches the experience of education. This virtuous cycle is what No Diploma aims to create, an unspoken means of support with the responsibility to share knowledge and information to better oneself.

 

3. Do you think friendships introduced during your educational years are necessarily real friendships? Or friendships out of convenience?

Friendships during educational years are and sometimes aren’t real friendships. However, real friendships can be built everywhere. In a school setting, you might meet your best friends or meet people who will only use you for your help on school-related work, but that’s just like any real-world situation. Just have to find the real ones who you resonate with and build from there.

4. What is the most important thing you’ve learned in the last year?

To trust my own voice.

Building myself for that last 4-5 years through life experiences allowed me to grow in ways that I can finally start trusting myself. Once you can listen to your own voice, your life will become much more fulfilling, because you are doing it for yourself and not for anybody else. All the pressure is gone, because you don’t need to meet any more expectations, you’re not allowing others to dictate your path or make decisions for you.

5. What’s the thread that connects all the people you’ve chosen to feature in the lookbook?

The people who believe in the ethos of the brand, we’ve built a web-based classroom in the last year which allowed us to connect with an audience of people who shared some amazing stories and love for the brand. We wanted to give that love back to the community by having them be part of our project, so we decided to do an open casting call and invited a group of 20 Classmates to be featured in our lookbook who had a story to share about their experience in school whether they were positive or negative. Each of their stories serves to unveil the conversation people have regarding the educational system and even sometimes the conversations created by wearing No Diploma. We want to continue to create these projects and experiences in the hopes to empower and inspire more people.

April 19, 2019

BYBORRE & GORE-TEX launch The Hybrid Edition™ collection

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BYBORRE and GORE-TEX can both be seen as pioneers in their respective fields. BYBORRE has continued to push the boundaries of knitwear each season while GORE-TEX remains a cornerstone in the world of technical, breathable fabrics.

Who is The Hybrid Edition™ for?

The line aims to solve the modern-day challenges of the city dweller. BYBORRE’s focus on comfort, protection, and aesthetics combine with the breathability of GORE-TEX for a collection ready for anything the elements may throw at you.

Key details this season

  • Breathability through unique constructions. BYBORRE reduced the number of closed seams for a series of flowing panels
  • GORE-TEX Hybrids using GORE-TEX INFINIUM™ introduces functional laminate finishes (from GORE-TEX) with BYBORRE’s boundary-bending knits.
  • Graphic 8-Bit is an architecturally-inspired knit featuring strong graphic lines, colors, and contrast.

The collection is available now on BYBORRE’s online store as well as through select retailers.

Also, check our partnered series with BYBORRE and GORE-TEX last year titled “The Meaning of Hybrid.”

April 19, 2019

adidas' FUTURECRAFT.LOOP is a big step in sustainable footwear

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adidas’ FUTURECRAFT.LOOP is a further commitment to innovation and environmental sustainability in the footwear space. The efforts build off of an initial project with Parley for the Oceans which used reclaimed and recycled plastic taken from the ocean.

 

What is the FUTURECRAFT.LOOP?

  • It’s a 100% recyclable performance running shoe
  • At the end of its life cycle, it can be sent back to adidas and fully recycled
  • The release is adidas’ largest global beta program with a full launch set for Spring/Summer 2021

Digging deep into the technology

Unlike traditional footwear, the FUTURECRAFT.LOOP uses a singular material without the use of glue. Each component is made with 100% reusable TPU. After the shoe is returned to adidas, it is washed and grounded into pellets. These pellets can be melted and reused into a new pair of shoes, thus closing the loop.

Plastic in our lives is a big problem

Plastic has a massive if not at times invisible problem. It’s contributed to the deaths of marine animals, found its way into our water supply, and to now infiltrating the air. On the flipside, we’ve seen an increase in initiatives that aim to tackle the problem. Technology combined with changes on a societal level with bag bans could effectively mitigate and control the problem of plastic in the developed world.

Why this is important to the overall sneaker and fashion landscape

adidas has many key distribution points in its arsenal to help push and promote the idea of circular products. As the second largest sportswear company with a strong hand in street culture and entertainment projects like Parleys and FUTURECRAFT.LOOP can latch onto these messaging opportunities. Interestingly enough, you could say that adidas has overlooked huge opportunities to apply this technology selectively into some of its lifestyle offerings such as the Yeezy Boost. In our eyes, adidas would continue to apply the recycled plastic/circular concept to hero releases that can justify higher price points.

April 15, 2019

Nike ACG in a post-Errolon Hugh world returns to the great outdoors

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Nike ACG and Acronym Co-Founder Errolson Hugh played an influential role over the past few seasons in creating a mainstream movement and aesthetic.

For those unfamiliar with Acronym, the brand played a pivotal role in combining innovative and thought-provoking design and the latest in fabric developments.

The involvement of Hugh together with a more accessible platform such as Nike ACG allowed greater access to technical pieces through lower price points.

Following the announcement of his departure, the label returns back to its original roots. This means the outdoors in a less regimented approach. According to designer Rebecca Aleman, the perspective for this upcoming season of ACG pales in contrast to past collections: “We want you to go hiking. We want you to go camping.”

Those deeply entrenched in the world of #techwear have lost access to the works of Hugh at cheaper price points in favor of softer palettes, handmade prints, and a less serious take on technical fashion. It’s not all bad.

The collection releases April 20 at select retailers globally.

April 11, 2019

GREATS releases its new Court Classic collection with some subtle and versatile offerings

GREATS release their new Court Classic collection. GREATS, led by co-founder and MAEKAN community’s Ryan Babenzien take inspirations from arguably the most important moment in sneaker culture, the Air Jordan 1.

For the unfamiliar, GREATS has been a trailblazer in the footwear industry for being among the first to take a direct-to-consumer strategy. It’s enabled them to simultaneously work with high-quality factories and materials while passing on savings to consumers.

And for those who have experience with the brand, the Court takes fit cues from the Royale. But it goes further with updated breathable leather lining, Italian suede, and a Margom sole.

The Court is available in several colors at greats.com as well as their flagship in SoHo, NYC. If you’re interested in hearing more about Ryan Babenzien, check out the story, A Brave New World.

April 11, 2019

Performance-infused fashion: the next frontier for fashion

techwear fashion merging together

Performance-infused fashion is heating up in a big way, mirroring societal values and evolving cultural norms. What was once a strict divide between sportswear and fashion has morphed into a need to merge form and function. While we’ve seen this evolution for quite some time, more and more brands are paying attention, which should worry both sides of the aisle. Will we see sportswear firms buying luxury conglomerates or vice-versa? Will fashion have the upper-hand, or will sportswear dominate instead?

Performance-infused fashion as a social norm

It’s no secret that social norms and associated dress codes are evolving. Even Goldman Sachs (yes, that Goldman Sachs) is changing to become more attractive to prospective employees sick of the suit and tie. We’ve become comfortable in ditching old norms in favor of performance and comfort. Sneakers at high-end restaurants have become benign, along with armies of yoga pants in sprawling metropolises. This indicates that we expect greater functionality and performance from our daily wear, especially as we do more than just commute and go to the office. Just as Apple successfully merged performance and design for computing, so too will tomorrow’s fashion greatest players through the potential avenue of performance-infused.

The nomenclature

As is the case with streetwear, there can be a bit of confusion around different categories. Athleisure, generally embodies a sense of performance but falls more on the casual and sport side. Likewise, #techwear, pushes itself to the extremes of performance thanks to the likes of Errolson Hugh’s Acronym. Nestled somewhere in between is performance-infused fashion that isn’t aiming to create a new aesthetic. It’s merely trying to incorporate some of the convenience and added value of performance in fashion. It’s best to look at the types of offerings on a spectrum. If innovative, performance-heavy fashion (like Acronym) is on the far left, then good ol’ regular workout gear can be on the far right. The more aesthetics become a consideration, the further left you go.

Street culture drives innovation

There is arguably no greater cultural force than street culture in the 21st century. It permeates music, entertainment, work, and even religion. Culture acts as a conduit for both performance and fashion as it often balances both intricately. Street culture resonates with passion and a thirst for improvement, especially amongst collectors and aficionados. For example, DJing techniques evolved from street culture as hip-hop continued to gain popularity. We continue to see these world collide at their apex, with designers like Virgil Abloh or Yoon from AMBUSH taking leading roles at some of the world’s most prestigious fashion houses. Their designs, informed by their backgrounds, are often a perfect representation of what performance-infused fashion wants to achieve: form and function. As the culturesphere continues to evolve and move society onwards, so too will innovation around this genre.

The future lies ahead

Technology has become all pervasive in our lives. From swiping left and right across our apps to getting better sleep via smart lights, humans see a constant uptick to improve wellbeing and performance. This, however, can also have nefarious effects over time. We are on an endless treadmill to improve things marginally without taking a step back and understanding tech’s larger impact on our lives. As techware continues forward, how will this endless thirst for perfection genuinely improve our lives over time? Does techware enhance us as humans, or does it drive us into a world where objects cannot simply exist for aesthetic purposes? In addition, how will Design change going forward? Perhaps this is a strong reminder that some of the best things in life simply add value by existing.

April 10, 2019

Digital clothing will become your next go to purchase

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Digital clothing is fashion’s next, and potentially very lucrative, frontier. We already spend ample time online, to a point where our digital identities have taken a life of their own.

We now have fully digital celebrities that followers can engage and share with, blurring today’s physical and online worlds altogether. However, digital clothing is no longer limited to 3D renderings as Scandinavian retailer Carlings continues to demonstrate. The company sold digital clothing which buyers could “wear” via a picture they submitted, with prices reaching a maximum of EUR 30. A steep price for something that doesn’t exist in the physical world? Perhaps, but experts believe this is simply the beginning, and we’ll soon see others join in.

Digital clothing is here to stay

Even though one may not appreciate its importance, digital clothing helps humans create a fashion portfolio without impacting the environment. In an era where fast fashion has become public enemy #1, thrift stores are increasingly popular, and families are reducing their closet space (thanks Marie), these virtual items can fill a market void. In short, this form of clothing can:

  • Massively reduce environmental impact
  • Create new forms of scarcity for consumers
  • Enable new creators to tell their story without the need of an established brand
  • Create new jobs within the fashion industry

The beauty of virtual goods is that they do not depreciate over time, will be traceable if sold to someone else (tracked through blockchain) and can be almost unique when supply is limited by a developer. You won’t see everyone rocking the same digital clothing online, unlike what you might see in the physical world instead (including fakes). Ultimately, it enables greater creativity and self expression, but also potentially reduces judgement and bullying that people experience when sharing online. As such, the digital nature of the experience creates a potential wall of anonymity and safety that users will benefit from.

Cost and talent challenges

As a nascent field, digital clothing still has a lot of quirks. For starters, there are still very few people with proper 3D experience and credentials to make this more prevalent. It’s also expensive: The Fabricant, a digital fashion house, requires EUR 25,000 and six weeks to produce a small capsule. As things progress, companies will need to improve scalability and speed.

Can the value of fashion offline be replicated online?

Fashion maintains several key traits. In its most successful form, it captures cultural relevancy, tribalism, and identity. In an online environment, the places of interaction change. They’re often locked into platforms. Think Fortnite or NBA 2K. In these worlds, you can easily acquire exclusive items and in term create value for yourself in relation to your peers. But if there’s a lack of interoperability and the opportunity to bring these fashion items into other worlds, they’re fundamentally limited. The counterpoint is that in the future, if a Fortnite item is in a kid’s wallet and somebody is willing to transact some series currency for it, it doesn’t really matter. The on/off-ramps in the form of digital payments will find a way to figure itself out.

Regardless of the exact outcome, this is becoming another fascinating intersection where creativity and tech can combine to create new experiences for humans. Clothing, often bound by physical limits, will be unleashed through these new 3D models and systems. Time for you to build your online persona and get ready to steal the show online.

April 8, 2019

Warner and Waverly Watkins of Brownstone design clothing for cultural commentary

Brownstone S/S 2019

Warner and Waverly Watkins, the twin brothers behind Brownstone, are back with their latest collection titled “I Like it Here Can I Stay? : Rude Boys & Girls Club, USA”. We got the chance to hear a few words from them on this latest collection and the challenges of starting an independent fashion brand in the current climate.

Often times fashion wishes to be timeless but in the case of Brownstone, they’ve flipped the script. Pushing commentary is at the heart of their creations. When you look back on a Brownstone piece, it should reflect the cultural landscape of the moment.

The collection will be releasing later this month on Brownstone’s webstore and through Union’s brick & mortar store as well as their website.

Warner and Waverly Watkins

What was the inspiration behind this collection?

Waverly: When we first started out we made a lot more of the basics, simple things and now we’re moving into a wider range of pieces that are able to tell the story of who our audience is. I’m really more into the “now” and being reactionary. I believe the collection title reflects what is happening in America right now and the world. It’s current. We wanted to make something that could speak to right now so years later you can remember, ‘yes, this was going on’ and this collection was as a commentary.

It’s relevant to the conversations we’re having with each other and how we’re viewing the cultural climate right now. The ‘USA’ part is definitely tongue in cheek, almost like a spoof of a beautiful resort destination. There’s a lot to question and critique right now, so we’re just taking note of that and how it’s affected us. It feels like every day it’s something new that just makes you shake your head. We like to talk to our audience, we like to include them in the conversation of what’s going on with the brand honestly, we just have a bit of social anxiety; It’s something we’re trying to get better at.

Can you talk a bit more about being for the audience?

Warner: What we’re trying to do is not make it so personal but make it more universal. We’re still applying our take and interpretation of these types of things. We grew up in a super small town called Danville, Virginia. It’s such a small secluded place that you’re not really drawn to a lot of things so it’s really about growing up in the middle of nowhere and taping music and fashion magazines to your wall, but not in a nostalgic sense.

A lot of the graphic imagery comes from billboards we would pass on family vacations to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Some special pieces include the gas station jackets are an homage to the garbs our grandfather would wear. He worked in the textile mill Danville with fabrics like selvedge denim, twill, and wool, but it’s since closed.

Brownstone Spring/Summer 2019 interview guy jacket

How have you grown with each Brownstone collection and how is this collection different?

Warner: We’re working with better materials and realizing things last season we couldn’t do because of things like time restraints or not having the right team together to execute. For example, we’ve got Riri Zippers with the brand’s name on it now. It’s small, but to us that’s dope. We’re working with a great factory in LA who can make the pieces at a level we’re very proud of. A lot of our first designs were done by just Wave & I, running around NYC totally clueless in terms of what we know now. Now we have a really good team doing better graphics, initial sketches, CADs and stuff like that. Having a wider range of people’s input is kind of cool. I’m not one of those types of people where the idea of collaboration scares me.

Brownstone Spring/Summer 2019 interview poncho colorful

How does collaboration work in that sense for you guys?

Waverly: We’re into picking people’s brains, we ask questions and I like knowing what other people are into and can bounce ideas off of them. We had a larger group of people’s voices who were able to communicate their ideas into this collection and it kind of became more of our story as opposed to just my story or Wave’s story. It has become the brand’s story. We’ve always admired the idea of Margiela, where there’s a team, and it’s communicated as “we.”

We’re also pulling from a larger well of influences—the more you see the more you know. You can take that and put it back into your brand. It was important to go to Fashion Week to see it and say “you know what, this isn’t really my thing”. It’s better to know exactly what you do and don’t like. We love working with the people at Union and they get what we’re about, having them on your side definitely doesn’t hurt.

Brownstone Spring/Summer 2019 interview guy girl black jacket red shirt

What currently gets you excited about Brownstone? What else?

Waverly: For the brand, I’m currently excited to see the reaction to this collection and do some fun things to promote it. We’re working with our friends at Palette Agency to do a monthly party at Soho House here in LA. We know we’re not the usual crowd they cater to so it’ll be fun to kind of mix up worlds, I like that shit. A good juxtaposition. We’re having some of our friends DJ, maybe do a few performances, but curated our way in a dope venue. We also want to travel more and finally see some of the things overseas we’ve always read about. There’s plenty of “non-fashion” things that excite me like Malin + Goetz cannabis candles, the restaurant Night + Market Song is my fav place to eat, and the producer Wheezy.

Warner: I’m also really excited about the residency, I want the most oddball mix of people there to just have a good time, that’s so tight. I’ve been working with our friend Jake Zielinski shooting and editing a bunch of Super8 films for the collection that we’ll release to go along with the drops. We shot a bunch of film of the pieces being cut, sewn, and behind-the-scenes of the lookbook. I’m also excited about the paintings by this Los Angeles artist Chuy Hartman. And lastly, I’m excited to see the Have Heart reunion this Summer at Sound & Fury.

Brownstone Spring/Summer 2019 interview girl guy cactus

What are some of the challenges of building a brand in 2019?

Waverly: The social media aspects of it. The fact that fast fashion is crazy now. Knowing what you’re trying to say because there are so many outside factors so much noise and you have to find what you’re trying to say. There’s also making sure that your audience isn’t missed in the barrage of “noise” online every day and then battling with “If I don’t post am I doing anything?” OCD is a gift and a curse.

Warner: It’s an interesting situation and navigating that is a challenge. Being able to identify what it is you’re trying to say and to not fall into being like other brands or over-sharing as I call it are things we think about. We don’t want to be part of this movement of constant content with no reason. I think with our brand you need to touch it, you need to feel the fabric, you need to hold the jacket, you know? And that’s hard to do over the internet.

Also making a higher-end brand entails a higher degree of quality control, fabric sourcing, etc. You really need the right people working with you to deliver that. And of course, the best people cost more. With us, just putting yourself out there is a challenge, combine that with social media and something you actually feel passionate about… well yea, you can get a little anxious.

Brownstone Spring/Summer 2019 interview

What part of fashion bums you out?

Waverly: Everything we just said! We try and not focus on the negative but yeah, fast fashion and the costs of doing this independently. But we also love the fact that we’ve got the ability to put so much thought and craft into our pieces and we love the fact that we have that creative freedom.

Warner: Nobody will ever tell us who, where, or what we can’t reference or make. That’s priceless. Of course, you want the reach and resources of the brand’s you sit next too, but time takes its time.

Brownstone Spring/Summer 2019 interview

April 6, 2019

What happens to StockX & GOAT if Nike embraces counterfeit technology?

Nike RFID StockX GOAT Authentication
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StockX and GOAT are the two leading sneaker reselling platforms focused on providing a simple and secure selling process. Beyond matching buyers and sellers, sneaker platforms have taken on the responsibility of authenticating sneakers. But what if sneaker brands implement measures to authenticate sneakers straight from the factory floor? adidas and Nike are both looking into RFIDs to prevent counterfeiting.

What are RFIDs?

RFIDs (Radio-frequency identification) have been a point of discussion around supply chain management for the last 20 years. It’s been cost-prohibitive to implement at scale but as pricing decreases it’s a viable option. RFIDs work through electromagnetic fields and allow readers to capture electronically-stored data associated with tags. The image above is an example of a new RFID tag from Nike that aims to verify authenticity and reduce counterfeiting.

How would this work with sneakers?

  • Shoes would come attached with an RFID tag that contains a unique ID
  • Tags would be traceable and the unique ID would be virtually impossible to spoof
  • In addition, its believed that copying  RFID tags would be cost prohibitive
  • Here’s a presentation from 2014 that shows a potential application, as you can see the process isn’t exactly new

Should marketplaces be worried?

Marketplaces like GOAT and StockX have  heavily invested in authentication systems and processes. Naturally, for buyers and sellers, this comes at a cost to GOAT and StockX; the burden of proof is neither on the seller nor on the buyer. For GOAT users, the seller fee ranges from 9.5% + seller fee compred to StockX users where fees are 14.5% base + 3% payment processing. Naturally, these costs are often passed onto consumers. Marketplaces like  GOAT and StockX may be thinking ahead, but what they bring is more than just authentication. These platforms enable convenience and scale while reducing fragmentation. There’s still a lack of foresight into the speed of authentication and whether the investments from GOAT into machine-learning have paid off. But unless a cheaper, more convenient marketplace arises that guarantees authenticity across multiple brands, GOAT and StockX still have control.

Does it even matter?

Going to these highly-trafficked platforms provides you a quick overview of availability. But another point of interest, these platforms aren’t solely reliant on the hype. There’s a need and interest to match buyers and sellers of more generic long-tail offerings. And having said that, these offerings are comparitively of less interest for bootleggers.

If RFIDs go mainstream, can new opportunities arise?

Could we see the emergence of marketplaces that have fewer fees? Imagine a marketplace that features modern, tagged shoes. There may still need a middleman to accept payments and release shoes, but the authentication process would be removed. Likewise, can brands create their own secondary-market channels? Would Nike allow a marketplace section on SNKRS or would they prefer to not have that liability?

Let’s recap all the questions looming

  • Will RFID copying truly be cost-prohibitive?
  • Will this be a function only available for new, unworn, tagged sneakers (or will people wear it like the New Era hologram sticker)?
  • Does the role of the middleman change (less authentication, more escrow)
  • Or will peer-to-peer opportunities reemerge (like the good ol’ days)?

 

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