June 13, 2019

Do we really need any more "sustainable" fashion brands?

As the discussion around the climate crisis continues to gain attention and with it, serious consideration on how to actually solve it, multiple industries will have to face the question of whether more consumerism is the answer.

Movers in the space

  • Maxine Bédat: Founded the widely anticipated ethical fashion brand Zady before ending it to launch the New Standard Institute, a non-profit data hub that supports research and publishes findings on best practices to “right misinformation wrongs” in the ethical fashion space.
  • Orsola de Castro: started her own upcycle label before co-founding ethical fashion advocacy group Fashion Revolution.
  • Céline Semaan: used to ethically manufacture accessories and garments before starting Study Hall, a UN-backed series of sustainability-centric conferences.
  • Rachel Kibbe: ran a multi-brand ethical fashion e-tailer before turning her company Helpsy into the largest used clothing collector in the Northeast.
  • Shannon Lohr: Founded Factory45, an ethical brand accelerator program.

Of all the above interviewed, not a single one answered that the key to advancing the sustainable fashion movement was more brands, which suggests an uncomfortable cultural truth we will have to face: more is still more.

Vicious cycles

Current culture reveres if not deifies entrepreneurship to the point that it is now a social marker to be a founder of something, including brands that innovate to produce something new. Even within entrepreneur culture, a business is framed as the ultimate means of “doing good,” which attracts even more people to the space to fulfill that ideal.

And that space is already saturated and still dominated by big companies. Sustainability conference Copenhagen Fashion Summit is partly funded by H&M, Nike, Kering, and Target, showing that top players are clinging to a leading role in driving sustainability—even if they’re ill-equipped to do so as brands. This could be compared to the coal industry’s fight to remain in business and relevant to the clean energy movement even though its ideals are incompatible with the goals.

“Humanitarianism and entrepreneurship are actually distinct things.”

In his book Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, reporter Anand Giridharadas writes: “Often, when people set out to do the thing they are already doing and love to do … and they promise grand civilizational benefits as a spillover effect, the solution is oriented around the solver’s needs more than the world’s — the win-wins, purporting to be about others, are really about you.”

The unfortunate reality we are in now is one where we’re actually forced to evaluate and weigh our tangible individual freedom against an abstract greater good far off elsewhere in the world and in the future. Concerns about the environment have lead to people giving up plastic straws, later meat and eventually fossil fuels. These are all in line with how much of our comforts we are willing to give up for the planet.

But comforts are not life purposes, and things are getting to the point where we might have to consider changing those too. With overpopulation a concern, people are considering not having children, not only a traditionally major part of our life cycles but also a source of meaning in a conflicted world. This is not meant to equate having children with founding a fashion label, but because both are sources of meanings and well within the vast realm of possibilities we enjoy in the first world, should we change our life goals to suit the planet or exercise our freedom to stay the course—accomplish what we want, how we want it and when we want it?

June 6, 2019

Yasunori Fujikawa discusses ONFAdd's approach to product design for an evolving world

At first glance, ONFadd appears as a product brand focused on technical function. The predominately black tones give off a utilitarian angle. But beneath the surface is a much larger play at hand.

ONFAdd is part of a larger agency, known as NEWPEACE, which at its core tackles cultural pillars in flux including politics, gender, travel, and more. Each product exists as a potential solution to a challenge identified by the ONFAdd team including storage, clothing, and accessory lines. We connected with ONFAdd’s Yasunori Fujikawa for insight into the brand, its structure and how they view their contribution to the changing world and traveling lifestyle many are adopting.

See ONFAdd’s whole product line over at their site.

How did the idea for ONFAdd begin?

The catalyst was one of our team members who hates carrying bags around took it on himself to prototype a “bag that can only hold a MacBook Air.”

It was conceptualized as “hands-free, light-weight,” but this was also reinforced with elements of traditional Japanese considerations towards mobility, which helped us to realize our first collection “Inspired by Japanese culture.”

Since then, we’ve taken the theme of “mobility” beyond just Japan. It wasn’t meant as some lofty abstract concept, but rather starting from your immediate needs and making your own product to fit those needs.

What are your thoughts on the future of work and travel?

Aside from technological progress (especially mobile cloud-based AI), there’s going to be a few important changes to the context of work headed our way:

  • Diminished need for a “dedicated workspace”
  • Diminished need for people who can only judge in a “yes/no” logical framework
  • Greater need for people who can work creatively within different paradigms

Travel will be a key means of achieving that. People come up with new things by going to different places, walking through them and intermingling with communities and knowledge that’s accumulated through history. I think this is how we go about “making the world a better place” in that work starts to resemble travel for leisure and travel for leisure starts to resemble work. Eventually, the two will merge to the point they’re like any other “human activity.”

Can you tell me a bit about the sister agency? How does ONFAdd interact with that?

ONFAdd is a division of a company called NEWPEACE and its mission is to update an outdated society.

NEWPEACE is a made up of a group of small teams tasked with accomplishing that through a different theme including love, gender, politics, ideology, housing, food, education, sports, etc. Within the scope of these themes, team members conduct both client work and their own businesses.

ONFAdd is actually positioned as a company within a team whose theme is “dwelling.” One of the conditions for each theme, essentially each team, is that there has to be more than one business in it. For people trying to update the world, I think it’s important both internally and externally to commit to risk-taking using your own company. Externally it shows to a client that you’re responsible and prepared, while internally, you learn more and accumulate more knowledge about the client you can share, which makes things more efficient.

How do you come up with products? What is your process?

A vision of the world you want to create, a certain function, material, social trend, traditions from around the world and things like that can all be starting points. Oftentimes, it starts with whatever inspirations the members in charge of product design have, but sometimes it stems from something an external partner brings up. Beyond that, the general product development workflow stays basically the same: you source materials, make the first prototype, and then balance function, meaning, and economics through three rounds of prototyping.

How many of your solutions are based on traditional problems (i.e. traveling or carrying heavy items vs. digital problems)?

Our team members all have a strong interest in solving “universal” problems. Because we’re also a product-based brand, for the time being, most of our approaches are naturally geared toward realizing physical goals. So building on those two points, we’ll be looking to solve a lot of traditional problems regardless of if that problem is an old one with a long history. Rain Socks, which emerged with yesterday’s rare sneaker boom comes to mind, That concept ended up solving the fairly traditional problem of shoes getting wet in the rain, but the catalyst of the idea is quite modern.

Do you think there’s a Japanese approach to how ONFAdd solves problems? What is that process like?

We think of things subtractively. When you have a lot of problems you want to solve at the same time, you don’t achieve that by increasing the number of functions, but instead keeping its physical nature and shape as abstract and simple as possible so it can be used in more ways. That would be the most Japanese approach, I think. During product development, the design gets simpler and simpler and we rarely add features after the first sample.

What has been the most interesting product you’ve designed so far?

We emphasize the following factors with our items:

  • Hackable: It can be used to “hack” existing systems in a way that makes it more convenient for you as opposed to the original intended usage.
  • Adaptable: It’s open to change and flexibly adapts to us and our environments and situations without assuming a single correct answer.
  • Scaled Back: It distances itself from the value system of “more is more and bigger is better” and focuses on capturing the richness you find at the edge of one’s imagination.

Of the items that fit the above that many of our members like, it would probably be the Rain Socks. What started as conveniently-sized foot covers for chemical plants that also increased the durability of the soles effectively became an essential item for sneakerheads. I would say that makes it a perfect case that fulfills those requirements. At the very least, it’s an interesting product even if you just look at the sales and market response.

Do you think about some product’s lifelines? For example, the rain socks only last for 10 km which some have said isn’t very sustainable.

The team definitely recognizes that sustainability is a premise that can’t be ignored. I think brands that don’t care about that now will eventually be seen as uncool from an ethics standpoint. Most of our items are about as robust as other brands, so I don’t think the life cycle is necessarily short. However, for products that touch the ground and where the primary goal is to keep shoes clean, it’s hard to match the durability of other items, but we’d definitely like to keep improving in terms of durability and adopting environmentally friendly materials.

What types of products do you want to explore in the future?

We’re currently developing a line of super basic bags catered to a lifestyle in motion that isn’t fixed in place. The plan is to make this line the go-to for the pioneers of the segment. We hope to create the durability and timelessness that will keep it at the forefront of culture even 100 years from now, much like Louis Vuitton was when travel for leisure evolved to become part of our culture.

What’s been the most challenging part about ONFAdd?

I would say creating a culture and a brand that can carry that culture far enough to become a world-view. While I’m satisfied with the system we created and all the cool things we were able to create from it in such a short period, I feel that unless we don’t continue to strengthen the link between our product development philosophy and the target market, it’ll be hard to create the big shift in society we want. As we look to become the first choice of the people pushing society forward and create a new future with them, we need to become the brand that can communicate what that’s going to look like.

Do you think that ONFAdd only creates solutions for bigger problems in society like capitalism, unaffordable homes, or a lack of permanent jobs?

Strictly speaking, it’s not that we’re not concerned with how “big” the problem is so much as we’re a lot more interested in how great the benefit to society will be if we come up with solutions.

April 29, 2019

Artefact team-up with Material for the Arts to release a classic 1969-inspired sneaker

Artefact out of New York City looks to iconic footwear design as the foundation of their brand. Their latest release, the N°11 connects with the perfect partner in Material for the Arts to celebrate accessibility in art.

The MFTA resides within the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and since the ’70s has provided reusable art supplies and resources to public schools and non-profits alike. The art-driven angle results in a sneaker release inspired by a classic tennis silhouette from 1969. The design features navy and powder blue acrylic paint drips across a clean white Nappa leather upper and white rubber sole.

To mark the partnership, a portion of sales will be donated to Material for the Arts. The N°11 is available now through artefact.nyc with a retail price of USD 195.

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. Follow No Diploma on Instagram for more updates.

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.

Credits
Creative Direction: The Dean – @benoit.brule
Photography: Aldo Ramirez – @1994_rt
Stylist: Alissa Calderone – @alissacalderone
Videographer: Nik Nitro – @Yes_loitering
Video Editor: Nick Berry – @hkgovernment
Music By: Phay – @Phayweather

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

digital-clothing-Carlings-3D-model-

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.

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