clothing posts

Curating Consumption December 12th, 2012

Since Johnny Holland has said farewell, we’ll be continuing this series here on All This ChittahChattah. Here’s some stories and observations that Beth and Steve have assembled over the past few weeks.




Tim Hortons beverage pricing offers a large number of sizes with a tiny, silly price difference. No doubt there are graphs that prove this is a good pricing strategy, if upselling by 11 cents turns out to have any impact on the bottom line. As a shopper, I find it mind-boggling; the friction for supersizing is almost zero and now I have to actually think about how much I want to drink. The Tims man showed me the largest size and it was so obviously too much (more horse trough than hot choc), so I saved myself a few pennies and went down a size or two. /SP



Pets-as-people is certainly nothing new; a trend that has continued to grow in terms of marketplace dollars, emotional engagement a product selection. Still, it’s astonishing to look at a wall of clothing that looks like t-shirts in a range of kids’ sizes and styles, and to realize that actually you are looking at a selection of “Pet Gear.” /SP

As I tried to write the contents of this bag (pumpkin squash curry coconut) onto the label I quickly found myself ranting about the poor design: How can you fit anything on this tiny label (e.g., “pump sq cur coc”)? Then my young designer self surfaced and I realized that, “No, in fact this is perfectly designed.” The available writing space is exactly aligned to the end of the copy above, the height is exactly the height of the Ziploc brand. Everything was in harmony! I can’t tell you how many times while in design school that I designed something most beautiful yet most unusable. Thankfully a super brilliant creative director showed me the way. Functional can be beautiful. If you make medicine bottles clearer or safety messages intriguing enough to read then you’ve done something as a designer. What can seem like the most banal and uninteresting design project is a challenge not many can rise to. Anyone can design for cool brands like Nike, Coke and Pepsi. But can you make Ziploc bag labels a thing of beauty? Or at the very least, give me some more room to write! /BT



“Members only?” Here’s how I imagine that signage came about
Store manager: Why do you think we’re not getting any business?
Clerk: Maybe people don’t know we’re open?
Store manager: But we’ve been open for weeks!
Clerk: But we don’t have any kind of sign or anything telling people we’re open,
Store manager: But, it’s a store…I mean…the door is open…lights are on…we’re in here!
Clerk: Yeah, but it’s kind of not official until you have one of those big signs up…
Store manager: Fine!
[later that day]
Customer: Finally! Been waiting for you to open so I can see how much membership costs. /BT

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Curating Consumption: Scenes from the frontlines January 5th, 2012

I’ve been collecting evidence of my own experiences as a consumer and offer some here as evidence of missed opportunities to transform messy interactions into meaningful moments.

 

Hasboro is now using SmartLink Technology to make electronic versions of Scrabble, and a few other traditionally analog board games like Upwords and Boggle. I initially thought this was a clever leap until I realized that the whole game is now limited to 5-letter words. So much for smart technology. This game makes us even dumber. And now back to Words with Friends.

 

On the left is a tea bag from Traditional Medicinals. On the right is a tea bag from Yogi Tea. Herein lies a gem of an opportunity for a company to surprise and delight me; to nourish my mind and soul as well as my body. I collect  those little mantras on the right. They feel like fortune cookies for my kharma. I share them with friends on Twitter and Facebook. Or, you know, you could always use that tiny space to try and get me to visit your website. If anything, get me to visit the website for the tea on the right!

 

The menu at Chipotle is now designed to help you count calories as you customize your order. Admittedly, math gives me a headache, so maybe it’s just me. I seriously challenge anyone to create an order and utilize this chart to figure out how many calories it actually has. Ironically, Chipotle introduces the nutritional information on its website with this statement: When you’re trying to eat right, sometimes it feels like you need an advanced math degree to keep up with all the numbers. Indeed! This synthetic effort to facilitate calorie counting makes me like Chipotle as little as I like the idea of calorie counting. Add this to their recent ambush attack on my emotions at the¬† movie theater and now I am scrambling to find recipes for vegetarian tacos that my son will eat.

 

Way to go global, H&M. Apparently the company must put FIVE tags on a sweater to provide consumers with washing instructions in every language on the planet. This is beyond backwards. Jackie Chan and Michael Jordan were pimping tagless at the Super Bowl 8 years ago! Catch up!

 

Thanks to a Facebook friend (in Germany!) I came across this image of a possible alternative. It’s down to a single tag, one fairly common language, and some icons. Alternatively, H&M, you may wish to consider a combination of icons and “lav en varma akvo” (Esperanto for “Wash in hot water”). Printed on the garment, of course.

 

I came across this sign during a recent hike through the Redwood trees in Muir Woods.  Two enthusiastic (and quiet) thumbs up to these instructions for how to consume nature. I hear you.

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ChittahChattah Quickies April 11th, 2011
  • [from wstarosta] Status displays: I’ve got you labelled [The Economist] – [Evolutionary biology helps to explain why luxury branded objects, even counterfeit ones, are so appealing.] DESIGNERS of fancy apparel would like their customers to believe that wearing their creations lends an air of wealth, sophistication and high status. And it does—but not, perhaps, for the reason those designers might like to believe, namely their inherent creative genius. A new piece of research confirms what many, not least in the marketing departments of fashion houses, will long have suspected: that it is not the design itself that counts, but the label.
  • [from steve_portigal] The Future of Books. [McSweeney’s Internet Tendency] – [As usual, McSweeney's does razor-sharp mockery, but you could read this as straight-ahead prediction and it would sadly almost pass for believable] 2050: Analog Reading Will Be Digitally Simulated. As people spend more and more of time immersed in massively multi-player role-playing games, they will begin to crave some downtime. Virtual simulation worlds will start to include hideaway "libraries" you can lock yourself into. There you'll be able to climb into a virtual bath and lovingly turn the pages of a pixilated representation of one of those dog-eared tomes—reliant on old-school linear narrative— that by this time will have been made illegal in the real world. Perfectly reproduced will be the sensation of turning the pages, the crack of the spine, and even the occasional paper cut.
  • [from steve_portigal] When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink? [Smithsonian Magazine] – [Fascinating cultural history] The march toward gender-specific clothes was neither linear nor rapid. Pink and blue arrived, along with other pastels, as colors for babies in the mid-19th century, yet the two colors were not promoted as gender signifiers until just before WW I—and even then, it took time for popular culture to sort things out. In 1927, Time magazine printed a chart showing sex-appropriate colors for girls and boys according to leading U.S. stores. In Boston, Filene’s told parents to dress boys in pink. Today’s color dictate wasn’t established until the 1940s, as a result of Americans’ preferences as interpreted by manufacturers and retailers. “It could have gone the other way,” Paoletti says..Nowadays people just have to know the sex of a baby or young child at first glance, says Jo B. Paoletti, a historian & author of Pink and Blue: Telling the Girls From the Boys in America. Thus we see a pink headband encircling the bald head of an infant girl. [Via @boingboing]
  • [from steve_portigal] In Sweden’s frigid north, auto testing is hot [SFGate] – [Obvious car companies do a ton of lab and simulation testing, but they are also big advocates of real world testing] Arjeplog, a region in northern Sweden is is important to car makers eager to optimize their vehicles for driving in extreme weather, This winter, temperatures have hovered around -4 F, making ice on the lakes consistently thick enough for driving. About 180 engineers convened at the test center at one point this season to work on making cars more fuel-efficient in cold weather and to optimize their anti-spin function. While Arjeplog is the world's largest winter testing area, rival locations include Ivalo, Finland; West Yellowstone, Mont.; Carson City, Nev.; and Millbrook, England. Francisco Carvalho, an analyst at IHS Automotive, says such tracks provide automakers with "the ultimate test for the little things they can't detect or predict in a lab." Almost 9,000 car industry officials visit Arjeplog each winter, with about 2,800 engineers working on any given day.
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ChittahChattah Quickies July 27th, 2010
  • [from steve_portigal] How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Flow [Nieman Storyboard] – [Via @kottke. While many decry the loss of personal connection that our devices lead to; here's a theory that says the opposite, that it creates feelings of greater connectness] I was traveling with friends, and one of them took a call. Suddenly, instead of feeling less connected to the people I was with, I felt more connected, both to them and to their friends on the other end of the line (whom I did not know). My perspective had shifted from seeing the call as an interruption to seeing it as an expansion. And I realized that the story I had been telling myself about who I was had widened to include additional narratives, some not “mine,” but which could be felt, at least potentially and in part, personally. A small piece of the global had become, for the moment, local. And once that has happened, it can happen again. The end of the world as we know it? No — it’s the end of the world as I know it, the end of the world as YOU know it — but the beginning of the world as WE know it.
  • [from steve_portigal] The Acceleration of Addictiveness [Paul Graham] – [Via @waxpancake. He describes how slowing down by taking hikes gives him a mental and creative freedom that his addictions have rendered otherwise inaccessible] Most if not all the things we describe as addictive are. And the scary thing is, the process that created them is accelerating. We wouldn't want to stop it. It's the same process that cures diseases: technological progress. Technological progress means making things do more of what we want. When the thing we want is something we want to want, we consider technological progress good. If some new technique makes solar cells x% more efficient, that seems strictly better. When progress concentrates something we don't want to want—when it transforms opium into heroin—it seems bad. But it's the same process at work. No one doubts this process is accelerating, which means increasing numbers of things we like will be transformed into things we like too much.
  • [from steve_portigal] Exactitudes® – [Thanks @MicheleMarut! Pattern-matching is a fabulous way to develop observational skills] Rotterdam-based photographer Ari Versluis and profiler Ellie Uyttenbroek have worked together since October 1994. Inspired by a shared interest in the striking dress codes of various social groups, they have systematically documented numerous identities over the last 14 years. They call their series Exactitudes: a contraction of exact and attitude. By registering their subjects in an identical framework, with similar poses and a strictly observed dress code, Versluis and Uyttenbroek provide an almost scientific, anthropological record of people’s attempts to distinguish themselves from others by assuming a group identity. The apparent contradiction between individuality and uniformity is, however, taken to such extremes in their arresting objective-looking photographic viewpoint and stylistic analysis that the artistic aspect clearly dominates the purely documentary element.
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ChittahChattah Quickies July 22nd, 2010
  • [from Dan_Soltzberg] Design by Use and object repurposing [Pasta&Vinegar] – [Nicolas Nova's written a nicely condensed post on Uta Brandes, Sonja Stich and Miriam Wender's book Design by Use: The Everyday Metamorphosis of Things. (Object re-use and re-purposing is a subject dear to our own hearts – see http://www.portigal.com/blog/new-uses-for-old-tools/ and http://www.portigal.com/blog/from-pain-points-to-opportunity-areas/ ) ] Among other sources, Nova quotes Metropolis: "The British sculptor Richard Wentworth once said, I find cigarette packets folded up under table legs more monumental than a Henry Moore. Five reasons. Firstly, the scale. Secondly, the fingertip manipulation. Thirdly, modesty of both gesture and material. Fourth, its absurdity and fifth, the fact that it works.”
  • [from steve_portigal] Shoppers on a ‘Diet’ Tame the Urge to Buy [NYTimes.com] – [Thanks to @gretared] This self-imposed exercise in frugality was prompted by a Web challenge called Six Items or Less (sixitemsorless.com). The premise was to go an entire month wearing only six items already found in your closet (not counting shoes, underwear or accessories). Nearly 100 people around the country, and in faraway places like Dubai and Bangalore were also taking part in the regimen, with motives including a way to trim back on spending, an outright rejection of fashion, and a concern that the mass production and global transportation of increasingly cheap clothing was damaging the environment. An even stricter program, the Great American Apparel Diet, has attracted pledges by more than 150 women and two men to abstain from buying for an entire year. (Again, undies don’t count.) Though their numbers may be small, and their diets extreme, these self-deniers of fashion are representative, in perhaps a notable way, of a broader reckoning of consumers’ spending habits.
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ChittahChattah Quickies May 16th, 2010
  • Texting in Meetings – It Means ‘I Don’t Care’ [NYTimes.com] – For more than a decade, my colleagues and I have gathered data on incivility from more than 9,000 managers and workers across the United States, and we’re continuing this work internationally. We have learned a great deal about the problem’s causes and consequences. I define incivility as behavior, seemingly inconsequential to the doer, that others perceive as inconsiderate. Electronic devices lead to more incivility because of their powerful ability to claim our attention — no matter where we are or what we’re doing. No one likes to be snubbed, of course, but the offense can take on a new edge when the winner is a machine.
  • Putting Customers in Charge of Designing Shirts [NYTimes.com] – “The value proposition of customization at retail prices was a cornerstone of our company from the very start,” Mr. Bi tells me by phone from Shanghai, where Blank Label shirts are sewn to customers’ specifications and delivered anywhere in the world in about four weeks. But Blank Label, his Web start-up based in Boston, offers something else that off-the-rack doesn’t: “the emotional value proposition: how expressive something is.” “People really like a Blank Label shirt because they can say, ‘I had a part in creating this.’ ”
  • Google Restricts Ads for ‘Cougar’ Sites [NYTimes.com] – Last week, CougarLife.com, which was paying Google $100,000 a month to manage its advertising, was notified by the company that its ads would no longer be accepted. When notified by Google of the decision, CougarLife proposed substituting a different ad for the ones that were running, picturing older women and younger men together. Cougarlife said it would use an image of the company’s president, Claudia Opdenkelder, 39, without a man in the picture (she lives with her 25-year-old boyfriend). But the advertising department was told in an e-mail message from its Google representative that “the policy is focused particularly around the concept of ‘cougar dating’ as a whole,” and asked if the company would be open to changing “the ‘cougar’ theme/language specifically (including the domain if necessary).” CougarLife forwarded the e-mail messages to The New York Times. Google would not comment on the messages but did confirm that they were consistent with the new policy on cougar sites.
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Forever in authentic blue jeans February 19th, 2010

Intersting recent ad for Lucky Jeans

Two details of the ad:

I am impressed how the overall aesthetic of the ad just oozes authenticity. There’s real craft and attention to detail, leading to a strong sense of quality. But all these details they are calling out are examples of manufactured fakery: making new jeans look like worn jeans. They’ve taken inauthenticity to such a level of quality that it becomes authentic in its own way!

For more on this theme, see my recent interactions column with Stokes Jones, On Authenticity

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ChittahChattah Quickies January 21st, 2010
  • Lost Garden: Ribbon Hero turns learning Office into a game – If an activity can be learned; If the player’s performance can be measured; If the player can be rewarded or punished in a timely fashion, then any activity that meets these criteria can be turned into a game. Not only can you make a game out of the activity, but you can turn tasks traditionally seen as a rote or frustrating into compelling experiences that users find delightful.
  • With Rival E-Book Readers, It’s Amazon vs. Apple – [NYTimes.com] – Ian Freed, vice president for the Kindle at Amazon, said he expected developers would devise a wide range of programs, including utilities like calculators, stock tickers and casual video games. He also predicts publishers will begin selling a new breed of e-books, like searchable travel books and restaurant guides that can be tailored to the Kindle owner’s location; textbooks with interactive quizzes; and novels that combine text and audio. “We knew from the earliest days of the Kindle that invention was not all going to take place within the walls of Amazon,” Mr. Freed said. “We wanted to open this up to a wide range of creative people, from developers to publishers to authors, to build whatever they like.”
  • Pushing Military Styles to a New Level of Ferocity [NYTimes.com] – A stepped-up demand for vests, blazers and hoodies tough enough to deflect a .22-caliber blast but sleek enough for a night of clubbing suggests that body armor is not just for the security-conscious. Fake or real, it exerts a pull on those inclined to flaunt it as a flinty fashion statement. “The trend to protective gear is pretty strong right now,” said Richard Geist, the founder of Uncle Sam’s Army Navy Outfitters in downtown Manhattan. “It’s big with rappers, alternative types and even some women.” Uncle Sam’s sells protective gear to the military. But most of its clients are civilians who snap up authentic bulletproof vests for as much as $1,000 or trade down to look-alike versions stripped of their armored lining ($24).
  • ComScore Calls Shenanigans on Gartner’s 99.4% App Store Figure [Maximum PC] – Gartner says 99.4% of app sales in 2009 were from Apple. ComScore disputes the figures but Gartner stands by its determination.
  • Amazon launching Kindle Development Kit so third parties can develop apps – Active content will be available to customers in the Kindle Store later this year. Remember that unlike smart phones, the Kindle user does not pay a monthly wireless fee or enter into an annual wireless contract. Kindle active content must be priced to cover the costs of downloads and on-going usage. Voice over IP functionality, advertising, offensive materials, collection of customer information without express customer knowledge and consent, or usage of the Amazon or Kindle brand in any way are not allowed. In addition, active content must meet all Amazon technical requirements, not be a generic reader, and not contain malicious code.
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This Year’s Virtual Model October 26th, 2009

Not new, but new to me: Lands’ End Virtual Model, allowing people to shop online for clothes and see what the clothes would look like on a person. The idea is that the person is you, the shopper, but there’s a fundamental disconnect between projection onto a mannequin (digital, even) and projection into a mirror. The person in the mirror is us. It doesn’t approximate us, it looks exactly like us and it naturally moves in response to our every movement. The virtual model is clumsy in comparison.

I think the whole notion of seeing the clothes in context is (including in combination) is brilliant, but I think the conceit (and it really is just that) of presenting this us a projection of us is completely wrong. Looking in the mirror is the gold standard and this breaks that badly. There’s a lot of customization (just like an avatar builder) of height, weight, body type, skin tone, hair style, etc.

So I started with
model1

Umm, hello, body image norms?

and eventually customized him/me/it to end up with
model2

Umm, is it weird to post this? It’s virtual, but the concept suggests this approximates what I look like in my underpants. I can tell you not to worry, it really doesn’t, but the idea seems a bit transgressive, because of the level of accuracy we expect from representations. A photograph isn’t me, but carries a certain truth. Also don’t worry, no actual underpants pictures of me are coming up in this post either.

As for the virtual me, I think we’ll feel better if he/me has some clothes on!

model3

Frankly, I think this Simpsons avatar is more true version of me, even though it abandons reality, it also offers a kernel of truth and overall feels more accurate.
simpsons

Update: maybe the avatar isn’t meant to be a model, but instead an effective salesperson?

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ChittahChattah Quickies June 14th, 2009
  • American Made Utility Kilts for Everyday Wear – Their FAQ is clever/amusing, too.
    It is often suggested that Utilikilts* are not “real kilts.” This is 100% TRUE! “Real Kilts” are defined as: “A knee-length skirt with deep pleats, usually of a tartan wool, worn as part of the dress for men in the Scottish Highlands.” Utilikilts*, on the other hand, are manskirts (as are Scottish traditional kilts, and, for that matter, any M.U.G (Men’s Unbifurcated Garment). That being said, Utilikilts* are not Real Kilts, as in “I don’t need a Utilikilt*, I have a real kilt at home” And so the conversation begins; “Then why aren’t you wearing your real kilt on a gorgeous day like today?”
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ChittahChattah Quickies April 28th, 2009
  • What is the deal with Jughead's hat? – This is something the Internet is truly great at: as an archive for the exploration and explanation of the obscure aspects of the familiar. What will future anthropologists make of the Internet of our generation?
  • Karachi, Pakistan manufacturing firm produces corsets and fetish wear (for export) – The brothers said Pakistan’s “stone-age production” worked to their advantage. The country, they said, lacks visionary product development. “Everyone’s still making the same products,” Adnan said.

    Then, they discovered a kind of straitjacket online. At first, they thought it was used for psychiatric patients, but it quickly led them to learn about the lucrative fetish industry.

    Today, they sell their products to online and brick-and-mortar shops, and to individuals via eBay. Their market research, they said, showed that 70 percent of their customers were middle- to upper-class Americans, and a majority of them Democrats. The Netherlands and Germany account for the bulk of their European sales.

    “We really believe that if you are persistent and hard working, there is an opportunity, in any harsh environment, even in an economically depressed environment like Pakistan,” Rizwan said.

  • Average frustrated chump – for what's a subculture without its jargon? – Often abbreviated "AFC," is seduction community jargon for a heterosexual male who is unsuccessful at finding sexual or romantic relationships with women] This person seeks attraction and longingly desires intimacy, but only finds cordial friendship and platonic love with women. The term AFC is pejorative, and is attributed to NLP teacher Ross Jeffries.
  • Seduction? Yeah we've got a group for that – The "seduction community" refers to a loose-knit subculture of men who strive for better sexual and romantic success with women through self-improvement and a greater understanding of social psychology. It exists largely through Internet forums and groups, as well as over a hundred local clubs, called "lairs" Supporters refer to the subculture simply as 'the community" and often call themselves "pickup artists." Origins date back to Eric Weber's 1970 book How to Pick Up Girls.
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ChittahChattah Quickies April 9th, 2009
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Clothes Make The Woman June 2nd, 2008

In one part of the world, Muslim hardliners in Kuwait’s parliament

walked out of the body’s inaugural meeting on Sunday to protest two female Cabinet ministers who were not wearing headscarves.

While here in the US, Dunkin’ Donuts yanks Rachael Ray ad

in which the domestic diva wears a scarf that looks like a keffiyeh, a traditional headdress worn by Arab men.

Context is everything, isn’t it? Women can piss people off if they don’t use the necessary clothing to display their membership in a group, or if they improperly use clothing that might inadvertently suggest membership in another group.

Careful, ladies. The “what to wear” dilemma just got much heavier!

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Young Americans November 26th, 2007

The other day I was looking for a blender and happened across the “Bowie Collection” at Target.

bowie_target1.jpg

It’s interesting to see how designer Keenan Duffty has synthesized his interpretation of Bowie’s look-described on the Target page as “edgy and sophisticated”-into a few broad strokes. The hat, the vest, the sashed coat.

Here’s David talking with Dick Cavett in 1974 about a variety of topics, including his clothing. During the interview, Cavett asks Bowie whether he can picture himself at 60. In a manner of speaking, Bowie has let Target and Duffty do the picturing for him. Gee my life’s a funny thing.

bowie_youtube1.jpg

watch video

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Imelda Marcos – brand name for new fashion line November 6th, 2006

storymarcosshoes.jpg
Parody just seems harder when real life is so ridiculous.

The 77-year-old widow of deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos is still viewed as an icon of class and grace as well as a mindless shoe maven who amassed thousands of pairs of pumps and stilettos while her nation languished in poverty.

But there is a lesser-known side of the flamboyant fashion plate: as a high-couture scavenger who spent nights fashioning outfits with a glue gun and scissors, even stripping the copper wire from telephone lines to get just the right look.

The Marcoses are now poised to capitalize on that fashion-meets-function image. Next month, Imee Marcos, the daughter of Ferdinand and Imelda, and her two sons will introduce the Imelda Collection: a funky, streetwise line of jewelry, clothing and shoes. They hope the fashion line will attract a younger generation not yet born when Imelda Marcos was on the world stage.

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