Work/life update

I’ve been a bit quiet around blog-land of late due to general busy-ness in life and work (including a presentation I did for the Investor Weekly Branding conference last week.)

Consulting biz: Zumio

Preparations for my consulting biz are going well – the name is Zumio, and I’ve started a blog (of course!) covering work related stuff – esp. posts on social media and networking, with a bit of emphasis on non-profit/social change.

I was waiting until I’d created the site design etc. that reflects the Zumio visual ID etc., but it might be a couple of weeks before that’s done, so worth making mention of it now…

I’ve got a few bookings already post my departure from working as an employee at Digital Eskimo. (Happily I’ll be continuing working with the eskimos as a freelancer on some projects into the future.)

Menswear label: Soko Loko

The menswear label has a “working title”: Soko Loko – I call it “working title” because I’m still working on sourcing a designer and developing the business plan, so I’m not 100% sure the name will stick.

I’ve been busy attending another series of courses at Sydney Community College covering a lot of the practicalities of starting your own label in NSW. Susan Goodwin, who designs and runs street-wear label Rocket Fuel, as well as freelancing for some more well known labels, is running the courses. She’s been an invaluable source of hard-won information about the industry, how it ticks, and how we can make our own label succeed. (Further courses are planned in May – keep an eye on the college’s site if you’re interested.)

Over the next month or two I should have a bit more to talk about in that regard (as much of my time has been focused on establishing the consulting gigs). Suffice to say that so far things have been progressing well.

Fuzu

My band Fuzu have been on a little bit of a self-imposed hiatus as we search for a keyboardist (we’d been jamming with someone who’s unfortunately moving to Melbourne) and finalise the artwork. Toby has come up with some promising photos that may become the cover art, so hopefully it won’t be too much longer…

In related news, we’re no longer the only Fuzu in town – seems a certain gorilla at Toronga Zoo liked the name, which apparently means “to graduate”.

Strange, but true…

A brief history

This post is a bit of background about the reason I’m embarking on the ethical clothing project again. It’s far from definitive, but I hope it sets the scene for posts to come.

A couple of years ago I had a crazy idea of starting what I called a “fair trade fashion label”. The basic idea was simple: producing fashionable clothing using environmentally friendly materials ensuring that manufacturing was carried out ethically – “from seed to sale” was a bit of a tag line. After initially dubbing the group FWV – “Fashion Without Victims” – eventually we settled on “Huméco”, a made up word reflecting the environmental and social values we were aiming to uphold.

At the time I mentioned the idea to a few friends and we started researching the idea – we were talking to a designer, researching fabrics, looking into the No Sweatshop label. I left the business I was working for to pursue the venture but then stumbled upon the opportunity to work for WWF-Australia which was too good to pass up.

A few months later work and other life commitments meant that I wasn’t able to focus enough on the project to work through some of the challenges we faced, so I reluctantly disbanded the group to focus on other things.

Fast forward a few years. The market for organic clothing is beginning to explode. As an avid reader of Treehugger, it seems that every day a new label is entering the “green” space – and well known designers are jumping on the “green” bandwagon by the minute. Reading Fast Company highlighted Nau – joining Patagonia in doing very interesting things in the performance wear space.

(As an aside: I’m a big fan of both companies – be sure to check out Nau’s Grey Matters and Patagonia’s The Footprint Chronicles for some of the challenges running an ethical business in this space.)

While the internet technically makes many of these labels available here in Australia, and even though there are even some great folks in Australia creating ethical clothing, none are quite the style I’m into and very few are available local to where I live; on the clothing strips where I shop, the options simply aren’t there.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big fan of purchasing over the net – I like to try things on, check them out, get a feel for the fabric and the cut.

Over the past few months I’ve been thinking very hard about my future direction – what really makes my heart sing? What am I passionate about enough to get me through “The Dip“, as Seth Godin calls it.

I’m a big fan of sustainable (in the broad sense of that word – environment, social, financial) business, and am bullish on the impact that good design can have creating a sustainable future. I’ve read Cradle to Cradle and I’m a convert.

And then Anita Roddick passed.

Anita was a huge inspiration to me – and her passing really got me thinking about what I was doing with my life – what impact was I actually having…

I brainstormed a bunch of business ideas and the one that stuck in my mind, that wouldn’t let go of my imagination, was the ethical clothing idea. This is not new – I’m far from the first and likely (hopefully) to be far from the last. But I feel it important to give it a shot – to try and make this happen – and I hope I have a few innovative ideas about how to make the business work.

I’m the type of person who doesn’t like talking – I prefer to do. So early next year I have arranged a change in work arrangements to free up 1-2 days per week to apply to this goal.

The label will likely be starting in an obvious place – t-shirts. I’m a big fan of Threadless, band merch and I’ve become a bit of a “t-shirt snob” – so it is fitting that I should start there. But I hope to link up with like-minded people that want to participate in building a business like this to expand the range and ideas that we can explore – focusing on smart-casual mens wear. Stuff you can wear to work and then to a pub or a club.

Although ethical and social concerns will be a major part of the business – the focus will be on great designs that people will want to wear first and foremost. As fashion designer Gary Harvey says:

“The future of Eco fashion depends on designers concentrating on great design and not letting the Eco cause become the only component…after all people wear clothes not causes.”

I know I can’t do this alone, nor do I want to. For those of you that don’t already know me – if you happen across this blog and are interested, please get in touch. If you do know me already and you know someone you think might be interested, please do the same.

I’ll be using this blog to record the journey, a place to share what I learn as I work towards this goal (regardless of the outcome). My hope that sharing my thoughts as I learn and explore might provide value to others.

Next year’s plans

I’ve got some news relating to work and my plans for the coming year. From Jan 1 I’ll be working 4 days per week with my current employer, Digital Eskimo, until March/April, at which point I’ll be doing the freelance thing.

The primary reason for the move is a desire on my part to set up a new business producing and retailing ethical clothing (more on that here) – that is clothes that use environmentally sustainable materials (like organic cotton, hemp and bamboo) and that are sweatshop free.

Some of you may remember that I started down this path some years ago while I was still working at NETaccounts (now Saasu). Well, although in some ways the industry has come a long way (even Target now offers organic cotton options) there’s still a long way to go. I want to work towards that goal.

The move from Digital Eskimo was tough – the team that I’ve had the privilege to work with since May this year is exceptional, and it was a really hard decision to make (and I hope to continue working with them on projects in the future).

But through some soul searching, in part prompted by working through The Artist’s Way with some friends earlier this year, but also the passing of Anita Roddick, lead me to the conclusion that I needed to pursue this dream (that just hasn’t let go).

So, anyway, this blog is probably going to be a little more active as I post about the business and ideas surrounding it, but also just generally about ethical business.

In the freelance side of things I’ll be hopefully doing a variety of web development projects – I hope with a focus on non-profits and progressive organisations, social media and web standards – but I’ll speak more on that in the new year as I start to get things in place to make the leap.

Hey Joe, know an Eskimo?

Babushkimos

My employer, Digital Eskimo, are looking for Producers, Designers and Flash coders at the moment, and we’ve launched a new initiative that we’ve affectionately called The Babushkimos to try and find the right people.

The basic gist is if you refer someone that lands the gig at DE, you’ll get a cut of $2000. If you’re the direct referrer, that is the person that referred the person, you get $1000. If you are the second in line (i.e. you send it on to someone who refers the new Eskimo) you get $500 and so on.

But there’s a much cuter representation (and more detailed description) on the Babushkimo page. So if ya know someone, pass it on 🙂

WWF is hiring (again)

WWF is looking for an Online Communications Manager.

For the observant, yes. That is indeed my job.

I’ve taken up a position with Digital Eskimo (check out this YouTube video to find out a bit about my new workplace), and I’ll be starting there first week of May.

There are a number of reasons why I’ve made the leap, which I might expand on later. Suffice to say that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time at WWF, and that I’m looking forward to tackling my new role 🙂

So, if anyone knows anyone (other than me) who might be suitable for the role – let ’em know 😉