The Affair

I was chatting to a friend of mine a little while back about my plans to start a label, and they mentioned that a friend of theirs was putting together a tshirt label with some cool designs.

I’ve also been wanting to find some more obscure tshirt labels since Threadless tees are seemingly popping up everywhere nowadays. Plus I wanted a bit of a change, given most of my tees are Threadless already.

In watching my Facebook news feed I saw they’d become a fan of the-affair, figuring that was the label they were talking about, and sure enough it was them.

I checked out the website and subscribed to the blog. I dig the tees and the branding, and the other week took the plunge and purchased two tees.

More about my impressions of the tees and American Apparel over the jump…

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DHL green option

For some time I’ve been saying to friends and colleagues that I think we’ll start to see courier and freight companies go carbon neutral, especially when the “carbon tax” (whatever that looks like) comes into play.

The reason being is that it’s a pain in the proverbial to calculate emissions on externals like freight, so any options that require just a checkbox ticked (or fully carbon neutral operations) will be very attractive to businesses.

Well, it seems DHL have jumped ahead, offering a freight offset option for customers – 3% of the total value.

Like the news that Virgin (then JetStar) were offering offset options (flawed as both offerings are), this is a great step forward – especially coming from a market leader.

It also solves one little part of the puzzle for me starting up Soko Loko – freight will inevitably be involved in the operations, and I was having to work out how to calculate and offset the emissions. At least I know that using DHL, and ticking that checkbox, means one less hassle.

I’ll need to weigh up whether the DHL option is suitable in other ways, but it’s a good sign that more such services will be coming.

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…

It’s growth Jim, but not as we know it…

Akshay posts a great article on “growth-based climate politics” over a newmatilda.com. The money quote (‘scuse the pun):

As Australia’s income grows, the methodology of calculating GDP needs to be revised to incorporate the higher goods that are now demanded by consumers. Current methods of calculating income only explain standards of living up to a certain level, after which they become redundant. If air pollution decreases our standard of living, pollution should be deducted from GDP estimates. Likewise, if reduced risk of catastrophic natural disasters creates a more favourable business outlook, then efforts to decrease the likelihood of adverse climate change should add to GDP. Such a revaluation of income measurements would mean that a transition to a sustainable future would present us with more opportunities for growth, rather than be a threat to our standard of living.

Policy that does not emphasise the growth opportunities of a more sustainable future, concentrating only on emission reduction, is dangerous. The term “emission targets” sends a pessimistic and alarmist message that bad times are coming. The public may react unfavourably to the realisation that more and greater costs will fall on them as a result of treaties which promise emissions cuts.

(Emphasis mine) I’ve been in favour of this perspective for some time. In fact, my new business venture is founded on this principle – that a “bright green” future is what we want. There’s plenty of opportunity, but we have to think differently about what “growth” means – not just hard and fast numbers, but quality of life. Akshay’s suggestion that “the methodology of calculating GDP needs to be revised to incorporate the higher goods that are now demanded by consumers” is spot on the money.

I take issue with two aspects of the article – Akshay points out that:

A quick look at Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ shows that people first satisfy their basic material needs for food, shelter, physical security and health, after which they satiate so called “higher needs” – including creative freedom, justice, opportunities for political expression and even environmental goods such as clean air, clean drinking water and certainty of their own and their children’s economic future.

Isn’t “food, shelter, physical security and health” directly tied to the environment? Perhaps Akshay’s point is that they’re not perceived as being linked, but it’s clear they are.

Do we really need to continually run on this treadmill of environmental destruction before we realise that it is a primary need? We’ve done it in industrialised economies, and we’re doing it again in China, India and elsewhere.

I also don’t think that we can continually grow ad infinitum – there are natural limits to growth. And suggesting we need to get richer so that environmental issues increase in perceived importance, falls into the same trap that Akshay argues against in the article – economic growth above all else. But I suspect that’s more headline grabbing than central to Akshay’s argument.

Brett’s comment sums up this latter point pretty well.

P.S. thanks to GraemeF, who in the comments said “It’s growth Jim, but not as we know it” – which perfectly sums up the sentiment for me.

DRM silliness

I wanted to purchase an eBook off Amazon today. When I went to pay, the only option was the “One-click ordering” option, which requires a U.S. credit card.

I emailed Amazon asking how I could get access to the book. The response (in part):

I am sorry, due to import/export laws and other restrictions, we are only able to sell eDocs, Amazon Upgrade, Amazon Unbox videos, MP3 Music Downloads, Kindle content, and other downloadable products to customers who use a credit or debit card issued by a U.S. bank with a U.S. billing address. Most product download services also are only available for U.S. customers located in the 48 contiguous states, Alaska, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia.

Amazon can ship a physical product anywhere in the world. Yet the easier task of providing me access to electronic content, which costs less, uses less resources, and is made possible by the internet on which Amazon thrives, is not possible because of “import/export laws and other restrictions”.

Is it just me, or does that seem incredibly backward?

The irony in all this was that I wanted to download a paper on internet censorship in China…

Digital download costs

Seth makes a good point about pricing of digital rentals. One other reason to charge less – bandwidths costs.

Seth mentions that the costs of pressing and distribution go out the window. But in the download market they don’t completely – the customer is paying for the amount they download, adding to the overall cost of the rental.

Sure, it’s still fairly small, and bandwidth is cheaper all the time. But I couldn’t afford to download a whole movie in HD on my current plan – it would blow my monthly download limit pretty fast, so I’d be v. cautious about renting this way given the bandwidth costs.

All the more reason to make the overall offer as compelling as possible to get the mental switch Seth is suggesting needs to be made.

(As an aside – I would have thought Blockbuster and the rental companies would have to pay a significant royalty based on the volume of rentals, rather than a per-physical-DVD fee. I’m intrigued now as to how that aspect of the industry works…)

The stories we tell

Around the launch of his book, All Marketers Are Liars, Seth Godin wrote a lot about stories – the stories businesses tell when selling their products, and the ones that we, as customers, tell ourselves about products and companies.

I’ve been thinking a little about this over the past few weeks, thinking about what sort of story the (yet to be named) clothing label will tell, and also looking at what sort of stories existing ethical labels are telling.

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Treehugger – ads in the RSS feed

Treehugger was recently bought, and today I noticed graphic, animated advertisements in their RSS feed. Not. Happy. Jan! The animation is incredibly annoying, especially because it’s animated, and it’s the same ad in a number of posts.

I hope they come to their senses and give me my clean, ad-free RSS reader back. I post links to Treehugger and visit the site all the time – they can get their eyeballs there, not in my RSS reader.

Update: Seems the ads have disappeared again. Perhaps just a glitch in Feedburner or something?

Update 2:Nup – they’re back. V. annoying… And to make it worse, the same ad appears over and over and over again and are completely irrelevant to the content. Meh…

Radiohead album

Radiohead have announced their new album. They’ve skipped labels and are releasing independently. You can pre-order the album as a download or “disc box” here.

The “disc box” contains one vinyl LP + 2 CDs, plus the access to download the album on 10 Oct, all for 40 pounds. The disc boxes themselves will begin to be shipped in December – I expect to gauge demand and to establish numbers before production.

What’s most interesting, is you get to choose how much you pay if you go for the download only option. That is, they have not set a price – you add it to your cart and then specify how much you’ll pay for the downloads. Fascinating…

Anyways – I’m tossing up whether to part with the $120 odd bucks for the full box set. I probably won’t but I’ll have a think about it for a few days before deciding…