Remember back when I used to be a social media strategist?
I started before that term was even being used, and as late as this October the L.A. Times still hadn’t gotten the memo that I had move on, calling me a “social media expert” for my crimes (among them: 1, 2, 3).
So you’d be forgiven if you hadn’t realized that I’d become a product strategist. (Social media, it’s not you, it’s me. Well, it’s kind of you. But mostly, it’s me. Anyway, at this point everything is social, so let’s call it even.)
While 2012 has been the quietest year on Social-Creature since I started the site, elsewhere it’s been quite prolific. So as the year comes to a close, I thought I’d take a break to share some of what’s been going on.
reached #1 paid app in the photo and video category:
and #11 paid app overall:
Less than 2 months in, Mirrorgram now has over 300,000 users, there are nearly 45,000 images in the #mirrorgram feed on Instagram, and mirroring has become a cultural aesthetic trend:
You’re welcome / We’re sorry.
Anyway, watching hundreds of thousands of people use the product has offered visibility into some really fascinating behavioral insights around iPhone creativity, the mechanics of digital art creation, and the white space on the photo sharing landscape. More about what we’ve learned, and how these insights are informing further product strategy, including a truly exciting new direction in the app’s evolution — hint: what’s Instagram NOT for? (porn, aside) — in the new year, so stay tuned!
Gather began as a hip, little boutique, beloved by Racked LA and LA Weekly for carrying all local L.A. designers. Now this idea has evolved into what I, and my partner, Katie Kay Mead, see as the future of hyper-local design discovery and retail.
While shopping has moved online, the discovery of locally-created design is still trapped by brick-and-mortar, and coincidence. The new Gather site, relaunched this Fall, is designed address this gap, allowing visitors to easily discover cutting-edge design just around the corner. As the L.A. Times put it in their recent Sunday feature on Gather:
More to come on the arising cultural behaviors and beliefs that have laid the foundation for Gather’s new direction — including why flash sale leaders are desperate to reposition themselves as purveyors of special (rather than discounted) things, and the emerging local trend, bolstered by campaigns like AmEx’s “Small Business Saturday” and Millennials’ proclivities.
In the meantime:
And there’s other bright news as well, but I’ll tell you when I see you in 2013!
Since November I have been a partner, with long-time friend, Katie Kay Mead, in a retail endeavor called, Gather. Gather is a fashion incbuator of sorts, scouting and developing the best and brightest indie design talent into viable forces within the vocabulary of L.A. fashion. The boutique / consultancy has received accolades from LA Weekly as a proponent of the “slow fashion” movement, and been named one of the city’s “top mom and pop shops” by Racked LA. Katie, who has previously helped guide Skingraft Designs to success, and launched a fan-sourced merch project with Amanda Palmer, heads up scouting L.A.’s fresh fashion talent and selecting the most unique pieces. Meanwhile, I take on the digital strategy side of things. And on that note, I’m very excited to announce the launch of a new digital product from the boutique: The_Gather email, a curated missive of hyper-local fashion.
Since 2010, Gather has scoured the depths of Los Angeles to find the city’s best designers and unique products. Today we are excited to bring Gather to you!You are among the first to receive our brand new, curated fashion-gram — The_Gather — a hand-selected sampler featuring the latest items added to the store. So browse, purchase, and support your local designers —without dealing with L.A. traffic.
As always, thank you for supporting independent fashion!
SocialCreature, I haven’t forgotten about you! I still love you and think of things I want to tell you all the time, (like what Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous says about “the intersection of art and politics and role of the artist in society”, or the similarities between the Snow White & the Huntsman trailer and the trailer for Timur Bekmambetov’s Night Watch — hint: crows). I miss you lots but things have just been been TFC* busy lately, and I have no time to get into details. A lot of super cool stuff has been happening behind the scenes, and I’m looking forward to being able to talk about more of it next year. But in the meantime here’s something I call tell you: I have recently become a partner in an intriguing little Los Angeles boutique called Gather.
Nearly everything in the store is an expression of what Kay calls the “slow fashion” movement, which favors one-of-a-kind pieces over mass production in China. Slow fashion is about creating a lifestyle as a designer rather than building a “career” it’s about being indifferent to “trends” because, most likely, you’re making them. “This may be fashion, but I’m very open to being genuine about things,” Kay says.
I first met Katie when we were both living in San Francisco over a decade ago and our lives have been intertwined in some strange and wonderful ways since. I came on board with Gather just as it opened its new location, at the intersection of Hollywood and Sunset, a couple of weeks ago. More than just a store, Gather is an articulation of a new kind of relationship we have with the things we buy. Our lives have become ever more like art galleries, both physical and virtual. And we are the curators. The pieces we select tell the story of who we are and where we’ve been. These things, the things we buy, are no longer consumed… they’re gathered.
Boston Latin School, my alma mater, is the oldest (and longest existing) public school in the country. 141 years older than the country, in fact. Ben Franklin went there before he moved to Philly. Alumni include Sam Adams, John Hancock, Joseph Kennedy, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Bullfinch, you get the idea. There’s an admission test, but it’s free to attend for Boston resident teens. All students at are still required to study Latin for three or four years, and many study Greek as well. It’s a school that consistently ranks among the top in the country, bringing a Classics education into the 21st century.
Last night I saw the video below, made by current BLS students, making the rounds on Facebook through fellow alumni, and it’s just so totally epic I had to post it here. Never mind the sense of nostalgia seeing the old hallways in the background, these kids have done a better job of branding the iconography of my alma mater than my class ever considered. Watch out, marketers, the next generation will soon be doing a better job at our jobs than we are.
On September 8,2011, Nike announced they would be releasing a limited number of pairs of a new product. As the shoe’s official site explains:
In 1989, Nike designer Tinker Hatfield was asked to design a shoe for the second chapter in the Back to the Future series. He created the power-lacing, self-illuminating, Nike MAG. Riding on a pink hoverboard, Michael J. Fox made them the most famous shoe never made.
Over 15 years later in 2005, Tinker’s attention was caught by an online petition asking that the shoes come back. With no mold and nothing but an original prop shoe from the film, Tinker and footwear innovator Tiffany Beers began rebuilding the MAG from scratch. It would take six years, three restarts and many thousands of hours. But when it was all said and done, the shoe was a perfect replication of the original and the true predecessor to the 2015 power-lacing Nike MAG.
It would only make sense that the shoes be auctioned to benefit the foundation of the man who made them famous.
And with your help, the proceeds of these shoes will help erase Parkinson’s from existence.”
As Fox himself adds:
That something which has previously only existed in the realm of fiction is becoming real, that Nike is actually making a shoe it predicted would exist in the future, that a franchise about a time traveler is being leveraged towards changing the future both by and for the actor who embodied him, as well as for others who suffer from Parkinson’s disease…. basically everything about this is totally fucking awesome in a uniquely 21st century kind of way.
Back in March I wrote about another celebrity who came up in the 80’s and has recently been doing his part to blur the lines between “real” and “not real.” Charlie Sheen has gone a long way towards making that distinction irrelevant by transforming his life into an existential performance. In a Daily Beast article titled, “Notes on Charlie Sheen and the End of Empire,” author Bret Easton Ellis (also a pop culture staple spawned from the same decade as Sheen, Fox, and McFly), called Sheen, “The most fascinating person wandering through the culture.” Ellis’s concept of “Empire” and “Post-Empire,” is based on Gore Vidal’s definition of global American hegemony, a period Ellis dates from 1945 until 2005: the era that defined the 20th century. As Ellis sees it, Empire was a lie, a self delusion the global west lived for 60 years while it kept up appearances and didn’t think about the future; post-Empire, on the other hand, is where we are now, a world 10 years after 9/11, seeming to teeter perpetually on the verge of economic collapse and endless other global crises. If Empire was binary (truth vs. lie; real vs. counterfeit), then post-Empire is meta. As Sheen has shown, he is both real and not real at once. And so are the Nike MAGs, sneakerheads’ long unattainable holy grail, “the most famous shoes never made”…. until they were.
“It’s like in Terminator when John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time so that he can be his father,” says Simon, from the British TV show Misfits, a character who sends himself back in time to die so that he can live in the future. (Side note: Five years before Marty McFly, Kyle Reese also wore Nikes in 1984’s Terminator. Hopefully those don’t come back to the future.)
“In 1981, I was a futurist,” said William Gibson, author of the seminal cyberpunk novel, Neuromancer, in an interview with New York Magazine’s, The Vulture Blog last year, “Or at least I was a guy who put on a futurist hat occasionally and I wrote about the 21st century. Now I’m here in the 21st century and if I write about it, I think it makes me a literary naturalist.” Gibson’s three latest books have all been set not in a dystopic, sci-fi future world but contemporaneously with the one we all inhabit. A recurring character throughout this trilogy is Hubertus Bigend, the charismatic founder of an alternative marketing agency, whom Gibson describes like a 21st-century Cheshire Cat as CEO (“He smiles, a version of Tom Cruise with too many teeth, and longer, but still very white;” “An overly wealthy, dangerously curious fiddler with the world’s hidden architectures.”) So fitting is Bigend as an antihero for a post-binary, meta reality, this fictional character’s actual Wikipedia entry cites a passage from his fictional Wikipedia entry. (Your head hurt yet?)
I thought that writing about the world today as I perceive it would probably be more challenging, in the real sense of science fiction, than continuing just to make things up. And I found that to absolutely be the case. If I’m going to write fiction set in an imaginary future now, I’m going to need a yardstick that gives me some accurate sense of how weird things are now. ‘Cause I’m going to have to go beyond that. In the ’80s and ’90s–as strange as it may seem to say this–we had such luxury of stability. Things weren’t changing quite so quickly in the ’80s and ’90s. And when things are changing too quickly you don’t have any place to stand from which to imagine a very elaborate future.
Case in point: Gibson’s most recent book, Zero History, which came out last year, has characters using silent, hovering, iPhone-controlled surveillance drones. Less than a year after Gibson wrote it into his book, it’s a thing that’s now on the market. In fact, it’s a toy:
Pattern Recognition is the first of Gibson’s “present tense” trilogy, and the first of his books I ever read. It was given to me by an acquaintance in 2004. The book follows Cayce Pollard, a marketing consultant with an intuitive sensitivity for branding so acute its anaphylactic. Her clients hire her to research street culture in search of the next new trend. “She’s met the very Mexican who first wore his baseball cap backward,” Gibson writes. “She’s that good.” The person who gave me the book told me, “This is you.” At the time, barely a year out of college, where I’d been a film major, I’d never really considered I’d be working in marketing. And yet, it’s where I ended up. Two novels and seven years later, Cayce Pollard makes an anonymous cameo near the end of Zero History. Her name is never mentioned, but if you’ve been following along, you know it’s her even before she says, “I’d been a sort of coolhunter, before that had a name, but now it’s difficult to find anyone who isn’t.”
The Nike MAG exists now not because it’s where 21st century sneaker trends were naturally headed but because a vision of footwear future (which Nike itself created) 20 years ago predicted it would. If Charlie Sheen’s contribution to Post-Empire has been to embody the now indistinguishable nature of real and fictional, Nike has taken it one step further and shown us that the future is no longer strictly linear. In our new century the future is recursive. It is a future we have sent back in time, to become itself.