As most of you know, a couple weeks ago, I was down in Melbourne for a few days to provide some assistance to the ACCLAIM team for their annual weekend event CARBON. For those who aren’t familiar, refer back to this post when I first introduced you to this year’s festival.
But now, I’m going to try and backtrack and give you a personal recount of what happened during my time down in Burn City.
I pretty much went back in time as I prepared myself to being an intern for the next few days. I kind of had a glimpse of what I knew I would be getting into, having had the experience of working with the ACCLAIM/CARBON team since its inception in 2011, but this year took on a whole new level of intern duties. It was really just the one event in particular, but we’ll get to that later.
My first day of duties was Friday, the day before it was all due to go down. The day was supposed to consist of preparing the giftbags for the hundreds of lucky ticket holders to the event. And that night, although initially, I was meant to work the event, I was lucky enough to be an attendee at the special screening of Ironlak’s “Style Wars: 30th Anniversary” Screening.
Co-producer of the documentary and CARBON guest speaker Henry Chalfant presented the film to the audience, and advised us all that he had never seen the film on the big screen so it would be a special experience for him that night too, but I would like to make a confession: I had actually never seen the film before that night. But I am so glad that my intern duties were cancelled, and I was just able to watch the screening – because I ended up really enjoying it.
There are so many trains in Sydney where graffiti has just taken over with tags of the writer’s names and I never really understood how it could be considered “art”. Now, after watching “Style Wars”, I understand. Completely. Funny how things turn out.
Next morning, saw the first day for the CARBON weekend to kick things off at RMIT’s Storey Hall. Punters lined up from 11.30am eagerly waiting to come in, to grab a good seat, a goodie bag, some of the merchandise/artwork that was available for purchase this year, or perhaps to catch a glimpse of one of the special guests.
Having participated in the live paint sessions during the previous two years, this year’s festival was emceed by street artist and creator of POW WOW Hawai’i, Jasper Wong.
Forum A opened up the festival with a big bang, delivering a stellar line-up of speakers, including Simon “Woody” Wood, Ronnie Fieg, Shawn Stussy and PM Tenore, presenting talks to us on the topic: Building A Brand.
First up to the podium was Woody from Sneaker Freaker with a well-prepared talk on how he got his start in 2002, the ups and downs he faced along the way, and his 5 all important steps (which may have confused most of the audience because his slideshow had us seeing more than five).
But here’s the 5 steps that I thought were most valuable:
1. Get started. Keep going. Nike’s slogan gives the best advice: Just Do It. And don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
2. Know when to ‘hold them’ and when to ‘fold them’. Don’t give in and know when to hold your ground.
3. Network – easier than it sounds, harder than it looks.
4. Know how to sell yourself without being up yourself. Have the confidence to talk about the success of your brand.
5. Be original.
Second up to the plate, a nervous PM Tenor from apparel brand RVCA spoke very quickly (He was really nervous!) about his experience during the years. Being in a industry that can sometimes be close-minded, Tenore realised early on that it was a good move to bring different sub-cultures together. His advice was simple: “You can’t substitute hard work. It’s not called ‘play’. It’s work. It’s not all fun and games. If you love it, just do it.”
Next up was Ronnie Fieg, a Jewish kid from Queens, known nowadays for his footwear designs as designer and founder of Kith NYC, as well as his collaborations with such brands as Sebago, New Balance, and Puma. Fieg shared with us his humble beginnings from wanting a job at the age of 13, working with his cousin stocking the shelves at a sneaker store, and learning to work his way up – all the way up.
“There are no shortcuts. If you do not work as hard as you possibly can, you will not be leading in your category.”
Because of the internet, Fieg believes that there is a big misconception of when someone should start up a brand or a project. So what does it take? He shared his own list of advice:
1. Gain experience: Start from the bottom and find opportunities for growth. Interaction and knowledge is also important.
2. Obtain a following: Build a customer base and earn trust from your consumer. Build rapport by providing a great experience.
3. Social Media Effect: Get the word out and build HYPE. Using social media the affect the business in a positive way. Do it tastefully, and you can grow with different platforms.
4. Partnerships: Gain insight from working with different brands, and earn their trust and respect.
“Doesn’t matter how or when you start, as long as you start.”
The final person to step up to the podium for Forum A – to the loud roars, claps and wolf whistles of the crowd – was the originator and quite possibly, the biggest name on the CARBON bill that weekend, was Shawn Stussy.
A somewhat eclectic character, I loved the energy and inspiring vibes he brought to the venue. You could tell everyone in attendance was waiting to see Stussy and you could almost hear a pin drop when he was speaking. Taking us through a timeline of events from his start during the ’60s up to where he was currently standing, Stussy shared with us his early influences of music, fashion, surfing, and clothes, and his experiences travelling to New York and Japan during the 80s.
“The brand is the prize of doing the right thing.”
Whilst I listened more than I probably should have been taking notes, I absorbed and learnt quite a bit from the OG (although he doesn’t consider himself that way at all). And he was right about many things but this one hit the nail on the head: we live in a very corporate culture now. Big brands are telling us how to live. Telling hipsters where to live, where to shop; we’re all eating and travelling to the same places. We have to try and break away from that. Damn hipsters.
Being able to meet the man after the event was an experience that I will always remember, but here’s some pretty damn good advice he shared during his presentation, if you’re one of those people wanting to start something of your own: “Don’t start a brand. Start a project. Be passionate. Be true.”
At the end of each Forum, the four speakers got up on stage and participated in a Q+A with questions from Jasper as well as questions from the audience via Twitter. As the event was already running behind schedule, Forum A’s panel of speakers spoke briefly on making a statement with their brands and how important collaborations can be.
Check back to the blog soon for Part Two of Day One!