FaintFlex Vol. 16 - Everything Old is New Again
A brief history lesson + assorted links
Supreme’s highest performing IG post since July was this video collab with Amber Wagner. Remind you of something?
Transparently, I haven’t had many fully-baked thoughts recently. But I didn’t want too much time to go by without sharing something that’s been on my radar.
So I’ve decided to share a few relevant excerpts from a book I just picked up titled No Logo by Naomi Klein.
Although it was published in 1999, it’s a reminder that the ideas of personified brands and blurred media/retail lines are not new, they’re just manifesting in the latest formats.
I also curate links with a few notes at the end in case you’ve been out of the loop.
Let me know if anything I share here triggers a thought.
The Creation of Cultural Utopias
Retail is blurring with entertainment, entertainment with retail. Content companies (like film studios and book publishers) are leaping into distribution; distribution networks (like phone and internet companies) are leaping into content production.
And all the while, the people previously pigeonholed as pure content - the stars themselves - are charging into production, distribution and, of course, retail. So the “if you aren’t everywhere, you’re nowhere” sentiment described by Wolf reaches well beyond the media conglomerates.
Everyone, it seems, wants to be everywhere - whether they started as home decorators, sneaker manufacturers, record companies or basketball stars, they are all ending up, as Shaquille O’Neal and his people so aptly put it, “like Mickey Mouse.”
Fast forward to 1998. The Gap launches its breakthrough Khaki Swing ads; a simple, exuberant, miniature music video set to “Jump, Jive, ‘n’ Wail.”
Gap’s commercials didn’t capitalize on the retro swing revival - a solid argument can be made that they caused the swing revival.
A few months later, when singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright appeared in a Christmas-themed Gap ad, his sales soared, so much so that his record company began promoting him as “the guy in the Gap ads.”
Macy Gray, the new R&B “It Girl” also got her big break in a Baby Gap ad. And rather than Gap Khaki ads looking like rip-offs of MTV videos, it seemed that overnight, every video on MTV - from Brandy to Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys - looked like a Gap ad; the company has pioneered its own aesthetic, which spilled out into music, other advertisements, even films like The Matrix.
After five years of intense lifestyle branding, the Gap, it has become clear, is as much in the culture-creation business as the artists in its ads.
Strong brands understand their role of being enablers & patrons of culture, not necessarily creators of it. But I guess you could argue that these late 90s pop music videos could be mistaken for old Gap commercials:
Even Kanye infamously worked at the Gap as a sales assistant around this time period. From early YEEZY fashion designs to the latest Sunday Service choir attire, Gap-like uniformity has remained a reoccurring theme for him, despite his urge for individuality and self-expression.
Gap missed their chance of becoming relevant again by not granting Ye’s request to become their Creative Director.
One of my dreams was to be the head creative director of the Gap. I’d like to be the Steve Jobs of the Gap…When I say Steve Jobs of the Gap…I’m not talking about a capsule. I’m talking about full Hedi Slimane creative control of the Gap is what I would like to do. (Vogue, 2015)
In our post-internet era of hyper-connectivity, it’s become harder for established brands to authentically cross various cultures the way Gap did. Consumers & the media pounce on inauthentic activity at every opportunity.
It’s important to feel niche, yet have the capability to collaborate with different cultures beyond your initial audience.
Brands with “cultural omnivore” DNA from the beginning are the best positioned to do this, as they’re less likely to deal with accusations of appropriation.
New Brand Launches
Notable personality & UGC-driven consumer brand launches since August:
Media Brands are creating content & forming communities related to historic figures:
Nelson Mandela’s family is launching Mandela Media, which will produce scripted and unscripted video content, audio and podcasts, live events and editorial content.
NYT best selling author Ryan Holiday created the free email newsletter brand Daily Stoic (200k+ subscribers) to help modern generations see the world through the lens of famous ancient Stoics like Marcus Aurelius. The paid private community has 1K+ members.
One of my favorite new fashion brands right now is UK-based Cold Laundry.
That’s all for this week! Anything notable that I didn’t mention here can probably be found on my Twitter. 💭