menu

Underground Brands – Designer Capitalists?

Underground Brands – Designer Capitalists?
Advertising

NY Magazine carries a very important look at the activity and motivations of counter-culture capitalists in the US called 'The Brand Underground'.

Piers Fawkes, PSFK
  • 30 july 2006

And guys like A-Ron are supposed to know that better than anybody. Which is why the supposed counterculture nature of his brand might arouse some suspicion. Manufactured commodities are an artistic medium? Branding is a form of personal expression? Indie businesses are a means of dropping out? Turning your lifestyle into a business is rebellious?

And yet thousands and thousands of young people who are turned off by the world of shopping malls and Wal-Marts and who can’t bear the thought of a 9-to-5 job are pursuing a path similar to A-Ron’s. Some design furniture and housewares or leverage do-it-yourself-craft skills into businesses or simply convert their consumer taste into blog-enabled trend-spotting careers. Some make toys, paint sneakers or open gallerylike boutiques that specialize in the offerings of product-artists. Many of them clearly see what they are doing as not only noncorporate but also somehow anticorporate: making statements against the materialistic mainstream — but doing it with different forms of materialism. In other words, they see products and brands as viable forms of creative expression.

And on the meaning of these neo-brands from Daniel Casarella of Clothing brand Barking Irons:

It is often said that this generation of teenagers and 20-somethings is the most savvy one ever in its ability to critique and understand commercial persuasion, and it is probably true — just as it was true when the same thing was said of Generation X and of the baby boomers before that. (And it will no doubt be true when it is said, again, of those now in middle school.) But understanding or “seeing through” the branded world is not the same thing as rejecting it. What bothers Casarella about mainstream branding are big, blatant logos that turn the wearer into a walking advertisement and are supposed to function as simplistic “badges.” That approach, he suggests, is what makes big brands as shallow as most Top 40 music or Hollywood movies. It is not that these forms are inherently bad; it is that they always seem built for the lowest common denominator, and the contemporary consumer demands more — more originality, more sincerity, more not-in-the-mainstream, a greater goal than just making money. That is what he sees Barking Irons as doing in the realm of the brand.

Barking Irons does have a logo, but it appears inside his T-shirts, where only the consumer sees it. That’s the way, Dan Casarella maintains, to make a deep connection. If it seems a little incongruous to combat superficiality by way of T-shirts that retail for $60 or more at Barneys or A-list boutiques, well, in his view, that’s the best place to find an audience that “gets it.” When Casarella declares that his project is part of a “revolution against branding,” what he really means is not the snuffing out of commercial expression but an elevation of it.

On the training you need to run a neo-brand:

It is impossible to overstate the number of tiny streetwear brands with names like Crooks & Castles or Married to the Mob that are working variations on this territory. And it is easy to see the attraction for the new upstart branders that seem to jump into this realm every day. You don’t have to worry about the credentialing procedures that now define the traditional high arts, like getting a master’s degree from a well-connected art school or hobnobbing on the writer-retreat circuit. For people like Ben and Bobby Hundreds (or the Casarellas or A-Ron), you don’t even need to study marketing. Their apprenticeship was the act of growing up in a thoroughly commercialized world.

Much of this sentiment reminds us of something David Gensler wrote about in his magazine, Royal Magazine – a journal he claims to have created for Designer Capitalists. He said,

“The money made me do it.”

Welcome to a new era, a time of limitless luxury never before seen by any other generation, anywhere, at any point.

Through the aid of technology, we can access a truly global market, command a massive audience, and shatter the control that the old, dying corporate machine has on youth culture.

Enter the new Designer Capitalist. They are the vanguards of a new wave of thinking, a cut and paste aesthetic, and new methods of production, marketing and distribution.

For PSFK, it’s as if these brands and ‘hustlers’ are taking advantage of a huge failing by larger brands to remain connected to their customer base. Large brands have become ‘corporate’ and ‘soulless’ with every move being analyzed to understand the impact on marketshare and bottom-line – not on the relationship between brand and consumer. These neo-brands and their designer capitalists believe that the brand is at the heart of their organization and it’s this concept that motivates their products, marketing and fuels the tight-relationships they have with their consumers.

The Brand Underground – New York Times:

Advertising
Trending

PSFK's Workplace Vision: How The Nurturing Of Seeds Will Come To Define The Onboarding Process

Brand Development
Media & Publishing Yesterday

CNN Launched An Entire Drone Division Of Their News Network

CNN AIR incorporates aerial footage into the corporation's ongoing news coverage

Advertising Yesterday

Uber’s Breathalyzer Cards Let You Know If You Are Sober Enough To Drive

A new campaign from the ride-sharing service raises awareness about the importance of a safe trip home

Trending

Get PSFK's Latest Report: Future of Retail: Technology Primer

See All
Design Yesterday

Milk Proteins Could Be The Packaging Material Of The Future

A newly discovered casein-based alternative is biodegradable, sustainable and even edible

Technology Yesterday

Intel’s New System Will Help Technology See And Understand The World

Joule is a tiny board for developers designed to bring powerful computer vision to cheap and easy-to-make prototypes

PURPLELIST EXPERTS

Ian Fraser

Gaming & Technology

Design Yesterday

This LA Hotel Is Designed Specifically For Cocktail Drinkers

The Walker Inn is a new Los Angeles "Bed and Beverage" experience that offers guests an intimate setting for their night cap

Education Yesterday

Bringing Virtual Reality And Telepresence Robotics To E-Learning

This Learning Management System is embracing new technologies to reallocate teaching resources to where they should be going

Advertising Yesterday

Interactive Art Exhibition For Dogs Provides Endless Fun

Installations created by artist Dominic Wilcox are based on activities loved by canines, such as fetching tennis balls and splashing in water

PSFK LABS REPORT

Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders
NEW

PSFK Op-Ed august 24, 2016

Why Building Better Offices Is The Key To Employee Engagement

Interaction Designer and Audio-visual Technologist at ESI Design illustrates the value in creating environments filled with surprise and delight

PSFK Labs august 24, 2016

PSFK’s Workplace Vision: The Annual Review Becomes An Everyday, Collaborative Activity

Our Future of Work vision is a web-based platform through which teams can collaborate on and monitor performance reviews across all channels, ensuring a happier workplace

Beauty Yesterday

Design Your Own Custom Watch Faces

Customize your wrist device with Garmin's new app that lets you display personalized images or patterns

Syndicated Yesterday

How The Olympics Taught Us Lessons In Cloud Analytics

Dan Vesset, group VP for analytics and information management at IDC, tells how cloud-based business analytics support decision-making

Beauty Yesterday

Retail Expert: What Sustainability Means To The Millennial Generation

Jo Godden, Founder of RubyMoon, discusses how brands can limit their environmental impact worldwide

Arts & Culture Yesterday

Artist Shuts Down Sexist Comments By Turning Them Into Images

Rora Blue explores social stigma in a photo series titled 'Handle With Care'

Arts & Culture Yesterday

Japanese Face Wash Creates A Perfect Rose Every Time

Kanebo's latest addition to the Evita line includes an application that dispenses cleanser in the shape of a flower

PSFK LABS REPORT

Innovation Debrief: Boston
Business Concepts Born In 'The Hub'
AVAILABLE NOW

Mobile Yesterday

Twitter Bot Will Warn You If You Are A Troll

An online tool developed out of Intel's Hack Harassment movement helps filter out or notify cyber bullies

Retail Yesterday

Passengers Can Now Earn Airline Miles For Sharing Their Location Data

The Frequent Flyer app measures background data and gives travelers points that can be exchanged for tickets with participating airlines

Advertising Yesterday

The NBA Is Releasing Two Original Shows To Stream On Twitter

The sports league announced a deal that demonstrates an interesting expansion of its content strategy

No search results found.