Posts tagged ‘environment’


Source4Style launches today, seeking to revolutionize the business of fashion

19.12.2011

[Cross-posted] Summer Rayne Oakes and Benita Singh’s Cartier award-winning venture, Source4Style, which helps designers source sustainable fabric through a well designed, transparent website, launches its second version today. Lucire has the low-down in the main part of the site, and this story forms part of some of our next 2012 print and other non-web editions.
   We believe this will revolutionize the way the business of fashion is conducted. Think about it: consumers demand sustainability and the trend has no signs of stopping. Yet, according to Singh, suppliers are spending up to 43 per cent of their marketing budgets just on trade shows. ‘It’s a huge up-front time and financial commitment with no guarantee of a return,’ she says. On the other end of the scale, Cornell University research shows that designers are spending up to 85 per cent of their time visiting those same shows, going through online directories, or wading through sample folders.
   Source4Style uses the internet to bridge the divide, and has obvious positive implications for smaller suppliers, who are on a level playing field with the big names. Some of these suppliers are in third-world countries, so it’s not hard to see the financial benefit that Source4Style can have for them and their communities.
   It’s in line with the ideas in Simon Anholt’s Brand New Justice, where Anholt posited that good brands helped third-world communities find greater profits and margins. Source4Style doesn’t quite give these companies brands per se, but through the site, it allows them to be the equal of businesses that are operating in the first world, and levels the playing field.
   It is the solidity behind this venture that sees us devote two web pages and the cover to it. We encourage readers to take a look, as this may well be the moment when fashion changes for good—in more than one sense of the word.

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Posted in branding, business, design, France, India, internet, leadership, marketing, publishing, social responsibility, technology, USA | No Comments »


Two years on, the mainstream media wake up over BYD’s ethics

10.04.2011

I said it in 2009, and apparently, so did a diplomat whose note was leaked via Wikileaks: BYD might not stand scrutiny in a non-Chinese court over its vehicles.
   When I raised it, a few BYD fans (agents?) came commenting, trying to pick holes in my post, though they were unable to deny that the company had been unethical. If someone needs to come and attack without substance, then it’s almost always a guilty conscience that motivates them. If anything, they confirmed every statement I made.
   That time, I highlighted two publicity images that Toyota and BYD had used, even though BYD said the F0 model is exclusively its own work. It’s a little hard to explain these two photographs, then:

Toyota Aygo

BYD F1

   I wrote at the time:

BYD’s general manager, Xia Zhibing, has been quoted as saying, ‘The BYD F1 [as it was originally called] is a model developed by ourselves and we hold the intellectual property right for it.’
   I guess there’s no shame at BYD, and that the ideals of truthfulness in Confucianism haven’t made a return to parts of Red China.
   Come on, Mr Xia, the only contribution BYD has made to the 2007 photo is in Adobe Photoshop! If you are going to lie about it, don’t make it so obvious by using someone else’s publicity pic first! At least use CAD to generate something new!

   The argument still holds when you examine the door shapes of the BYD F3 and G3, and the E120 Toyota Corolla; or the F6 and the XV30 Camry, though at least neither model has been cursed with retouching of Toyota publicity photographs. From the Reuter article:

One Honda source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, cited BYD’s F3 model in particular as a known copy with Toyota Corolla and Honda Fit attributes.

   It’s interesting that this has only recently come to light at Reuter, when the story was very obvious to most of us motorheads two years ago.
   Most of us know that copying goes on and China, Red or otherwise, is certainly not the only guilty party. There’s some hidden story about the original Nissan March and the Fiat Uno, for example, but usually, when these things are done, the designers do enough to get around an expert’s judgement, just in case one gets called up in court.
   BYD, however, hasn’t really done enough to cover its tracks. It’s one thing to be inspired, it’s another to leave clues everywhere over the finished product.
   Before 2009, I honestly thought BYD was a Toyota licensee, and while it would be very difficult (as the Reuter article points out) to prove copying or copyright infringement on a component-by-component basis (as so many parts are commodities), it’s actually not as difficult to examine the overall bodyshells and for a plaintiff to find evidence of objective similarity. Things might be a millimetre out here and there, but the argument would be familiar to anyone in the type design industry: Megaron is still Helvetica.
   Arguably, some of the technology is BYD’s (and the Reuter article has something to say about its efficacy), but there’ll need to be some investment in the look of the cars if the company doesn’t want to get an injunction filed against it by some Japanese automakers, as I said in 2009.
   It’s not as though the company is incapable of producing cars inspired by other manufacturers but with enough of the details hidden—some of BYD’s niche models could pass muster in a non-Chinese court.
   The BYD e6, the electric car on which a lot of the company’s hopes hinge, actually looks quite smart.
   However, the mainstream models, the ones in which Warren Buffett has placed so much faith with his BYD investment, don’t.
   There are so many Chinese car manufacturers that deserve to do well, because they’ve played the game properly. While their conduct during the last days of MG Rover in the UK left something to be desired, SAIC is going about its expansion largely the right way. Chery has been commissioning some wonderful work from Italy. Geely and Riich models might look derivative, but there’s no doubt that it’s their own work. I wouldn’t buy a Lifan, but I’d talk them up before I’d talk up BYD.
   BYD’s advantage is in its electric models, if they ever appear. The Reuter article leaves the reader in little doubt that the technology there might not be all that it is cracked up to be, either.
   The irony is I would really love the idea of all-electric cars to succeed and be affordable. If they came from China, I would have no objection, because it would mean that the world’s fastest-growing car-buying nation might be able to arrest its rise in carbon dioxide emissions. Even the Politburo’s subsidy for electric cars is a sensible move.
   But there is so much talent in a country of over a billion that copying, as the Chinese car industry moves into a more mature phase, does it no credit—and that could prove the undoing of BYD unless it sets its sights only on exporting the e6 and not the existing F-cars or the G3.

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Posted in business, cars, China, design, media, USA | 3 Comments »


Fax and text spam: bad marketing moves

21.02.2011
Honda sends fax spam
Above I’d mention the war, but Honda was founded after the surrender.

I despise fax-spam, and under my reading of the Telecommunications Act, these come under nuisance calls. But regardless of the legality, it seems rather hypocritical for Honda to have sent me one for its Insight hybrid car.
   Think about it: a lot of people who have a fax line use paper faxes. The Insight is meant to be eco-friendly, and the fax ad even says so. So what is eco-friendly about using people’s paper and film or toner?
   It runs counter to what the car is supposed to stand for. And if it is educated people who opt for these hybrid cars, then they will be able to see the mixed message in this marketing technique.
   Typographically, it doesn’t follow Honda’s other advertising.
   This had pissed me off for me to Tweet about it, and be nasty toward Honda—which has typically been one of the few brands I steered my Corolla-wanting friends to. I have a feeling the effect of the campaign has led to more negativity about Honda than its other marketing channels.
   Way to go, Honda, for steering even more people to the Toyota Prius.

In 2008, I also wrote about text spam, and Vodafone was guilty of sending me at least one promotional message after it promised (in writing) that it would not. When confronted about it, the company clammed up. It was, I believe, the last message I ever sent to them, and I was delighted to end our contract with them.
   Seems Vodafone isn’t the only party doing this, post-Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act 2007. Hamish McConnochie has stayed on Telecom for doing it to him last year, and I agree with his reading that this is a breach of s. 11.
   It’s clear text spam falls under the Act, and neither Hamish nor I had ever consented to receive such messages.
   Telecom has some agreements around but he was not ever shown the one that covered his XT upgrade.
   As if the XT name wasn’t tarnished enough already.
   Hamish will be going on Back Benches (TVNZ 7, 9 p.m.) this Wednesday night, and I’m looking forward to seeing this issue get wider coverage.

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Posted in business, cars, marketing, New Zealand, technology, TV, typography, Wellington | 2 Comments »


Chatting to TV, radio and internet journalists for the mayoral campaign

11.06.2010

There have been a few times in the history of this blog where I stepped away from writing regularly. At the end of 2006, I had a pretty good excuse: I was in France. This time, my reasons for stepping away for a few weeks do not include: (a) I was spending too much time with the Miss Universe New Zealand contestants; (b) laziness; (c) being trapped in 1983 and discovering that DCI Gene Hunt controls the Lost island.
   I was, however, chatting to a few more of the parties that we needed to realize some of my election promises. And doing a few media interviews. And looking at more ways Wellington could get nearer balancing its budget, as our deficit has ballooned over the last decade.
   On May 15, I joined my opponent, Councillor Celia Wade-Brown, on Access Radio’s Espace Français, in what was my first political interview in French. I expected a nice-natured chat till our hosts said they wanted a political debate. So the Councillor and I gave the audience one, coming from very different angles. I believe we are the only two Francophone candidates. And I don’t think Access does a Cantonese programme.
   You can listen to the interview here, though they only store the programmes for six weeks. You can also download from this link.
   I kept Leauna Zheng waiting for weeks while I prepared my emailed responses to her interview for Skykiwi, the leading Chinese expats’ site in New Zealand. Despite her wait, she wrote a marvellous article (in Chinese, here), and for those of you relying on Google Translate, please note that the term Chinese expatriate is not translated correctly. (I believe this is the first Chinese-language interview to include my name in Chinese ideographs.)
   And, finally, my interview with Bharat Jamnadas on Asia Down Under aired last Sunday. He’s very kindly put it on YouTube, though the aspect ratio is a tad off and I look thinner than usual. There are very nice comments from two members of the Wellington business community, Laurie Foon of Starfish and Brent Wong of Soi, to whom I am extremely grateful.

   The conversation at the end about Wellington v. Auckland was a good laugh, but there were some serious bits.
   And this Tuesday just gone, it was a pleasure to play a “dragon” in a Dragon’s Den-style setting analysing some of New Zealand’s entrepreneurs for New Zealand Trade & Enterprise.
   My thanks to Bharat, Leauna, Kenneth Leong, Laura Daly at Access Radio, Jean-Louis Durand and Arlette Bilounga, and Maria Gray and David Powell.

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Posted in business, China, culture, humour, internet, leadership, media, New Zealand, politics, technology, TV, Wellington | 1 Comment »


Wellington wants free wifi

17.02.2010

While I’ve been a LinkedIn member for many years—my LinkedIn ID has six digits, which gives you an idea of how long ago—I have to confess that I did not browse the brilliant Wellington, New Zealand group till quite recently.
   And free wifi is being talked up there, too, as something Wellingtonians genuinely want.
   We hear from expats who feel Wellington needs this as a major city, from Wellingtonians who believe this would be great for growing business, and from some concerned citizens who wonder where the money comes from.
   Fortunately, two of the posters there have experience in the wifi space, and can attest to the fact that the infrastructure already exists. As mentioned on my mayoral campaign site, we can make this profitable for the city. Secondly, it will provide an additional avenue for Wellington businesses to be found.
   Indeed, one of these experts notes that it was exceedingly rare for anyone to go mental over downloading things; in any case, I propose there will be a daily data cap on the service.
   When I made wifi one of my core issues last year, I knew instinctively it would be right for Wellington.
   I don’t live in a bubble, and I’m not part of the political élite. Which means I haven’t learned how to distance myself from the needs of Wellingtonians. I’ve been engaging with people for a long time with an eye on this campaign. Anyone with one’s pulse on the city knows that free wifi and new jobs are things that a world-class city needs—and I firmly believe Wellington is potentially world-class. I would hate for us to miss the opportunities that are before us right now, which can catapult us into the big league to become one of the world’s great cities.
   As those of you who came out to the two Asian Events’ Trust shows at TSB Arena in Wellington over the weekend know, I have returned to our shores after a wonderful trip to Europe. The warmest it got, I should note, was 2°C, which makes even a foggy, overcast day like today seem dreamy. (The coldest was –15°C.)
   Some of the conversations I had in Sweden still can’t be revealed yet (this isn’t about transparency—this is about legality), but I was there studying some benchmarks for transportation and the environment. I want Wellingtonians to know I travel on my money and I use the opportunity to benefit my city. I don’t miss these opportunities. (And yes, I was in København, too.)
   As some of you who have followed my career know, I am not talking about incremental improvements.
   After all, as early as 2001 I was talking about Fair Trade and social responsibility. By 2003, I had talked to the United Nations Environment Programme and convinced them that the best way of making environmental issues cool was to mainstream them through the world of fashion and celebrity—and Lucire’s partnership with them was born. The same year, we at the Medinge Group decided that Beyond Branding should be a Carbon Neutral book. The previous decade I was doing everything from web publishing (1993) to launching the country’s longest running online fashion title (1997).
   So when I talk about these ideas in Sweden, I am talking about game-changers that can benefit Wellington.
   You have to be a few years ahead of your time, given what politics is like. No one who seeks public office can afford to be reactive or behind the times. And I hope that in the last 23 years, I’ve managed to demonstrate a fairly good record of identifying the next big thing.
   And I owe a debt of gratitude to my good friend (and one of Sweden’s outside-the-box marketing thinkers) Stefan Engeseth for arranging my speeches and meetings. Thank you for entrusting me, Stefan, for being your first speaker in your Unplugged Speeches session—it was an extremely good, interactive morning. It’s not every day I get to interact with someone who works for NASA. (If you thought I was good, you should see speaker number two, who has a Ph.D. and is very easy on the eyes.) But mostly, thank you for inspiring me even more, because you, too, always seem to be a few years ahead of the game.
   As to France, the other country I spent heaps of time in on this trip, it was an honour to talk at the Sorbonne–CELSA campus with my colleagues at Medinge.
   While part of the Paris trip was occupied by a board meeting and with the 2010 Brands with a Conscience awards, I had the opportunity to discuss my mayoral campaign with the world’s leading brand thinkers in a meaningful, collegial presentation. Medinge, too, is filled with those forward-thinking from people who are nearly always right about their predictions of how the world would look in three to ten years’ time.
   And the session at La Sorbonne was, in my mind, a true highlight—where, again, Wellington got plenty of promotion, and I was able to share some thoughts with a smart, young audience.
   I’ll be letting voters know ahead of time what else was discussed with the Swedish companies, so you can be even better armed when you fill out your ballot forms for the local elections later this year.
   In the meantime, let me give my Facebook campaign page another little plug: click here for more. My heartfelt thanks to all those who have joined and have given me amazing encouragement for this campaign.

At the Sorbonne–CELSA
Cat Soubbotnik

Above At La Sorbonne–CELSA in Levallois. Below Presenting to my Medinge Group colleagues at MIP.

At Medinge Paris
Sergei E. Mitrofanov, copyright

StockholmRight I wasn’t kidding about Stockholm hitting –15°C. It was around –9°C when this pic was taken.

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Posted in branding, business, France, internet, leadership, New Zealand, politics, social responsibility, Sweden, technology, Wellington | 4 Comments »