Archive for the ‘culture’ category


Here’s the latest book I worked on: Panos: My Life, My Odyssey out May 26

17.05.2022


 
[Originally posted in Lucire] Toward the end of next week, Panos Papadopoulos’s autobiography, Panos: My Life, My Odyssey, comes out in London, with an event in Stockholm following. This is an intimate memoir about Panos’s rise, from childhood poverty in Greece to the ‘king of swimwear’ in Scandinavia. Not only do I have an advance copy, I collaborated with Panos on it.

I’m fascinated by autobiographies. When I was a teenager, I read Lee Iacocca’s one, written with William Novak. I presume Novak interviewed Iacocca, or he worked with some additional notes, and ghosted for him. Whatever the case, it remains an engaging read, and I replaced my well worn paperback with a hardcover one a few years ago, when I spotted it at a charity fair. More recently I bought Don Black’s autobiography, The Sanest Guy in the Room, and enjoyed that thoroughly.

Panos and I probably had a similar arrangement to Iacocca and Novak, whereby I interviewed and prompted him for some stories, and I wrote from copious notes that he gave me. There’s an entire chapter in there that’s based on his reflections about the time he bought into a football team in Sweden, that he wrote in great detail himself soon after the events took place. Somehow over 10 months of 2021—though the idea has been floating around for many years before—Panos and I created this eminently readable tale, the sort of autobiography I would like to read.

Of course we start in Greece in 1958, and how a young lad, who begins working at age five alongside his mother as she cleaned an office, finds poverty a torment, and vows to get himself out of it. He also cannot tolerate injustice, and attempts to expose pollution, workplace accidents, and corruption—only to find himself and his parents harassed. By his late teens, after taking an interrail journey to northern Europe, he finds an opportunity to study in Sweden.

It’s not “the rest is history”, as Panos works in kitchens, washing dishes and peeling potatoes. He also finds gigs as a prison guard, a parole officer, a rest home carer, and a substitute teacher.

His first taste of fame is for a postgraduate sociology paper, where he examines the importance of clothing in nighttime disco settings, which captures the imagination of major newspapers and TV networks.

Finding dissatisfaction and frustration working in health care for the city of Göteborg, he seized upon an idea one day when spying just how drab the beaches were in Sweden: beautiful bodies covered in monochrome swimwear.

Injecting colour on to the beaches through his Panos Emporio swimwear label wasn’t an overnight success, and Panos elaborates on his story with the sort of passion you would expect from a Greek native, capturing your attention and leaving you wanting more.

He reveals his secrets about how he lifted himself out of poverty, creating a company given a platinum rating in Sweden, an honour reserved only for the top 450, out of half a million limited-liability companies there.

Read about how he managed his first sales despite doubts from the entire industry, how he secured Jannike Björling—then Sweden’s most sought-after woman, photographed constantly by the paparazzi—as Panos Emporio’s model, and how he followed up with securing Victoria Silvstedt, just as she was about to become world-famous posing for Playboy.

By 1996, 10 years into his label’s journey, and with the release of the Paillot (still offered in the Panos Emporio range today), the press dubbed him ‘the king of swimwear’, but he wasn’t done yet.

More high-profile models followed, and there’s even an encounter with Whitney Houston, revealed for the first time in the book. There are royal encounters, with former King Constantine II, and Sweden’s HM King Carl XVI Gustaf and HM Queen Sofia. HSH Princess Stéphanie almost makes it into the book.

There are touching moments, too, such as his heartfelt recollection of his friendship with Jean-Louis Dumas, the chairman of Hermès, and his wife Rena.

We’ve known each other for over 20 years, and from the start he complimented me on my writing, so I have a feeling he wanted me for this task for some time. We’ve both had to start businesses from scratch, and we did them away from our countries of birth. Additionally, he knew I grew up amongst Greeks so I had more than an average insight into his culture. We’ve talked about it numerous times, maybe as far back as 2016, when Panos Emporio celebrated its 30th anniversary. I’m very grateful for that. There were obviously stories I knew, since I interviewed him about them over the years, but plenty I did not, and they form the bulk of this 320 pp. book, published by LID Publishing of London, and released on May 26. A party in Stockholm follows on May 31.
 
Technically, the process was an easy collaboration as Panos and I shared notes and written manuscripts back and forth, and I had the privilege to lay it out and edit the photos as well. The whole book was typed out on WordPerfect, which gave an almost perfect re-creation of how the copyfitting would go in InDesign, unlike Word—for a while others doubted I could fit the contents into the agreed page length, since they couldn’t see it in the same format that I did. Martin Majoor’s FF Nexus Serif is used for the body text. And, while hardly anyone probably cares about such things, I managed to deliver it so the printer could do the book without wasting paper with the right page impositions. I know what it’s like to have printing bills.

My Life, My Odyssey was the working title, but it seems LID liked it enough to retain it for the final product. I wanted to retitle it Panos: Who Designs Wins, but the experts in charge of sales preferred the working title. ‘Who designs wins’ appears on the back cover, so it’s still getting out there!

Caroline Li, LID’s designer, did the cover, and I followed her lead with the headline typeface choice; and Martin Liu, who I’ve known from Stefan Engeseth’s many books, published and coordinated. I’m grateful to the watchful eye and coordination of Aiyana Curtis, who oversaw the production stage and did the first edit; she also engaged the copy editor and proofreader, who turned my stubborn Hart’s Rules-compliant text into LID’s house style.

I see from her résumé that Aiyana had done some work here in Aotearoa, and Caroline and Martin, like me, have Hong Kong roots, so we all probably had some things in common that made the process easier. It was particularly easy to understand Caroline’s design approach, and as someone who had done mock covers while we were trying out potential photos, I will say hers is infinitely superior to mine. Similarly, I understood Martin’s business approach from day one.

The final manuscript was done in October 2021 and we’ve spent the last few months doing production, shooting the cover, and preparing for the launch, where LID’s Teya Ucherdzhieva has ably been working on a marketing plan. Panos himself, never one to do things by halves, has thrown himself into doing the launch, and it promises to be an excellent event.
 
For those who’d like to get their hands on a copy, Amazon UK and Barnes & Noble are retailing Panos: My Life, My Odyssey, and a US launch is slated for October (Amazon and other retailers will have it in their catalogues).

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May 2022 gallery

02.05.2022

Here are May 2022’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.
 

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Letter-writing is not just a lost art

22.04.2022

I hate sounding like a cranky old fella but there is definitely a generational divide now on letter-writing. I imagine something had to give if people are using apps to message each other (not great from a business point-of-view if maintaining an official record becomes this much harder). From a thread on Reddit:
 

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How to end social media censorship

16.04.2022


Kristina Flour/Unsplash
 
This Twitter thread by Yishan Wong is one of the most interesting I’ve come across. Not because it’s about Elon Musk (who he begins with), but because it’s about the history of the web, censorship, and the reality of running a social platform.

Here are some highlights (emphases in the original):

There is this old culture of the internet, roughly Web 1.0 (late 90s) and early Web 2.0, pre-Facebook (pre-2005), that had a very strong free speech culture.

This free speech idea arose out of a culture of late-90s America where the main people who were interested in censorship were religious conservatives. In practical terms, this meant that they would try to ban porn (or other imagined moral degeneracy) on the internet …

Many of the older tech leaders today … grew up with that internet. To them, the internet represented freedom, a new frontier, a flowering of the human spirit, and a great optimism that technology could birth a new golden age of mankind.

Fast forward to the reality of the 2020s:

The internet is not a “frontier” where people can go “to be free,” it’s where the entire world is now, and every culture war is being fought on it.

It’s the main battlefield for our culture wars.

Yishan points out that left-wingers can point to where right-wingers get more freedom to say their piece, and that right-wingers can point to where left-wingers get more. ‘Both sides think the platform is institutionally biased against them.’

The reality:

They would like you (the users) to stop squabbling over stupid shit and causing drama so that they can spend their time writing more features and not have to adjudicate your stupid little fights.

That’s all.

They don’t care about politics. They really don’t.

He concedes that people can be their worst selves online, and that the platforms struggle to keep things civil.

They have to pretend to enforce fairness. They have to adopt “principles.”

Let me tell you: There are no real principles. They are just trying to be fair because if they weren’t, everyone would yell louder and the problem would be worse …

You really want to avoid censorship on social networks? Here is the solution:

Stop arguing. Play nice. The catch: everyone has to do it at once.

I guarantee you, if you do that, there will be no censorship of any topic on any social network.

Because it is not topics that are censored. It is behavior.

I think Yishan’s right to some degree. There are leanings that the leaders of these social networks have, and I think that can affect the overall decisions. But he’s also right that both left and right feel aggrieved. I warned as much when I wrote about social media and their decision about Donald Trump in the wake of the incidents of January 6, 2021. I’ve seen left- and right-wing accounts get taken down, and often for no discernible reason I can fathom.

Generally, however, civil discourse is a perfectly fine way to go, and for most things that doesn’t invite censorship or account removal. Wouldn’t it be nice if people took him up on this, to see what would happen?

Sadly, that could well be as idealistic as the ‘new frontier’ which many of us who got into the dot com world in the 1990s believed in.

But maybe he’s woken up some folks. And with c. 50,000 followers, he has a darn sight better chance than I have reaching just over a tenth of that on Twitter, and the 1,000 or so of you who will read this blog post.
 
During the writing of this post, Vivaldi crashed again, when I attempted to enter form data—a bug that they believed was fixed a few revisions ago. It appears not. I’ll still send over a bug report, but everything is pointing at my abandoning it in favour of Opera GX. Five years is a very good run for a browser.

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April 2022 gallery

02.04.2022

Here are April 2022’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.
 

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March 2022 gallery

28.03.2022

Now we are on the new server, here are March 2022’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.
 

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Posted in cars, culture, design, France, gallery, humour, marketing, media, publishing, TV, typography, UK, USA | No Comments »


Most of our top 10 sellers reflect our ignorance

25.03.2022


The Suzuki Swift: one of the saving graces on New Zealand’s top 10 list.

At the Opel relaunch briefing yesterday, I was shocked to find that these were New Zealand’s top selling vehicles for 2021. I knew about the first two, but had always assumed a Toyota Corolla would follow, plus some regular cars. From this, I gather the rest of New Zealand thinks the opposite to me. I personally believe petrol is expensive.

1. Ford Ranger
2. Toyota Hilux
3. Mitsubishi Triton
4. Mitsubishi ASX (RVR on the home market)
5. Toyota RAV4
6. Mitsubishi Outlander (presumably the outgoing one)
7. Mazda CX-5
8. Nissan Navara
9. Suzuki Swift
10. Kia Stonic

   Not a very discerning lot, are we? We say we care about the environment yet enough of us have helped fuel the second biggest contributor to the carbon emissions’ rise in the last 10 years: the crossover or SUV.
   And I’ve driven those RVRs. Why are people buying, in 2021, a vehicle that feels like a taller, larger Colt from the 2000s?
   I have no issue with those of you who really need an SUV or ute. But for those who pose, you aren’t helping yourself or your planet. And even if you bought some electrified variant, I thought it was universally understood (certainly for any of us alive during the 1970s fuel crises and those who observed the aerodynamic trend of the 1980s) that tall bodies and big frontal areas would consume more energy.

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Where democratizing technology got the better of us

13.02.2022

From the start, I’ve been a supporter of the democratization of design. Everyone has the right to access it, because fundamentally good design is something that makes the world a better place. A lot of websites are founded on this, such as Shopify, which has enough flexibility to give most of the stores we visit a unique look. Wordpress’s templates are generally good lookers that take into account the latest trends. There’s an entire industry out there making templates and skins. And, it has to be said, most social media have reasonably good looking interfaces, so people can feel a sense of pride after they’ve posted that they’ve shared text or a photo that has been presented well.
   It’s quite perplexing when you confront some other facts. People will judge the credibility of a website by how good it looks (among other criteria). People can also become addicted to social media, and they’re designed to be addictive. And as design democratizes, it’s only natural that the less educated (and I don’t necessarily mean in a formal sense), those who are not trained to discern fact from fiction, will have access to the same technology and present their work as capably and as attractively as anyone else.
   It would be wrong to deny this, just as it would be wrong to deny access to technology or good design because we disagreed with someone’s political views or their beliefs, even ones we might find distasteful. The key must be to bring social awareness and education up to a point that there’s no appeal to engage in behaviour that’s harmful to society at large. By all means, be individual, and question. We should have ways in which this can be done meaningfully—one might argue this is done in the corridors of power, as anyone in a good, functioning democracy can stand for office. But in countries with low trust in institutions, or those infected by forces that want to send nations into corporatist fascism, there has to be something that balances the wild west of the online world, one that has marched so far one way without the structures to support it. We have, in effect, let the technology get the better of us. There is no agreed forum online where tempers can be abated, and because we have encouraged such individualist expression, it is doubtful whether some egos can take it. We have fooled ourselves into thinking our own selfies on social media have the same value as a photo taken by the press for a publication. As such, fewer can lead, because no one wants to play second fiddle.
   These are confusing times, though the key must be education. It is often the answer. Keeping education up with the technology so our young people can see and understand the forces at play. Give them a sense of which corporations are wielding too much influence. Teach them how to discern a legitimate story from a fictionalized one. Teach them how the economy really works—not just the theory but how the theory has been hijacked.
   This can’t wait till university: it has to be taught as early as possible. If today’s kids are bringing their devices to school, then it’s never too early to make them aware of how some online content is questionable. Tell them just why social media are addictive and why they can’t open accounts on the big sites till they’re 13. In fact, tell them how the social media companies’ bosses actually don’t let their own kids use the services, because deep down they know they’re bad for them.
   If they know from a young age why some things are harmful—in the same way we were told that cigarettes were, or to say no to drugs—then hopefully they can steer clear of calls on social networks funded by parties who seek to divide us for their own gain.

There’ll be a delay in having a gallery on this blog this month as a dear friend is helping me migrate our sites off an old AWS instance. He doesn’t wish to be named. But I am deeply thankful to him.
   The data have already been shifted off this server. At this rate I will have to repost this on the new box once the domain is set up. Reposting a gallery might just be a bit tricky, so there mightn’t be one for February 2022, depending on when my friend can get to this domain.

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Stanley Moss’s latest Global Brand Letter out now

10.01.2022

Finally, a happier post. For many years (since 2004), my dear friend Stanley Moss has been publishing his Global Brand Letter, which is not only a wonderful summary of the year (or the last half-year, since he often writes every six months) in branding, but an excellent record of the evolution of culture.
   He has finished his latest and, for the first time, he has allowed me to host a copy for you to download and read (below). I commend it to you highly. Keep an eye out for future issues, while past ones can be found on his website at www.diganzi.com.

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Facebook: the year in review

19.12.2021

If you’d rather not read every Facebook entry I made on my blog this year, here’s a helpful video by Simon Caine on all the shitty things they’ve done over 2021. As we still have a couple of weeks of 2021 left to go, I’m betting they will still do something shitty that deserves to be in this video.

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