Friday, November 7, 2008

Trudell Poetry Reading

John Trudell will be in Santa Monica tomorrow (Saturday, November 8)
at 6pm to do a poetry reading. The theme is "Intelligence As An Alternative Energy Source". If you haven't seen JT speak or are just
looking for a great ride tomorrow night, you can't go wrong. Always amusing, always insightful and guaranteed to provoke.
Pico Youth and Family Center 715 Pico Blvd. Santa Monica, 90405

Friday, October 3, 2008

The JAMES gang

What a joy seeing the criminally underrated band "JAMES" at the sold out El Rey Theater last night. The band recently reunited in what they are calling a 'second coming' rather thank comeback and it really felt that way last night. There new album 'Hey Ma' is getting some good write-ups (I was shocked to see it reviewed in Entertainment Weekly with a 'B' grade no-less!) and this was the 2nd show on their tour.

JAMES has ostensibly been around since the 80's and was another band touched by the genius of Tony Wilson (who pushed for them to open for New Order back in the day)and has had albums produced by Brian Eno. They're best known in the States for their single "Laid" which was their closing song of the night that included literally half of the audience joining the band (trumpet and violin included) onstage for a good old fashioned sing-along.

They played several tracks on their new album including the title track that features some pretty strong imagery about falling towers and "dust in the air" and includes the chorus 'Hey ma, the boy's in body bags,' and is more shocking for the jaunty way in which it is delivered. Frontman Tim Booth declared 'even our protest songs are uplifting.' That's what I've always loved about this group. Their raw, observational lyrics are always optimistic and honest, often a rare combination.

The press has never been able to categorize JAMES which is part of why they haven't reached the kind of popularity that seems like a no-brainer. The internet has once again given the ability to people to find out about this great band. I was kind of surprised that the show was sold out given most times when I mention them I get the standard 'who'? I was even more surprised and encouraged to see a well-rounded crowd of young hipsters, ex-pat brits, and old-guard music freaks like myself on hand. It was one of the more enthusiastic crowds I've witnessed in LA in quite awhile.

If you haven't heard them, definitely give 'em a try if you like genre-busting bands. They're writing songs now and promise another album to come as the second coming continues.

Friday, August 29, 2008

I am a Radiohead

Radiohead wrapped up their North American Tour this past week. I've seen them 6 times and just realized that it was over 10 years ago that they had me at 'Meeting in the Aisle' (an obscure B side) on a dreary NYC night at Radio City Music Hall. They've been sacred to me ever since and I don't use that term lightly either. They've been with me through relationship and life struggles and were my soundtrack to navigate through 9/11 where I had a front row seat. 'Life in A Glass House' repeatedly danced through my brain with the deeply relevant message 'Once again, we are hungry for a lynching/That's a strange mistake to make/You should turn the other cheek/Living in a glass house.'
I felt compelled to travel great distances to see them including a trip to Dublin in October 2000 to see them in Kildare, Ireland on Thom Yorke's birthday which was quite a treat. I recall it as being a big internet astonishment moment where I realized that I could press a bunch of buttons on a keyboard and walk up to this little booth I'd traveled so far to get to and they had a ticket waiting for me. Radiohead was in the midst of a five-week tour with custom designed big-top tent and state of the art sound, lights, laser and big screens. No corporate branding or logos to be found either at these generous and fan focused series of shows. As I looked around the hyper-enthusiastic European crowd during 'Exit Music' I realized the shamanic abilities of this truly special band. Thom Yorke had literally cast a spell over the thousands of us who were completely still and seemingly out-of-body.

Sing us a song,
a song to keep us warm,
there's such a chill, such a chill.

And you can laugh a spineless laugh,
we hope your rules and wisdom choke you.

And now we are one
in everlasting peace.

R'head has played 'Exit Music' in all 6 shows that I've seen (I have to mention seeing them in Florence, the home of the Rennaissance and the eery Dantes Inferno thread the show had!) Ten years later 'Exit Music' still had that same mesmerizing effect at the Inaugural SF Outsidelands Festival where Radiohead was the first band EVER to play at night at Golden Gate Park. Quite an honor and a perfect druidic night with the fog rolling above us. Thom and the gang performed another magical sermon replete with poetic dissonance of the horrors and joys of life framed by a dazzling light and video accompaniment.

It was an epic show and this Tour was clearly a meaningful one for the band and fans. 'In Rainbows' released digitally in a groundbreaking 'pay what you want' format, beautifully ties all of their previous work together. It's sound and lyrics seem particularly timely delivered with a sense of urgency and guided by a steady, mature hand. Hearing all of the songs on the new album live was glorious including one of my favorite moments of the show where the power went out on the band and forced the crowd into a sing-along during "All I Need"--

You are all I need
You are all I need

I'm in the middle of your picture
Lying in the reeds

Rumor has it that Radiohead is going to cut back on their touring due to their environmental concerns about their sizeable footprint. Yorke has become a big spokesman for the Big Ask which is pushing for greater legislation by the EU to combat emissions that cause climate change.

I'm grateful to have seen them on this tour in such a magical surrounding and no matter what they do from here, their influence and inspiration will carry great value for many, many years to come.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

BLADE your ride

I just co-created and produced a launch party for a fantastic new product called BLADE from a company out of Austin, Texas named Sabertec. BLADE attaches to your tailpipe and reduces emissions of greenhouse gasses and air pollution, and it improves fuel economy to potentially save hundreds of dollars per year on gas. According to the company founder Bill O'brien, the fuel efficiency increase was a complete surprise benefit of the technology. They set out to capture harmful particulates with the BLADE and it actually makes the engine perform at a more efficient rate, thus improving fuel economy. I could see as much as a 34% fuel efficiency improvement on my 4-cylinder Prius--I just got one on the car so we'll see how it goes! Most importantly though, a $200 up-front investment that helps reduce emissions seems like a no-brainer (major distribution outlets for BLADE will be forthcoming). A recent German study convincingly shows that auto-emissions cause significantly higher rates of asthma, skin rashes and allergies in children.

The invite only party to create awareness about BLADE was a great success. 400 people showed up in what proved to be a very cool and eco-savvy crowd. The Crystal Method played for an hour and a half dipping way into the library with my fave of the night "Love is a Battlefield" by Pat Benatar. We served organic wines from Organic Vintners and Parducci, organic chocolate from Theo and lovely hors d'oeuvres from the always amazing M Cafe de Chaya. Art was provided by Timothy Williams and Jennifer Hart Biagiotti. More pix can be found here.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Bon Voyage to "Junk"

On June 1st, Dr. Marcus Eriksen and Joel Paschal from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation set sail from Long Beach to Hawaii on Junk, a raft they built on 15,000 plastic bottles. Why? To alert the world to the growing problem of plastic fouling our oceans. If you don't know about the Pacific Ocean Garbage patch, please get to know this gnarly floating plastic island TWICE the size of Texas. Yes, Texas! For the last 50-odd years, every piece of plastic that has made it from our shores to the Pacific Ocean has been breaking down and accumulating in the great Pacific Garbage Patch (more of a continent than a patch).

It's a huge problem and shameful how much of our plastic has been dumped and swept out into our seas. Unlike naturally occurring compounds, plastic in the ocean does not photo-degrade, it simply breaks up into ever-smaller pieces and lingers in the environment as an invisible toxic dust. Sea turtles and birds are ingesting it and even worse--tiny fragments of plastic act as sponges for persistent organic pollutants such as DDT and PCB’s, oily toxins that don’t dissolve in water. Plastic pellets in the POGP region have been found to accumulate up to one million times the level of these poisons – and they are entering the food chain from the filter feeders up. One day it is we who will be ingesting these toxins (sushi is sounding pretty good right now, huh?).

The only immediate solution is to drastically cut down on our use of plastic - NOW - plastic shopping bags and bottled water must be phased out as soon as possible. Of the 15 billion pounds of plastic the US produces each year just 1 billion is recycled. [Greenpeace] Recycling is only part of the puzzle as many complex products like cell phones and computers have so many different plastic components that sorting out the various types has been prohibitively expensive. Since the 1950’s plastic usage has increased tenfold every decade so that in 2001 the average American used 223 pounds of plastic. By the end of the decade it is estimated that our average yearly use will be 326 pounds. [Los Angeles Times] Every hour Americans use and discard 2.5 million plastic bottles, totaling 22 billion a year.

This is going to take a yeoman's effort to dismantle our global plastic addiction (and let's not forget about our friend and gateway drug OIL), so start your own personal plastic elimination commitment by coming to wish the crew of Junk a safe and media crazed "bon voyage" on Sunday June 1st, from 2:00-3:00 at the Long Beach Aquarium. Wave them well on their monumental 6-week journey, and take a stand to help solve the plastic plague.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

NAU you see it...

Sad news about the demise of NAU, a sustainable fashion/outdoor clothing company who recently announced its intent to close. Just 14 months after launching, the Portland based retailer claims a "combination of less than ideal market conditions and lack of venture funding."

I was one of it's many fans who loved their sleek designs with great attention to detail (including no logo), performance and sustainable textile use. I was actually excited to venture to their new Beverly Center (my first trip there in 2 years, mind you!) store to attend the grand opening and witness the green ethic extended into its store interiors which featured displays made from reclaimed wood and dressing rooms with curtains made from recycled material. I somehow missed the cancellation email and the store manager told me that they had called an emergency meeting at their headquarters. The next day, they're done. What happened? Good question. First year's sales expectations were exceeded and plans for four other locations in San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, and a second Portland store were in the works and Nau planned to open 140 stores by 2010. Previews of the Fall '08 collection were set to be released, as well.

My guess is that they may have jumped to expand too quickly into to many retail outlets. I've learned that it took $35 million of capital to get through its first year of sales. In the midst of a scary economy especially for retail, they struggled to find new investors and were forced to cut back its planned number of store openings this year from 20 to 5. The Beverly Center location couldn't have been cheap although they did have an inspired model of keeping inventory in stores at a minimum, offering 10% discounts to customers who had their purchases shipped to them. That fit Nau's concept for a smaller, lower-cost store footprint albeit a risky one due to the emotional nature of purchasing apparel. In a mall-setting and an instant gratification culture, that's a tough ask. Though the apparel was extremely well conceived, it wasn't cheap as a pair of jeans cost $138.

Regardless, they are to be applauded for their pioneering efforts including offices and stores built to LEED Gold standard and 5% of purchases given to non-profit organizations. In less than a year Nau was able to donate $223,000 through its customer-directed giving program, they tagged "Partners for Change." Their fierce loyalty (myself included) and a mantra of 'unfuck the world', will be sorely missed. A now haunting elegy to the company can be found as part of Sundance Channel's 'Big Ideas For A Small Planet' series with a great segment on the idealogy of the upstart company.

What's left to be appreciated is their pioneering spirit as eco-fashion and sustainability march forward in the messy process called evolution. Here's some of the amazing standards Nau put upon themselves that will undoubtedly inspire others to follow:

• Apparel that adhered to the credo of ‘Beauty, Performance and Sustainability’
• Multipurpose apparel equally suited to weekend in the hills or a night on the town
• No external logos or branding on apparel
• Impressive tailored designs and construction detailing
• No paper catalogues
• LEED Gold standard offices and retail shops
• Purchase of Forest Stewardship Council certified timber for fittings
• Third Party verification of workers rights and conditions through Verite
• Restricted Substance List of materials not to be used in products
• Over 30 custom designed fabrics, using only recycled polyester, certified organic cotton, PLA corn, lambswool or merino wool
• Purchase of equivalent yield conventional corn to offset any GMO corn that might be in their PLA
• Use of high grade componentry like RiRi zips and Prym fasteners
• 5% of purchase price donated to customer-directed not-for-profit organisations
• Webfront retail stores promoting direct-from-warehouse-to-customer shipping
• Recycled content flat pack shipping bags, instead of space wasting boxes
• Carbon offsets for shipping and corporate travel
• Renewable energy certificates (wind and solar) for office and shops
• Acting as an agent for change through their blog
• Sponorship of environmentally and socially oriented online videos.
• Customer prizes and Flickr postings for photos of the clothing in action.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

When pigs fly

Another trip to the desert to dive into the pioneering U.S. music festival Coachella. I've heard a lot of complaining about the event over the years, but I'm grateful that we Angeleno's can make an easy two-hour trek to one of the best festivals in the world. I had never experienced such a diversity of acts in one place before my first journey out there in 1999. There's something magical about the desert land site that translates to 'the city of eternal sunshine.' The history of the event stems from a 1993 Tool and Pearl Jam show that summoned 25,000 fans to this first time concert venue location. Radical thinking has been part of the mystique from the get-go as that show was forged to boycott Ticketmaster's monopoly on all Southern California auditoriums.

Six years later, the inaugural '99 Coachella was one of the greatest musical experiences that I've ever had. Gil-Scott Heron, Detroit electronic music legends Derrick May, Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, Carl Craig, Beck (touring my favorite album Mutations), Ben Harper, Roni Size, Spiritualized, The Chemical Brothers, Morrissey, Nightmares on Wax, Underworld and Banco De Gaia to name a few that blew my mind. I'll never forget coming out of the dance tents and onto a sun drenched 100 degree polo field and feeling almost chilly. Coming from NYC where upstate a disasterous Woodstock a few months earlier featured rapes, fires and $4 bottled water, Coachella was evolutionary with two peaceful days, 25,000 people in attendance, few arrests and free water.

Fast forward to 2008 where one day suits me well as the crowds have grown large and my full speed stamina capacity maxes out at ten hours straight. I would've loved to have seen Prince and Portishead on Saturday, but made the call to witness 64 year old legend Roger Waters embed 'Dark Side of the Moon' into a glorious set. I've read a lot of bitching in the media about his 'bloated' 2+ hour performance, but I say bullocks. Yes, he's been touring the "Dark Side" theme for years, but to see the cohesion and the mastery in the desert was truly remarkable. I guarantee you that kids who wouldn't have otherwise ever checked out this show will never forget it. The surround-sound was the best I've ever heard in an outdoor venue. It was a full-on multi-media experience with great storytelling, incredible visuals, floating inflatable astronauts, pyrotechnics and the infamous flying pig (who got away, had a $10k reward for his return and was returned shredded by the prickly desert). Waters’ night ended with songs from The Wall, with fiery virtuosic soloing by violinist (and sultry Angeleno) Lili Haydn taking over Gilmour’s original leads on “Comfortably Numb.”

Kudo's to Goldenvoice for spending the cash to make Waters performance one of the most memorable ones in it's storied history. Coachella has always been a place of inspiration rekindling old flames like The Pixies, Iggy and the Stoges, Janes Addiction, Rage against the Machine, Siouxie and the Banshees, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Bauhaus and one of my fave acts this year Love and Rockets. It's also been a place where radical art is showcased to people who make the journey here from all over the world (who ain't ever going to make the more complicated trip to Burning Man) by amongst others, the Do Lab, Lucent Dossier and Michael Christian.

They've also improved their recycling program a ton since the early years where the field was literally a wasteland of plastic bottles. Teaming up with with Global Inheritance and The Energy Factor to implement various environmental initiatives has been smart, but there is definitely room to improve to catch up with the green initiatives of Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits. Best of all though, the festival offered free Amtrak train service to and from LA to on-site campers.
Ahhh, to be 23 again, cruising in the Amtrak bar car and partying for three days in 100 degree heat in the reverential musical pinball machine in the desert. When pigs fly...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Banksy strikes again

The brilliant 'Banksy' pulled off an another completely audacious stunt to produce what is believed to be his biggest work yet in central London. The Daily Mail reported that underground and thus far unknown graffiti artist managed to erect three storeys of scaffolding behind a security fence despite being watched by a CCTV camera.

The work, above a Post Office yard in Newman Street near Oxford Circus, shows a small boy, watched by a security guard, painting the words: ‘One nation under CCTV.’ Done under the cover of darkness, the scaffolding gang returned the next day to remove all evidence - again without the camera operator stopping them.
Andrew Newman, 35, a businessman from Dulwich, who works locally, said: ‘It was only on Sunday morning that the Post Offices guys realised what had happened.’

There are up to 4.2m CCTV cameras in Britain - about one for every 14 people.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Scorched Earth Day on the Promenade

It was pretty hot on Saturday at the 6th Annual Earth Day on the Promenade in Santa Monica.
I'm not just talking about the unusual summer-like weather. My temper was flaring at the LA shopping mecca event. It's perplexing because I do have respect for the pioneers, organizers and volunteers who take their time on a Saturday afternoon to promote what they deem a 'healthy lifestyle'. My gripe is that the way they do it has become frankly just plain awful and plays into the cliched stereotype.

It's alarming to me that thousands of people walking by the line of standard 10'x10' tents are witnessing the green lifestyle as low budget, half-baked and aesthetically third rate on their way to FootLocker and Banana Republic. The presentation is blatantly what the organizers want 'green' to look like rather than what might be more palatable and engaging for the general public, shopping frenzied and captivated audience to truly connect with and appreciate deeply (and I know for a fact that talented people have reached out to the organizers to help, but have been either been turned away or embarrassed by participating in the event). My argument is that it's not only well past time to preach to the indoctrinated, stale offerings like this event have become detrimental to a collective effort geared towards mass adoption for a sustainable planet.

Fortunately, there are many other promising Official Earth Day Celebration options on April 22 including one on Wilshire (featuring Michael Franti) and the Green Apple Festival in 8 major cities (including LA, featuring Ziggy Marley and Taj Mahal) with A-list speakers and talent.

What I've said may seem harsh, but my wish is that the many people involved in the Promenade event can find a way to get through to the management to make some long overdue changes (music, showcase more innovative products/services, dynamic speakers etc.) to give this event a fresh green start.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Cruising the "Anti-mall" in the OC

My fiancé and I had a Sunday adventure to head down to Costa Mesa to interview a wedding photographer husband and wife team. The kindly couple steered us away from the nearby South Coast Plaza Mall complex that I'd heard about, but have had the good fortune of avoiding. They knew of our green proclivities and directed us past the megamall-a-saurus to The Camp, an alt-shopper 'anti-mall' created by Shaheen Sadeghi back in 2002. It's actually a two part complex that consists of "The Lab" directly across the street, as well. Sadeghi built The Lab shopping center out of recycled military structures back in 1993, then nine years later added The Camp, which boasts grass roofs, solar power and a water filtration system that prevents ocean runoff.

The complex is definitely a mecca for putting the hip in hippie as both hipsters, action sports/outdoor enthusiasts and mod-hippies conveniently cruise around the facility. Among its tenants are Active Ride Shop, which caters to skateboarders, snowboarders and surfers; Adventure 16, a camping, hiking and climbing outfitter, a fully vegan Native Foods, Patagonia, Harlow Boutique, and raw food joint 118 degrees. There's a large scuba center where you can get certified, a cycle shop, and even a bikram yoga facility.

Sadeghi has clearly been a pioneer with a keen eye on youth culture marrying urban-hip, organic and action sports together. Sadhegi from what I've read is my kind of entrepreneur--one who has experienced many different, interesting and risk taking gigs from working with renowned couturier Charles James (who cited nature as his biggest source of inspiration in his work) at the Chelsea Hotel back in its heyday to making dresses for celebrity clients and winning the New York Designers award in 1977. He also manned the helm of Quicksilver alongside one of the all- time power players of surf Bob McKnight.

Through his diverse experience, he has been able to see ahead of the curve where Gen X, Gen Y and the baby boomers used to be neatly compartmentalized and separated by cultural rifts, to a place where old and young care about eating well, the environment and a more balanced lifestyle. He sees that creative merchandising and design that appeals to cultural commonalities tap into people’s emotions and simultaneously create a community. In this case, one focused more on well-being and positive life experience than the norm.
Now my question is when will something like The Camp open up in LA?!

Monday, March 31, 2008

"Night Gallery" and the downtown LA arts scene

I was involved in co-producing another event at the old Regent Theater in downtown LA this past weekend. An old burlesque theater and last seen as an adult film house, it was an ideal setting for the muti-media, multi-sensory 'Night Gallery'. A perfect venue for the art-goth/dark romantic sounds of David J (of Bauhaus and Love&Rockets lore), and Black Cat, a performance by 'ElectrOpera', art and photography from Timothy Williams (working exclusively with found objects), Joel Daavid, Jennifer Hart, and the hand-made fashion stylings of Iceland's own Stella Dottir.
I chose to participate under the EcoNouveau banner because I feel very strongly about branching out from the predictable 'green' events and delve deeply into art, fashion, music and film communities who want to be a part of the 'sustainable planet' movement but aren't necessarily bought into the current monotone vibe and message. I look for communities that have a strong do-it-yourself mentality and are passionate about their art and artists.
The art-goth scene is a powerful collective where both of these tenets ring true. There is probably more 'eco-fashion' at one of these type of gatherings than most green focused events that I've attended as recycled, repurposed, hand-made, thrift store chic rules the day here.
For many a music lover, David J's band Bauhaus was an incredibly influential act breathing life and inspiration to the post-punk world. They even named themselves after the german movement meaning "House of Building" that combined crafts and the fine arts. Bauhaus style became one of the most persuasive currents in Modernist architecture and modern design. The Bauhaus movement had a profound influence upon subsequent developments in art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design and typography.
You see where I'm going with this eco-enthusiasts? Fusing 'green' ideals with artists beyond the usual suspect communities is imperative. These artists and their supporters are the essential champions, ambassadors and next wave front-liners who will communicate (and further) the mission we are on to implement a truly sustainable planet. Look at what underground art legend Shepard Fairey is doing in the social and political landscapes these days for a spot on example of this.
If you live in LA or are visiting, make sure that you dive into the incredibly robust art scene that is going on here. In my humble opinion, it is one of the biggest reasons why Downtown LA may finally be on the rise again.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Gold diggin'

I really dug Utah's own Jared Gold's, open-to-the-general-public Los Angeles Fashion Week show at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles last Friday night. It was my favorite show during Fashion Week because it was fun --full disclosure--I bypassed Smashbox altogether this year including the Green Initiative Humanitarian Show which seems to be improving each year. Regardless, 1,000 plus pretty-freakin'-fashionable people attended Jared's show including eclectic talents Mark Ryden, Samantha Mathis, Billy Zane and Tarina Tarantino. It also featured a performance by Miss Derringer led by the multi-talented Liz McGrath after the runway show.

Underground maven Clint Catalyst hosted the show called 'Czarina' which was like an edwardian, neo-goth, surrealist cirque-berzerk. You have to love Jared Gold's ability to execute on his creative impulses, his art direction and the throngs that he attracts.

Gold utilized a motley crew of internet, reality t.v., and underground 'celeb's' as runway models which was quite brilliant as these people are well networked and each bring an audience to the table. Love or hate this new-found level of celebrity making (did PT Barnum have any idea what 15 minutes would look like today???) it is undoubtedly fascinating. Being out of that loop, the only one that I ever heard of was old-school ex-porn queen Traci Lords.

Gold also had the foresight to include a pop-up store at the show where you could slurp down an 'earth friendly vodka' while purchasing current and past wares including the uber eco-luxe jeweled Giant Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, known affectionately as the 'roach broach'.

What's 'eco-conscious' about all of this aside from live jewelry? Well, Gold uses a lot of recycled and repurposed fabrics and is certainly a D.I.Y. genius. Most importantly though, he is a strong personality who doesn't care about the fashion industry and its pretensions, refusing to show at Smashbox again or sell-out to Project Runway. He is vigilantly focused on his vision and serving the people that love him most. Eco-fashion peeps take note!!!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Natural Products Exponential

The Natural Products Expo held annually in Anaheim is a 'who's who' of the Natural/Organic product and service world. Food, supplements, health & beauty products, apparel, packaging and even pets are covered in this massive convention. 1,800 booths in all showcasing their wares and I'd imagine that they came close to reaching 50,000 attendees this year. Not surprisingly, there is good and bad news in all of this. The good news is that this industry is growing and made up of very passionate and enthusiastic folks many of whom aim to put much more intelligent, well conceived (and less toxic) products into the marketplace. On the downside, opportunism and false claims are clearly present and a side effect of the rapid growth. The LA Times wrote a piece about some sketchy claims by some of the companies in attendance here.
One of the events that I attended at the Expo was the "Think Vitality Fashion Show", a fund-raiser for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation (although they never mentioned how much was raised, which always gives me pause). As a creator/producer of fashion events such as EcoNouveau, I am always game to see what others are doing. Overall, the show was decent, although I felt like the designers were secondary to self-promotion of Think Vitality. I actually saw TV's founder Lizanne Falsetto being escorted by a slew of bodyguards to the afterparty. 'Nuff said...
High points for me were the energy of the room, a celebration of breast cancer survivors who paraded down the runway, and collections by Under the Canopy and Linda Loudermilk. It's nice to see UTC taking more chances and Linda's line's always have some daring pieces. I was also pleased to see the more casual lines of Livity and Indigenous Designs showing great progress merging sustainable textiles and a much improved eye for style. Koi Swimwear had some great suits although as was the case with every piece in the entire show, there was nary a mention of what any of the garments were made out of.
Overall, I still think 'eco-fashion' has a way to go to really penetrate a very cynical fashion marketplace and more importantly, get designers and their customers to understand why it's important to care about. Continued improvements in design, style and to me the weakest offering, presentation (venue, models, message, branding etc.) really must accelerate for trendsetters and culture makers to take it seriously enough to wear and promote the apparel. Otherwise, it stays fringe and in my book, that is a tragedy of epic proportions. I didn't see much press coverage beyond the usual 'green' suspects and for as much money that was spent on the event, that's also problematic.
So, what to make of NPE? It's exciting that there is so much interest in a more ethical marketplace. I suspect many of these companies are gearing themselves to be bought by the Hain/Heinz, Colgate-Palmolives and other consumer giants looking to capitalize on the growth of the the natural/organic products world (although I think many of them need much better brand positioning and distribution strategies). Competition appears stiff as long as we are playing the capitalist game comprised of ROI and exit strategies...
One strong piece of advise for New Hope, the company that runs NPE--please recycle! It was truly disconcerting that a convention that claims a more 'earth friendly' way of operating allows for the level of waste that I saw amidst the sampling/giveaways that almost every booth offered. I ended up bringing all of the water and energy drink giveaways that I drank during the course of the day to my bin at home because there were no recycling containers provided by the host. Come on people!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Shopping our way to safety

A new book by Andrew Szasz that looks at  'conscious consumerism'.  From Amazon:

Many Americans today rightly fear that they are constantly exposed to dangerous toxins in their immediate environment: tap water is contaminated with chemicals; foods contain pesticide residues, hormones, and antibiotics; even the air we breathe, outside and indoors, carries invisible poisons. Yet we have responded not by pushing for governmental regulation, but instead by shopping. What accounts for this swift and dramatic response?  And what are its unintended consequences?

Andrew Szasz examines this phenomenon in Shopping Our Way to Safety. Within a couple of decades, he reveals, bottled water and water filters, organic food, “green” household cleaners and personal hygiene products, and “natural” bedding and clothing have gone from being marginal, niche commodities to becoming mass consumer items. Szasz sees these fatalistic, individual responses to collective environmental threats as an inverted form of quarantine, aiming to shut the healthy individual in and the threatening world out. 

Sharply critiquing these products’ effectiveness as well as the unforeseen political consequences of relying on them to keep us safe from harm, Szasz argues that when consumers believe that they are indeed buying a defense from environmental hazards, they feel less urgency to actually do something to fix them.  To achieve real protection, real security, he concludes, we must give up the illusion of individual solutions and together seek substantive reform.

I have been thinking along the same lines for awhile, as well.  Filling our overly consumerist troughs with 'eco-friendly' products will ultimately not amount to much (except for more stuff).  It seems to me like a methadone treatment for a heroin addiction.  It can be useful, but it's not a viable long-term solution.  I still think that we are utilizing a collective, unspoken strategy of 'solving the problem at the level of intelligence that the problem was created' and really need to look to innovators, artists, philosophers, entrepreneurs who are able to effectively dissect our addiction to 'stuff' and show it to us in a way that can help us understand how deeply embedded we are to consumerist culture.  In terms of tangible and viable solutions, I feel that this is where the younger generation is crucial in aiding to the development of a more sophisticated way of being that recognizes the depth of the ecological problems we face and commits to creating an infrastructure that supports human development during this very tenuous phase of the evolution of our species.  Teens and twenty's have less exposure and habit in the consumerist trenches and frankly more to lose long term especially when it comes to the 'quality of life' category.
It's a daunting thought, yet completely exhilarating especially when you consider the opportunity at hand to re-create the human existence on the planet...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Permaculture at Farmlab

This is from my friend Harold Linde, uber-activist and storied champion for environmental protection and action.  If you haven't been to Farmlab, here's your chance.  They're doing some great work in our fair City:

This Sunday the culmination of a 6 month permaculture design course is happening at the very interesting Farm Lab Studios in Chinatown.  My team—the newly established Taproot Perma-Design Group--has created a plan to completely transform and revolutionize the new campus of the Environmental Charter High School here in SoCal.  You are invited to attend (there is a “talent” show afterwards which I cannot vouch for.  

Please RSVP to

The time is 11:00 AM this Sunday March 2 at :

Farmlab / Under Spring / Not A Cornfield LLC
1745 N. Spring Street #4
Los Angeles, CA 90012