Archives for January 2012 | A Continuous Lean.

ACL Field Trip | Mr Porter’s Office

Jan 31st, 2012 | Categories: ACL Field Trip, London | by Michael Williams

Let me just be completely clear right from the outset here; the Mr Porter HQ in London is the coolest office I have ever visited. I don’t want you guys to be at all confused about how I stand on this issue. The space so perfectly embodies the online shop stroke magazine (see how well I understand their language now) that part of me thought I was on a movie set. Name of the movie you are wondering? Gattaca.

Though seemingly perfect, the room was the furthest thing from pretentious — which is a sad ailment that many “fashion” companies suffer from. Not Mr Porter though, it couldn’t be further from that. There was a genuine sense of collaboration floating around the cavernous rooms as the legions of stylish folks worked away at newsroom style communal tables. Also notably unpretentious was Net-a-Porter / Mr Porter founder Natalie Massenet. As my little tour snaked its way through the space we eventually came to Natalie’s workspace and she took a few minutes to chat with me about how she got her start and how she built Net-a-Porter up from nothing into the admired company it is today. To talk with Natalie was both inspiring and refreshing at the same time. There are so many people in this world that have done seemingly nothing and are so full of themselves, yet then you meet someone like Natalie who couldn’t be more humble.





Wants & Desires | 1978 Toyota Land Cruiser

Jan 29th, 2012 | Categories: Uncategorized | by Michael Williams

That old Land Cruiser I saw in Aspen a couple of years ago? I haven’t forgotten it and haven’t stopped watching the used market for them (I’m not a buyer, just a lurker). Yesterday I discovered this fully-restored 1978 truck and had to show it off here. It’s a pristine ride, but not going to come cheap at nearly $40,000. Though, I suppose that’s the price when you don’t do any of the work yourself. Either way it is more affordable than this bad boy.

The old 40 Series FJs are really great looking old trucks. Even though they are sort of Jeep / Land Rover clones, they still look great, especially when restored as nicely as this FJ40.





Better Than New | Re-crafting the Red Wing 1905

Jan 25th, 2012 | Categories: Footwear, Work Wear | by Michael Williams

My love of Red Wing began early one Saturday morning when I was thirteen years old. My father came into my room and woke me up and drove me to the Red Wing store in my hometown on the East Side of Cleveland to get my first pair of work boots. The excitement of the gift of work boots from my dad quickly faded when I realized that I was then being conscripted into weekends and summers of manual labor. What I leaned about working for my dad was sort of surprising to me; I loved working outside and I loved manual labor. When the job was done, you are done. And each day held huge feelings of accomplishment. It was through this experience that my life long appreciation and connection to the Red Wing Shoe Company was forged.

A great part of buying a Goodyear-welted boot was the fact that I could have them re-soled, and even have it done multiple times. When you are doing physical work on your feet all day, it doesn’t take you long to realize that breaking in new boots adds a seriously unwanted wrinkle into earning a paycheck. My solution was to own two pairs of Red Wings. When the soles on one pair would wear out, I would send them in to be re-soled and would wear the back up pair while they were away. So if a pair was at the factory being re-crafted, the other pair would be comfortably on my feet. For me, breaking in new boots on the job was a thing of the past.





An American Made Apple iPhone?

Jan 21st, 2012 | Categories: Made in the USA, Random, Technology | by Michael Williams

The New York Times today published a startling article discussing the manufacturing of the Apple iPhone and the economic impact of the company’s production decisions over the past several years. The crux of the piece centers on Apple’s global supply chain and the dominance of Asia when it comes to electronic manufacturing. The article also questions whether it would be possible to make the iPhone in the United States and how the shift of manufacturing by U.S. companies has impacted the American economy and the middle class. As an American, the article is utterly terrifying.

Some excerpts from How U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work:

For over two years, the Apple had been working on a project — code-named Purple 2 — that presented the same questions at every turn: how do you completely reimagine the cellphone? And how do you design it at the highest quality — with an unscratchable screen, for instance — while also ensuring that millions can be manufactured quickly and inexpensively enough to earn a significant profit?

The answers, almost every time, were found outside the United States. Though components differ between versions, all iPhones contain hundreds of parts, an estimated 90 percent of which are manufactured abroad. Advanced semiconductors have come from Germany and Taiwan, memory from Korea and Japan, display panels and circuitry from Korea and Taiwan, chipsets from Europe and rare metals from Africa and Asia. And all of it is put together in China.

In its early days, Apple usually didn’t look beyond its own backyard for manufacturing solutions. A few years after Apple began building the Macintosh in 1983, for instance, Mr. Jobs bragged that it was “a machine that is made in America.” In 1990, while Mr. Jobs was running NeXT, which was eventually bought by Apple, the executive told a reporter that“I’m as proud of the factory as I am of the computer.” As late as 2002, top Apple executives occasionally drove two hours northeast of their headquarters to visit the company’s iMacplant in Elk Grove, Calif.

But in the last two decades, something more fundamental has changed, economists say. Midwage jobs started disappearing. Particularly among Americans without college degrees, today’s new jobs are disproportionately in service occupations — at restaurants or call centers, or as hospital attendants or temporary workers — that offer fewer opportunities for reaching the middle class.

“We shouldn’t be criticized for using Chinese workers,” a current Apple executive said. “The U.S. has stopped producing people with the skills we need.”

I hear a lot of Americans say that we don’t need manufacturing anymore, but the truth of the matter is: jobs at Wal-Mart rarely turn into anything better than low wage retail jobs. And they certainly don’t hold much promise of economic advancement. As the Times points out, it’s all about job multipliers.

Read the full article here.

One more thing while I am on my soap box. Reporting and news like this is the reason why The New York Times is worth supporting through digital subscriptions, or better yet, through traditional subscriptions. Just my two cents.





New York-Idlewild to Stockholm-Arlanda c. May 1959

Jan 21st, 2012 | Categories: Flickr Find, Photography | by Michael Williams

Nick DeWolf spent nearly his entire life carrying around a camera and documenting the places he went and the things he saw. The scale and scope of this is incredible, especially when you consider it was all done in a time before digital photography. Over the past four years I have been following his life, roll by roll and slide by slide, through Flickr. The photos are being shared with the help of DeWolf’s son-in-law Steve Lundeen, who has been methodically scanning and cataloging DeWolf’s life’s worth of photos — a project nearly as daunting as the original.

The photos have been working their way through the 1960s into the 1970s until recently when pictures from a vacation to Europe in 1959 began playing out through the Flickrstream. The trip begins in May of 1959 on an SAS flight from Idlewild Airport (now called John F. Kennedy International Airport) to Stockholm, Sweden. From there the adventures continue on through France, Switzerland and Italy. The images from this journey are some of my favorite from the tens of thousands that have been published by DeWolf.





Shopping L.A. | General Quarters

Jan 20th, 2012 | Categories: Los Angeles, Menswear, Retail | by Michael Williams

Talking about Shelter Half a while back, I noted the further development of L.A.’s La Brea Avenue as a new little area of interest for retailers. There have been great stores in this part town for a long time, Union and American Rag being probably the two best known and most widely respected. General Quarters is one of the newish shops to join the menswear fray on La Brea. The store got a lot of call outs when I was working on an update to the LA shopping map and it wasn’t until recently that I had a chance to stop by. While the store is not “just opened,” I think it was worth highlighting here for those that don’t spend much time in LA.





Workwear from Way Back | H.W. Carter & Sons

Jan 16th, 2012 | Categories: Work Wear | by Michael Williams

I first heard a few month’s back that Greg Chapman (who most recently launched the Perfecto Brand for Schott NYC), Nate Warkentin and Chris Grodzki (from Stanley & Sons) were all working together on a new collection of workwear called H.W. Carter & Sons. The thing was, it wasn’t necessarily all new. The mark and rights to H.W. Carter & Sons was acquired and Greg, Nate and Chris got together to put a collection together and relaunch the company, one of America’s oldest work clothing makers. Along the way Greg came to me for some marketing help and we (by we I mean Paul + Williams) started working with the brand (full disclosure and all that good stuff). The interesting thing is, H.W. Carter’s & Sons is an old company. Originally founded back in 1859 by Henry W. Carter in Lebanon, New Hampshire it soon after became widely regarded (especially in New England) for its overalls and workwear. Henry Carter himself became widely known as a showman and extravagant fellow, often marketing his company wildly throughout the Northeast.