life of mike

a really fucking long story

OFFSHORE MANUFACTURING INTRO

After decades now of working with crew in China (and many other countries) to make clothes and accessories: I firstly want to say that they are epic partners in so many ways - all the negative media is so wrong.

Many of the factories I’ve been to in Asia make Australian factories look like third world countries.

I’ll never forget the morning I struggled to get to this garment district in Hong Kong with my boss and we stumbled around with our two word Chinese vocab to the sketchy looking entry to a twenty story building that looked in need of repair.

Only lifts were these massive two door clonkers that 30 people at a time were hopping in to get to work. Stepped inside and theres a sign sticky taped to the side wall that said (as the photo shows) “General Fright Lift”. I was already reading the fine print as the doors shut and we headed up. 

Sounds like a drama about to unfold I know but nothing happened.

I always kept that photo cause I thought it was funny, but it also shows how easily shit can get lost in a bad translation !

I’m gonna start writing loads about manufacturing offshore, and the key reason I can do it so easily is because I have been there a lot and I know that all the people we deal with over there are exactly the same as you and me.

If your work is precise and clear and your instructions well written and polite there is little room for error.

This is one of the keys to good design work…….manufacturing “partners”. Nobody is beneath you in this world.

Fright - Sudden fear

Fright - Sudden fear

NYC doorway…..so good over there when there’s years of street art layered up !

NYC doorway…..so good over there when there’s years of street art layered up !

One of the crossroads to Tokyo’s biggest shopping streets Meiji Dori - Obey stickers

One of the crossroads to Tokyo’s biggest shopping streets Meiji Dori - Obey stickers

MARKETING AND POPULARITY

The eternal desperate struggle by companies large and small….to win the hearts and minds of the customer they chase. People like Shepard Fairey (look his story up in full) are the freaking masters.

He has made a study of popularity by actually doing it and enjoying the ride. His first concept was to produce stickers with Andre the giant on them and pass them to skaters worldwide via the underground.

As a couple of influential skaters began to ride them under the deck: the stickers slowly became popular to a very select skate crew. At the same time Shepard was slapping a sticker on every freaking free spot in the world and subconsciously building our desire to know what it is and why we keep seeing them.

Over time it became very uncool not to have an Obey sticker somewhere.

Within a couple of years Obey began producing amazing multicoloured paper posters and hitting influential spots worldwide. Products followed and were easy to sell.

We are now watching the tail end as companies like Globe buy the Australian distribution and Shepard walks with millions…..beat that !

Over a 15 year period I took shots of his art and stickers on walls around the world…I’ll keep randomly posting them.

Obey…..a story worth the read for marketing and popularity study !

Obey…..a story worth the read for marketing and popularity study !

Andre The Giant (see on this shot stencilled on the wall) was some massive wrestling freak who died young and was made immortal by Shepard Fairey and his worldwide popularity phenomenon started by Obey Giant stickers in the 90’s 

Andre The Giant (see on this shot stencilled on the wall) was some massive wrestling freak who died young and was made immortal by Shepard Fairey and his worldwide popularity phenomenon started by Obey Giant stickers in the 90’s 

This was on the concrete in Brooklyn and I was told the story….. a few days earlier three of NYC’s finest had rolled up to his back stairs yelling and shit: as he came out and reached for his ID they opened fire…one of them reloaded and kept shooting….his newborn and wife were inside what turned out to be the wrong address. 

This was on the concrete in Brooklyn and I was told the story….. a few days earlier three of NYC’s finest had rolled up to his back stairs yelling and shit: as he came out and reached for his ID they opened fire…one of them reloaded and kept shooting….his newborn and wife were inside what turned out to be the wrong address. 

New York City  Soho backstreet (maybe Mott) 1999 - SH !

New York City  Soho backstreet (maybe Mott) 1999 - SH !

WHAT IS DESIGN

Try and avoid the illusion while you enjoy the euphoria of the excitement….the word design to me means hard work and a coming together of many factors to create a finished product that is successful and pleasing to yourself.

There is a very elite and incredibly small group of people who are successful as designers, but thankfully if you have learnt useful skills along the way then there is a lifetime of employment within your chosen industry.

My interpretation of design is a combination of talent, learnt skills, and tenacity are what it takes, and the talent may well lay in the talking as much as the drawing or styling.

A great designer is a researcher, a socialite, an observer, a stylist, a worker, and a desperate junkie in need of the satisfaction of aesthetic finality and perfection.

There is a monkey on the back of all designers to prove something to somebody and or to themselves……to pursue the dream is noble and worthwhile…your dreams are achievable.

I heard a great line a few days ago: “If there’s no future in it: at least the present is worth the memory”…if only some fuck had told me that 20 years ago, I may not have wasted some mediocre moments thinking it was all a waste.