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A great new book out entitled “Pantone, The 20th Century in Color” incorporates beautiful color plates with accompanying narrative by authors Leatrice Eiseman and Keith Recker that describe the last 100 years in the evolution of the color spectrum through the lens of the groundbreaking 1963 Pantone color system developed by Lawrence Hebert of Pantone.

The system codified the color spectrum, so that a certain shade of a color can be uniformly agreed upon and unknowingly revolutionized the world of graphic design. One can think back to any decade of the past century and certain colors and hues are easily associated with each time period. Serving as more than a mere color index, the book succeeds in describing the evolution of colors’ social imprint on culture, illustrated through advertisments, product design, fashion and general day-to-day life across generations.

Just close your eyes and visualize the 50s, 60s, 70s or 80s–it’s easy. That’s what’s so great about this book. From a historical perspective, filtered through the nuance of aesthetics, we have each period literally ‘colored in’ for us. Beautiful and simple.

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“It’s like being a policeman. You analyze people the minute they are in front of you. It can be very subtle. Shoes say a lot.” – Ari Versluis, Dutch Photographer

Ari Verslui and his creative partner Ellie Uyttenbro size people up the minute they meet them. They’re not judgmental per se, they’re just accustomed to categorizing people according to style and attitude.

You see, Verslui and Uyttenbro have been scanning the crowds for similar identities for years. This is all a part of their creative process for, “Exactitudes,” a photographic collection that explores the dress codes of various social groups. Their project is rooted in a basic theory: humans use clothing, behavior, and attitude to reflect originality and identity. Versluit and Uyttenbro both explore and demystify the concept of originality in their work by handpicking pedestrians who fit a specific identity to model their “look” in a studio photo shoot. Photos are then organized by social group and fit into a grid, defusing the appearance of individuality and originality. Photographed subjects represent such social groups as “teknohippies,” “bimbos,” and “gabberbitches.”

The fifth and most recent edition of “Exactitudes” features social identities culled from the Italian café scene. Photographic stills of sweater-frocked, prickly-bearded male “Americanos” and tight-lipped, fur-ensconced women of a certain age, a.k.a”Sciura Decaffeinatas” are featured. A compelling and interesting study in the incongruities between originality and conformity in style, this is a creative project to keep an eye on. Most importantly, Verslui and Uyttenbro dare to challenge the human quest for a special and unique identity. Their work invites everyone, even those who classify themselves as subcultural, to ask: “How original are we?”

To read more about the new edition of “Exactitudes” click here. Or here.

Even the ‘screw it all’ attitude of British punk rock had a business element to it, money was to be made. And no one was more aware of this, and arguably more important in developing, packaging, and selling punk to the world media than Malcolm McLaren. Malcolm died yesterday of cancer at age 64.

Malcolm was the original “cool hunter” for no one could sniff out a trend more effectvely. I can’t even begin to account for the ripple effect he’s had on today’s world of music, fashion, advertising, and general culture.  Like the name of the company his son founded, Malcolm was an Agent Provocateur.

God rest his provocative soul, for the business world could sure use a few more Malcolms and a heck of a lot less of everyone else…

armani store

Over the years, my opinion of Armani has swayed radically. In the 80s, I coveted his aesthetic, the guy was ‘it’ for a frenzied generation weaning itself off disco and punk. In the 90s, I chafed at the glut excess of a static attitude gone, I thought, nowhere – a brand for laggard Eurotrash wannabes. Nowadays, I have utmost respect for the man. He has endured, and in retrospect, may actually transcend generational shifts with his personal zeitgeist.

Excerpts from a recent Metropolitan Home interview:

  • On Inspiration: “It comes at you when least expected; I can be inspired by almost anything: a book ,a film, or something as simple as the smile of a child walking down the street.”
  • On Taste: “The most important thing with taste is to reflect your own character; real good taste is not about an abstract ideal.”
  • Fashion vs. Style: “Fashion is often about trends, whereas style is about more eternal qualities.”
  • On Design: “The essence of good design lies in the consistency of the approach. Good design should aim to produce things that are both beautiful and functional. If it’s a chair, it should be well made and a pleasure to sit in; if it’s a leather bag, it should hold its contents and be comfortable to carry.”
  • On the significance of “Home”: “A feeling of warmth and tranquility; a place of physical and mental refuge.”

The guy just spent millions and millions of dollars to open a store in NYC, which surely didn’t need another high-end store but definitely can benefit from a ‘shot in the arm’ anchor; demonstrating someone is willing to make a significant investment in Gotham during these troubled times with everyone reflexively pulling back, ‘rewinding’, seeking a bailout,, or simply walking away from commitment . Given his age of 74 years, he will never see a dime in return. Rather, I think he did it because, aesthetically, it made intuitive sense. This guy is not going golfing…

sowt-image-temple-uThe movement of people around social causes, buying behavior and general trends has always been “of the moment” in both academic and popular press. From the seminal work forty years ago of Everett Rogers and Frank Bass, up to today’s Malcolm Gladwell, Richard Florida, James Surowiecki and the UK’s Mark Earls, we always want to understanding the ‘why’s’ and ‘how’s’ of group activity.

Agreeing in principal with each of their respective points of view, the one element that I see in common and critical to it all making sense is the work of Mark Granovetter, “The Strength of Weak Ties.” For me it’s the granddaddy of all theories regarding social networks. It is the “ties that bind”; the theoretical glue.

According to Granovetter, “our acquaintances (weak ties) are less likely to be socially involved with one another than are our close friends (strong ties).” Makes sense, no big deal, right? But the beauty of the theory is where Granovetter goes with the relationship within these “low and high density” social networks.

The theory goes that I will have a collection of close friends, most of whom are in touch with one another, a densely knit clump of social structure. Moreover, I will have a collection of acquaintances, few of whom know one another. Each of these acquaintances, however, is likely to have close friends in his own right and therefore to be enmeshed in a closely knit clump of social structure, but one different from mine. The weak tie between me and my acquaintance, therefore, becomes not merely a trivial acquaintance tie but rather a crucial bridge between the two densely knit clumps of close friends.

To the extent this assertion is correct, these clumps would not, in fact, be connected to one another at all were it not for the existence of weak ties.

This theory plays into the diffusion of information and overall trend innovation in that, “individuals with few weak ties will be deprived of information from distant parts of the social system and will be confined to the provincial news and views of their close friends. This deprivation will not only insulate them from the latest ideas and fashions but may put them in a disadvantaged position in education, politics, healthcare, and general advancement of quality of life.” Heavy stuff!

So be kind to all, and even more so to those you only give a friendly nod to on the train or in the supermarket, for they are potentially more an indicator of your future well-being than you realize.