Laver’s Law of Fashion

Good stuff…

Laver’s Law of Fashion: James Laver was a museum curator for the Victoria and Albert Museum in London from the ‘30s through the ‘50s. He was also a fashion theorist and historian who conceived Laver’s Law — an attempt to make sense of the fashion trend lifecycle.

Here is Laver’s Law:

Indecent 10 years before its time
Shameless 5 years before its time
Outré (Daring) 1 year before its time
Smart Current Fashion
Dowdy 1 year after its time
Hideous 10 years after its time
Ridiculous 20 years after its time
Amusing 30 years after its time
Quaint 50 years after its time
Charming 70 years after its time
Romantic 100 years after its time
Beautiful 150 years after its time

Stanley Marcus, the former president of Neiman Marcus, recounts in his memoir Minding the Store how Laver’s Law was used by Neiman Marcus clothes buyers in the late 60’s. There was a heated internal debate on whether the trend for that next year would still be the mini skirt (which was the current fashion) or the longer midi skirt. Marcus asked Laver point blank if the mini skirt was dead. Laver told him that the mini skirt had at least another 2 years to go — against expert opinion at the time.

His forecast was right, the midi was a complete flop, many women continued to wear the miniskirt, and those who couldn’t or wouldn’t make up their minds went into the pants suit. Pants were bound to come, but the skirt-length controversy made pants acceptable at an accelerated rate.

The brilliance of this timeline is that it can be applied to nearly all creative mediums — not just fashion but also art, design, architecture, and even music. Smart, or Current Fashion, doesn’t have a particular time frame attached to it. Something can be smart for 1 year or a even few years.

Think back to some of the trendy things of the past and you’ll see how it applies: candy colored iMacs, Victorian wallpaper, Emigre fonts, Disco, Sears homes of the 1920’s, Preppy clothes, Atari video game box covers, and Braun products of the late-50’s early 60’s.

Hitting that sweet spot around Daring and Smart when you’re trying to design, create or sell something is crucial. There’s even a market for Dowdy too, right? Just look around at your local mall or shopping center. Just remember that in a few years it’ll start to look bad. In 10 years it’ll look REALLY bad. Then, after some time, it will be appreciated — or even revered — again. I take comfort that something like Comic Sans (theoretically) will have a shot at being beautiful in 100 years time.

[Consider what doesn’t fit this concept. I’m curious for counter examples.]

Tour withdrawal


What you still need to know is this. Before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we move toward that dream. That’s the point at which most people give up. It’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon. Every search begins with beginner’s luck and every search ends with the victor being severely tested.

—Paulo Coelho, from The Alchemist

Billykirk: We must all remember it’s not just reaching our goals, no matter what they happen to be, but also what actions we used to attain them.

That said…

Our family moves on to the back half of the “summer” (not the season, but the school year defined break) now that the Tour is over. Watching the Tour is a family institution, possibly even a celebration ritual of our summer. If only we got the month off, it would be far easier to follow along. Yet, we make the time.

Which leads to what we’re trying to do now… such as clean up the house, move projects forward, some of us hope to visit friends, and I’m trying to think about the Philly Challenge. If you have a second… I’d appreciate a donation. I’ve got some cool swag to give away and any donation greater than $5 is eligible for a prize. (Multiples of 5 equal one entry per 5, so $25.00 gets you 5 entries…)

Tweets about the Livestrong, cancer, and Fat Cyclist communities are aggregated here.

Tour symmetries

“I think he’s trying,” says Eki, “to wear the yellow jersey.” Aren’t we all? But what this year’s Tour seemed to point out more than many others I’ve watched over the years is how you get there is more important to everyone.

It seemed like last year this lesson had begun to sink in. “It’s kind of cool to be the one up front pulling.” was heard to be said by Lance. Being the one up front pulling has rewards that last a lifetime. Just ask Big George.

Cycling has a benefit over many other sports besides its accessibility (anyone can ride). It can have style and it can lend you style. You can be the personification of a style, or your style can be a manifestation of who you are. Or both at various times. The long hours on the road can distill the essence of your being even as it instills new qualities as you explore your limits. It’s much like practicing a musical instrument. It inhabits you even as you illuminate it. (Nietzsche would be proud). This symmetry continues.

This year’s Tour also taught people manners and noblesse oblige. You do not need to wait, but you do not need to attack. There is a middle ground though it can be tough to find for some people. For some it seems to be black and white: “Everyone can attack when it is easy. You win races by attacking when it hurts, you attack when it is hard, when your legs are burning, when everyone else is breathing hard and you are suffering. That is when you attack.” Maybe, in its purest, noblest sense. But in reality people are scared and confused and they attack when an opportunity presents itself. That is human nature. But I love that so many people feel that the Tour isn’t just about raw human emotion, courage, and suffering, but also, and possibly more so about sportsmanship, elegance, and a profound respect for your competitors. And I hope that they act that way in their own lives.

The road humbles us all. The miles pile up and they write a story on our faces and bodies. The windy flats, the climbs, and the “lumpy” rollers. So often it feels like the road attacks us; climbs lurking around each curve like a terrorists bomb; never letting the ride relax into a painless cruise. They explode our lungs and hearts, remind us of our responsibilities, our limitations, and in the end, we seek them out to grind those edges off our lives.

This year Armstrong went out the way he came in: digging deep, enjoying the pain and riding, at times, like a champion. Love him, hate him or whatever, he will leave a chasm in the sport now that he’s done for good (I hope he doesn’t make a fool out of me here, but I think not). Maybe he can do more good just pulling for others now.

The next time you’re on the rivet, crosseyed, and attempting to fly up some hill, or launching your next move, things will be clearer because of this year’s Tour. Courage and defiance. Anger and revenge. Apology and remorse. All were present this year to encourage and teach us. The symmetry continues.

This year celebrated the 100 anniversary of the inclusion of the Pyrannees in the race. The scouts for the Tour famously reported the inclusion of Col du Tourmalet as “parfaitement praticable” (perfectly fair) while the riders found the Mountain climbs so difficult that “Vous êtes des assassins!” – ‘You are assassins’ spat Octave Lapize to onlookers and Tour officials as he struggled over the Col d’Aubisque in the 1910 Tour. It was also that year that a small concession was introduced for the first time by Degrange—la voiture-balai, the infamous broom-wagon to sweep up any riders unable to carry on. Without one, there is no need for the other.

The Tour will end shortly and someone will have won. And life will press on. The intensity of sporting events is that they distill life to simple rules and boundaries. The majesty is that we can carry the lessons with us into our lives and use what we’ve learned to make a difference in a way that truly matters. Riding a bike is a perfect metaphor. Find a balance, pull for others, then seek the yellow jersey.


The week in links (07/19)

FedEx redux

In the end FedEx shipped the package back to the sender, it having fallen afowl of FedEx’s policy about cell phone shipments which it can’t seem to make clear on their incredibly horrendous site.

The policy runs something like this

“We’re not releasing this package unless (fuzzy FedEx stuff known only to them but is similar to) someone signs for this at the valid address that we brought it to, and no you cannot pick it up or a sign a door tag that we leave for you because we’re not leaving it anyway, unless the company that shipped the phone says we can, and btw, don’t bother because there’s no way for the them to tell us that anyway.”

A friend had a similar experience with FedEx and cell phone (different phone, different phone company) where they FedEx left a door tag. She signed it, and the next found another door tag but no package. When she called FedEx they said that they wouldn’t leave the phone despite the signature… but neither door tag explained that… which in my mind explains the attitude failure that FedEx displays almost all the time. They’re people don’t care if they actually deliver the package.

“Delivery” is also a shady word in FedEx’s world since I don’t believe the package I was trying to pry out of their hands ever left their routing facility. The “mailroom” here is fairly efficient, and in my experience a good natured and hard working bunch. If a FedEx person had said “Hey, I’ve got this package for someone named X, do you have any idea?” I’d bet that package would’ve made it to our collective desk. But I don’t think they ever made that attempt because the address didn’t pass their validation without a suite number or company name. Why could an invalid address be allowed into their system? Dunno. But now that it made been flown half across the country it was undeliverable, and not releasable. It never left the facility from where they wouldn’t release it to someone who arrived to fetch it (moi), and have now sent it back to where it came from, with everyone losing. I know we’re not paying for all this nonsense, that’s for sure, except in annoyance and lost time.

At some point we’ll have to go through another round with AT&T to get an upgrade phone shipped out to an address where we stand a chance of getting it delivered. But this whole thing sucked, and like I said, can only be causing execs at UPS to roll on the floor laughing, and hopefully, to pay attention to the difference they can ensure their service maintains. Don’t ever do this stuff to your customers… it’s a business ending failure if not corrected.

FedEx -1 or so, AT&T +1

A typical FedEx delivery truck. Photograph taken in Chicago, Illinois on August 26, 2005 by Kelly Martin.

FedEx, the oft revered delivery company, has got some issues brewing. Here’s two of them.

There’s a company who’s goods I purchase. They ship FedEx signature required. They offer no options (that’s another story). This is a problem because often no one is home when they attempt delivery. That means either traveling to the FedEx facility and picking it up (that’s not what I call delivery) or signing the door tag and leaving that on my front door.

most people just sign the door tag and wait another day. I find that annoying since the package was literaly on my doorstep already. Further, if the signature is supposed provide security, the doortag does the opposite. It announces for all who drive by that there will be a package left on my stoop sometime soon. There is no way (from what I understand) to inform FedEx of when a good time to deliver the package would be, so I can’t help them deliver the package securely.

Recently, they started calling to inform me that a package that requires a signature will be arriving the next giving me the option leaving a preemptive doortag of my own making for the driver, once again announcing that package will be there soon, and now saving them a trip but not improving security one bit. So FedEx’s situation is improved by the phone call, but mine has not since again, they provide no opportunity to give them feedback as to when a good delivery time would be, or maybe even a “press 2 in liu of leaving a sign on your door that screams ‘a package that is so cool and expensive it required a signature will be here, on this very spot, later.’ “

And if that’s not annoying enough. The Dude In Charge at work kindly upgraded the phone we use for testing and development which I carry. He ordered the upgrade which AT&T is shipping. They do not have a corporate name associated with the account so it ships to the company address without the company name, and the FedEx delivery person doesn’t know what to do with it (and/or the mailroom rejects it). Delivery Exception is noted on the FedEx tracking site. Again, with no way to help FedEx get the package destined for you, to you. Nor information about where to call or find your local FedEx delivery station which is noted as “At Local Fedex Facility: New York, NY, US”. Really? No street address… nothing. In a city the size of NY. Seriously.

So I ask around and someone suggest calling them. Hah, I think. How mid-fifties. But since their website provided no useful information, I called. I choose the track option and the computer notes the delivery exception and passes me on to a rep. The rep informs me that the package is at a FedEx store around the corner. I explain that I will be going to pick up this package despite it being in the name of The Dude In Charge, and ask what ID or whatever I should I bring with me? She says a letter from The Dude In Charge with my name explaining that I will be picking it up on his behalf, and a photo ID.

Fully armed with said stuffs, I waltz around the corner. The counter guy plugs in the numbers and says sorry that package isn’t here. Backing and forthing commences, and he explains (with true sorrow) that the package is at the main place 606 49th between 11th & 12th. OK I think, I go by there every day, so I head over there.

Parking is nonexistant, so I park illegally in the Charter bus parking spots and kept on eye on my car. The counter person can’t be bothered to look up or offer a greeting. Nice. I hand over the letter with the tracking number and explaining who I am. I’m then informed that the package is there but she can’t release it unless AT&T says so. Why did no one else mention this to me? “I called ya’ll” I said and they told me to bring this exact documentation with me. “Yeah. We have trouble with them.” Great. “Them”. As if “Them” wasn’t wearing a FedEx uniform and answering the phone for FedEx. I walked out empty handed.

Does all this sound like a good experience?

As I’m commuting home AT&T was informed of the Exception and called the current phone (which I carry) to ask if I could provide the missing info… which I was able to provide so (if FedEx doesn’t screw up again) it should be deliverable. We’ll find out in the morning.

While folks whine about AT&T all the time, they did get this right. They didn’t just shrug and say it’s FedEx’s issue to deliver it, it’s literally out of our hands, they’re actively trying to get stuff delivered to their customers. FedEx on the other hand isn’t helping their customer (AT&T) and is delivering a bad experience for folks at both ends of their service.

UPS should be thrilled.

[It is with the utmost irony that I note that I returned home to find a door tag from FedEx on my door. Sigh.]

The Rapha Cycle Club Opening


I love the quote they chose for the wall.

Rapha opened their pop-up, the Rapha Cycling Club last night.

I walked down there after work which was interesting in and of itself. Since we’re talking style, let me say this. Woman of New York: Should you decide to wear a clingy knit dress, or a tight shirt, etc. and clearly some of you do, consider the effect of the clothes you wear beneath the outer garment. The seemingly intended effect is ruined by bunched, loose, ill fitting, poorly coordinated under garments. To be fair I saw some equally egregious lack of coordinated efforts from men, but who cares? Just another slob.


Anyway. I got down there quite a bit early, and killed some time checking out the neighborhood. As it got closer to the right time I just barged in. I was quickly welcomed by Slate Olson and later Derrick Lewis. We chit chatted, and I learned that Rapha doesn’t know what they’re doing with their currently engineless broom wagon when the 3 months are up. Might you have a suggestion?

There was a lovely spread and some great cycling artifacts on display. Some of the Paul Smith items they collborations were on display including the lovely courier bag.

the spread

Not long after fondling that very bag I heard a small crash behind me, and someone had had the misfortune of placing the bag back on the shelf and having the shelf collapse to the floor. In the whirlwind that followed I met Michael from A Continuous Lean. I had met him once before at some other event that has faded into the dusty cobwebs of my mind, but it was nice to chat with him. A regular read from the design and manufacturing side of life.

The place really filled up as things got started officially, Stella’s were being served, coffee was brewed, and the food consumed. (I had a walnut the size of my fist…) It would be nice to catch a ride with some of these folks, especially if they plan to come up to Rockland (a classic New York ride).

Congrats to all the folks who worked hard to get the place going for the summer. There’ll be daily airings of the Tour etc. 352 Bowery, New York, NY 10012, (Down by Cooper Union) Phone: 212.228.1529, *Opening 3rd July, 2010.* The bar is run by ThirdRailCoffee who are planning some cuppings and coffee related things. There’s interior bike parking as well.

The Broom Wagon

Explaining nothing

Often people ask me about tweets or posts or other utterances they run across and don’t understand. I thought I’d mention a few recurring themes that may provide some context for some of these things.

I’ve spent a lifetime studying design and designing things. Many things I’ve designed are “soft” as in software design and features, web apps and the like. Many are not, like wooden trays, houses, cities, fixtures, furniture, lamps, etc.

Working with electrons is very different than working with atoms. Atoms are expensive in ways that electrons are not. There is a finality to their current state that informs their use, and within the act of creation there is an alteration that may only occur once for that object in its lifetime. For example, each piece of wood is different. There might be similar, but none alike. Ruin the piece and it is gone forever. Electrons lack permanence. They are etherial, coming and going at seemingly their own whim. They require “backup” and other schemes to preserve the designs intent and ensure orderly availability of some collection of electrical impulses when they are desired.

And so there is a balance to be found in working with both. They both require patience and tolerance from me. They both demand attention and care and thoughtfulness. But I can put my hands on and smell and touch the atoms and so the experience of building with them is very different. Bringing the design to life is a key part of the process for me. Design on paper or CAD or pencil sketch is just thinking. The execution is just as important to me.

Here’s Jon Ives talking about some of his (currently) recent work. And here I pass on some advice to my team about things that inform my approach to work… and my off the cuff response to how things are going.

And some of it is pure tech. Can’t help you there. Look up some terms of you care to… although if you’re interested I’m willing to help but mostly, people wave and say “it’s over my head.” So not true.

And then there’s cycling stuff. Most of you follow that, though there can be obtuse references like 3391.


(I love grain edit!) Allez!

Anyway, there are some of the circular themes that don’t seem obvious from the outside, but are obvious from the inside. I expect that explains almost nothing.