G-Star and its pioneering role to save our oceans
BY SANDY STRASSER
(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 2 2015)
There is an area in the Pacific Ocean known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The Patch is thought to be the size of the state of Texas – and made almost exclusively of plastic. Over the last 50 years, humankind has produced an estimated 700 million tonnes of plastic that now lives in our oceans, making its way into the food chain and ultimately into us. That means it is more than probable that every living human being now has traces of synthetic chemistry in their blood.
That is also why just a few weeks ago, denim label G-Star RAW launched its second collection under the title of “RAW for the Oceans”. It includes the first jeans that are made of recycled plastics that have been collected along ocean coastlines. RAW for the Oceans is the answer to “wearable responsibility for our oceans” and has emerged from a partnership between G-Star, Bionic Yarn, Parley for the Oceans and Pharrell Williams, who co-designed the pieces. Each piece is made of innovative Bionic Yarn – a high-performance yarn made of recycled ocean plastic and with which people hope to fight worldwide environmental pollution from plastic waste. At the centre of the new collection are washed denim bomber jackets and jeans in a used-look for men and women. In addition to the denim pieces at the heart of the collection is a series of ultra-soft t-shirts and sweaters, and also caps. All products represent a new and lighter style of fashion for jeans.
As we saw when RAW premiered the first Oceans collection, the current series combines the brand’s responsibility for the environment with a progressive approach to product development and marine preservation. The mascot, an octopus, can be seen swimming all over the place this time too. It appears in a variety of playful images, printed, as art graphics and embroidered – either visibly on the outside of the piece or hidden on the inside.
Under the guidance of Parley for the Oceans, RAW for the Oceans is also part of the Vortex project, an initiative to rid the ocean of plastic waste, create awareness of the danger to the environment and to develop alternatives to plastic. The collection is available online and in all G-Star stores.
A brand with depth
Interview mit Shubhankar Ray, Global Brand Director G-Star RAW
In 2006 you joined G-Star RAW, the Amsterdam-based street wear to luxury denim brand, as Global Brand Director. Why does this brand fascinate you?
Shubhankar Ray: G-Star RAW was an innovative modern denim brand that was a European challenger brand in 2006, however they wanted to become a highly energised global brand that would be relevant across the world from Japan to China to the USA and Latin America by 2015. That challenge was exciting and I thought their maniacal dedication to product innovation and pushing the boundaries of denim with an industrial modern approach was spot on; so I thought I could help them create a powerful brand image and do some creative things along the way. G-Star fascinated me because they were modern in a world of retro heritage denim, so in a way they were a contradiction, which I like. The denim market is interesting because jeans are iconic and symbolic for being at the core of youth rebellion from Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean in the 1950/60s to hippies and punks in the 1970s, ravers in the 1980s through to today’s fragmented youth sub cultures. The DNA of denim is energised, so it is a very creative world within which to work on brand DNA and making things as well as making things happen.
How can one imagine your job? What are your responsibilities?
S. R.: I am currently Global Brand Director, so mainly I work on the worldwide brand image, messaging & positioning, alongside creating new concepts and ways for the brand to communicate. I am G-Star’s brand guardian making sure the image and visual communication is emotionally correct around the world. I take care of the soul & spirit of a brand; so I live in London and work between London-Amsterdam-NYC-LA-Tokyo-Shanghai-Sao Paulo-Mexico City-Capetown. I am involved in creating global advertising campaigns with collaborators like photographer & film-maker Anton Corbijn featuring actors like Liv Tyler, Gemma Arterton, Vincent Gallo, Clémence Poésy as well as chess players such as Magnus Carlsen or musicians like Kasabian, Pharrell Williams, etc. I am also involved in developing global media strategy, fashion shows with interventions by Dennis Hopper, Michael Madsen & Benicio del Toro and crossover projects with Vitra, Leica, Marc Newson & the United Nations.
What do you like most about your work and why?
S. R.: Denim has a special cultural relevancy as an analogue product in an increasingly digital world; and in that digital realm there are a lot of dynamic changes in terms of media fragmentation & faster lifecycles where the impact of creativity, technology & media redefines scale & success. I like most that 25 years ago, when I started my career, a field of work like branding & advertising was not for scientists & not inter-connected with the worlds of Hollywood, rock ‘n‘ roll & art unless it was bought. Most of my previous work reflected an anti-approach to this model and today everything is branded & inter-related from politics to fashion to rock n roll to art to Hollywood to global terrorism! In this modern 21st century landscape, the best part of my work is the challenge to stay authentic, creative & optimistic.
Who do you design for – who is G-Star’s target group?
S. R.: At G-Star we design for everybody who loves denim; G-Star has no target so we have a wide bandwidth and we can dress everyday cool kids in their teens & twenties from LA to NYC to London to Paris to Shanghai to Tokyo to Sydney right through to seventy-year-old Hollywood actors like the late Dennis Hopper. G-Star is universal & denim is democratic and goes from street to luxury so potentially, we can be for everyone. We have also been worn by musicians from Pharrell Williams to Rihanna to Jay Z to Skrillex to Justin Bieber as well as actors from Benicio del Toro to Robert Pattinson to Will Smith to Denzel Washington and they all rock our product in different ways so they act as a source of rich inspiration for how to style and express the product. Finally, jeans are a cultural icon of street fashion worn by rebels, outlaws, rock stars and mavericks because they have rich cultural heritage and they cut through all barriers of age, race, taste, sex & language.
Have you got a philosophy or manifesto that guides your product design and production?
S. R.: Our design philosophy is inspired by industrial design & modernism where we try to have a maniacal approach to denim innovation. G-Star is a modern innovative denim brand with a design signature based on a 3D anatomical approach, which has created a modern silhouette for jeans that follows the form of the human body. This was in contrast to big USA heritage brands & also retro jeans culture. Thus our designers are encouraged to continually push the boundaries of denim by evolving 3D denim as well as innovating in fabric, sustainability & construction techniques.
What influence does G-Star hope to assert with its ‘Raw for the Oceans’ initiative regarding the pollution of the sea?
S. R.: We have an opportunity alongside Parley for the Oceans, Bionic & Pharrell Williams to make an impact on ocean plastic pollution & innovate denim in function, aesthetics & sustainability. For us Raw for the Oceans was a creative collaboration & exploration into the future of denim by making the world’s first jeans from recycled ocean plastic, to turn a problem into a solution. Longer term we hope to become increasingly more sustainable by reducing our dependency on cotton & replacing polyester with sustainable fibres. In the 18 months since the launch of RFTO in 2014 through Parley we have cleaned up 53 tonnes of ocean plastic debris from the coastlines of Indonesia, China & Australia and have recycled & re-used the equivalent of to 2 million plastic bottles in 3 collections so far. We also hope to assert sustainability as a condition for doing business in the 21st century and at the same time reach 25% of our total collection made from sustainable materials.
How do you guys manage to combine economic success and sustainability?
S. R.: Most sustainability business models market & position sustainability as “eco & for hippies”, however a contra approach can be to make fashion forward eco-clothing so people buy it first because it matches their desired fashion hit and second because it happens to be made from sustainable materials like recycled ocean plastic. Most people expect fashion to be sexy and a viable business model for the future is to make eco sexy and not boring or preachy. This means at G-Star we put sustainability at the centre of our business as a condition built into our product & supply chain. We are inspired by industrial sophistication and believe the ultimate functional design is where post-consumer waste is retrieved, recycled & re-used to create new smart products via upcycling. In this way economics & fashion & sustainability are balanced based on market codes and consumer desires. We try to cover the costs whilst moving ahead!
What will you be up to with G-Star in the coming years? What goals have you got for the brand?
S. R.: I hope G-Star continues to remain an interesting and interested player in the global denim market. We try not to think of too many goals other than continued innovation with a global approach around the world. I hope to help them to keep adding energy & soul into the brand to create momentum and consumer traction.
Shubhankar Ray was born in 1968 in Calcutta, India. After graduating in Chemistry at Manchester University in 1989, Ray has spent the last 20 years repositioning numerous fashion and lifestyle brands worldwide such as G-Star Raw, Camper, Levis, Caterpillar, Stride and Travel Fox. His work revolves around global branding, consumer-social reality and the design of multi-level communication systems including international advertising campaigns, TV advertising, short films, magazines, gallery installations, music, web and shop systems.
Technology is continuing to change the way we buy and sell products. Osudio helps companies succeed in the ever-changing world of e-business. We are entrepreneurs at heart. We translate complex e-business requirements into easy-to-use online environments. Having worked in e-business since the 90s, we understand what works, what doesn’t and what drives growth. Osudio helps you reach B2B and B2C clients with seamless experience in every channel where they are active. Our business is about people and how they interact with technology. That’s why we place such a high value on UX and digital communication skills. We are constantly searching for the right balance between cutting-edge user experience and robust technology. Osudio helps clients create user-friendly environments which easily guide buyers to digital transactions or to bricks-and-mortar shops. We provide a comprehensive range of services that include: digital strategy & consultancy, user experience design, e-business operations and IT services. So over the last 20 years, Osudio has helped Europe’s top companies evolve their business model so they can stay at the forefront.
For our clients, standing still is not an option. They look to us for guidance. Our job is to earn their trust, build a lasting partnership and help them move forward. To make this a reality, we need to create an atmosphere where success can happen. An atmosphere where we are straight, open and honest with one another. An atmosphere where passion, creativity and innovation takes hold. That’s what you can expect at Osudio. So let’s be straight and let’s move forward. All of us, together.
OSUDIO AND G-STAR
G-Star has embraced omni-channel retail as a strategic initiative in order to fulfil its customers needs in being available as a leading brand during all stages of the customer journey. Jointly with, amongst others, Osudio, G-Star is preparing the roll out of its fully new global omni-channel platform.
Picture credits © G-Star RAW C.V.