The last time I met Shubhankar Ray, Global Brand Director of G-Star RAW, I walked away feeling incredibly inspired by his approach to branding (See Shubhankar Ray: G-Star RAW Visionary). So of course, when I met up with him the morning of G-Star's NYFW Nights I was expecting the same thing. And as expected, we had a great conversation about Shubhankar's vision for the brand and what he's got coming down the pipeline for the future.
Shubhankar's visionary scope is not only apparent in G-Star branding, but is also captured in his neologisms and arty phrasings that accurately, and succinctly, express his ideas. The last time we spoke, we went in depth about a concept called "Mindstyle". Cool, right? Mindstyle is a riff off of lifestyle, but there's something about the term Mindstyle over lifestyle that makes me feel smarter as a consumer. This time, we talked about the concepts of "infotainment", "attention economy" and "mass culture". Neatly phrased concepts that cover in a few words the idea of using product as information in an entertaining delivery to make inroads in the minds of a mass niche of consumers with notoriously short attention spans. Whew, a mouthful from me. An expertly succinct terminology from Shubhankar. That's why he gets the big bucks for the big ideas.
Speaking of ideas, Shubhankar and his team have no shortage of them. Think RAW Nights, Benicio del Toro's memorable runway poetry, RAW Galleries, Magnus Carlson's Chess Challenge, as well as collabs with Marc Newson and Vitra Furniture. And that's just a small sample of G-Star branding over the years. So of course, one of the first things I did after asking about the follow-up to Mindstyle was to ask about future G-Star initiatives. Immediately I was directed to the flat screen television which had been looping a video during our meeting. The video, which can be viewed on GStarRawTV, features the G-Star dog, ballerina Keenan Kampa and Sergio Pizzorno, guitarist and songwriter of Kasabian, exploding into a million pieces and then being reformed again as each other. According to Shubhankar, the idea is about referencing the brand's extensive archives and reconstructing them in a more modern way. And to add even more authenticity to the concept of destroy and construct, real explosions were used.
G-Star is also launching an eyewear collection which was on display during New York Fashion Week. The statement-making frames keep with G-Star's industrial theme and come in sunglasses or prescription ready frames. There is also a continuation of the juxtoposition of elements. This year it is expressed in G-Star's collaboration with camera manufacturer Leica to create a consumer available camera that, according to Shubhankar, "is an exchange of brand DNA". The industrial look of Leica cameras fit superbly with the G-Star aesthetic and the camera case designed for it has a distinct vintage military quality sure to be a conversation piece. However, being a conversation piece is not the ultimate goal. The camera took over two years to develop and uses advanced digital technology on par with other professional level cameras. It is not meant to be a novelty item, but a functional camera for professional photographers. It will retail for $1150 and sell at Leica retailers. Watch this space for updates.
Last, but not least, corporate social responsibility is still a priority for Shubhankar and G-Star's environmentally friendly programs have progressed significantly since the last time we spoke. G-Star still creates jeans from organic cotton, nettle and recycled denim, however, instead of having dedicated collections, the organic/recycled material is blended into the biggest selling styles. This is brilliant! Brilliant because it doesn't require the consumer to change their way of thinking. They can continue to buy their favorite styles and in doing so, knowingly or unknowingly, reduce their impact on the environment. With this change, G-Star has seen the percentage of sustainable material in their collection go from 1% to a whopping 10%. Again, absolutely brilliant! I truly hope other brands look to emulate G-Star's model as opposed to using organic as a selling point.
As always, it was a pleasure to meet with Shubhankar and discuss his ideas. I always walk away feeling a little smarter than when I began.
Scroll down to see images of the Leica camera and G-Star RAW Eyewear.