Restless Revolutionaries | The Rise of Indie Brands

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In times of economic uncertainty, waning consumer confidence and widespread unemployment, starting a business seems ludicrous at best. Yet, for an increasing number of ambitious entrepreneurs, there is no better time to set-up shop than when the odds are stacked against them. While well-established businesses are tightening their belts and shying away from unnecessary risks, independent brands the world over are rolling up their sleeves and taking chances, creating opportunities and doing their own thing.

At the 17th edition of CreativeMornings Utrecht (30 August 2013), author, editor and curator (just to name a few) Anneloes van Gaalen championed the heroic efforts of these entrepreneurial underdogs and how they are revolutionizing the way we do business. Her recent publication, Indie Brands (BIS Publishers) delves into the world of independent brands –from biodegradable shoes and slavery-free chocolate to minimalist mobile phones– and what makes them tick, their must-have products and the inspiring minds behind them. Far from glorifying their exploits, Van Gaalen reveals the overwhelming challenges that these brands face in running their own business.

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All in the Mind | Expanding Our Creative Capacities

 Sabine van Linden, Ph.D. | Photo Courtesy of: Universiteit van Amsterdam        CreativeMornings Logo

Society decrees that there are two types of thinkers in this world: the analytical and the creative. At a very early age, we were led to believe that we are either one or the other, instructed to base our most important life decisions on this outcome alone. In truth, we as human beings are born with the innate capacity for both. Still, it appears that some people in particular are more creative than others, able to quickly generate innovative ideas and think outside the box. Be that as it may, creativity does not depend on the type of brain we have. It is simply a matter of how we use it.

At the 16th edition of CreativeMornings Utrecht, neuropsychologist Sabine van Linden (Ph.D.) shed some light on the intricacies of the creative mind and how it can be improved. As clinical psychology lecturer at the University of Amsterdam, she is deeply fascinated by the inner workings of the brain, delivering lectures and workshops on this three-pound gem through her organization Talks to Mind. As the power of creativity is a valued human resource that often remains untapped, using the brain more efficiently can unleash its full potential.

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Eating With Our Eyes | The Art of Culinary Illustration

Janneke Hoeben         CreativeMornings Logo

Inspiration can be found in the most unlikely of places. More often than not, it is a product of aesthetic experience or, in other words, being moved – moments where we are truly open and genuinely present in the here and now. Indeed, the accumulation of a lifetime of these experiences compels us to find inspiration in all things and, more importantly, to create something out of it.

At the 15th edition of CreativeMornings Utrecht (28 June 2013), culistrator (culinary illustrator) Janneke Hoeben drew an unconventional link between food and fashion, proving that design can also be delicious. As fashion designer-turned-culistrator and founder of kitchen textile label Commis de Cuisine, this all-round creative serves as artistic intermediary between the best of both worlds. Combining her love for fashion and illustration with all things culinary, she firmly believes that culistration is where food and fashion meet.

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Problem-Paper-Scissors | (Re) Designing a More User-friendly Web

Marrije Schaake         CreativeMornings Logo

The irony of the World Wide Web lies in its complexity. On the one hand, the innovation has radically altered the world as we know it, facilitating greater access to information and bringing us closer together on an unimaginable scale. On the other hand, we are needlessly forced to adapt to its rapid advancements, having to relearn operational skills with every new development. While the Internet serves as a tool to make our lives “better”, it has certainly made things more complicated.

As a matter of fact, it is not only the end-user that must constantly readjust to the modern world but even more so businesses and organizations. Given that a corporate website is already difficult to maintain, the advent of mobile technology has generated a plethora of communication platforms including apps, mobile versions of websites and social media. Since the tendency for most organizations (in particular multinationals, government agencies and public services) is to provide as much information as possible to the general public, content –be it online or mobile– becomes a double-edged sword: easily accessible yet thoroughly complex.

At the 14th edition of CreativeMornings Utrecht (31 May 2013), information architect Marrije Schaake is convinced that the best way to move forward is to take one step back. As co-owner of user experience design agency eend, she and her team are on a quest to (re)design a more user-friendly web and the by-products thereof. Equally important to the end result is the creative process itself, whereby problem solving is accomplished through the most basic of means.

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Indie BRANDS Event | Funding, Trends and Authenticity

Independent brands meant business at Pakhuis de Zwijger*, Amsterdam during the 4th edition of the Indie Brands Event (30 May 2013). Traditionally a night of inspiring talks and panel discussions on all things indie, the evening’s festivities took on a more serious tone, turning its attention towards the business side of brands. While much of the previous discussions centered on products and branding, practical themes such as access to funding, rising trends and the preservation of authenticity were thoroughly explored during the course of the event.

 Playing to the Crowd

Due to their inherent nature, indie brands are quite adept in finding creative ways to start a business. At a time when capital is proving difficult to come by, these savvy entrepreneurs have turned to alternative methods of funding, oftentimes directly soliciting the customers themselves. As a matter of fact, the social phenomenon of crowdfunding has been responsible for the viability of hundreds of start-ups, innovations and even creative projects such as books and films over the last few years. Nevertheless, the potential gains from this platform should never be overestimated.

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Penny for Your Thoughts | The Art of Turning Art Into Money

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Money is a figment of our imagination. Strictly speaking, it serves merely as a medium of exchange to facilitate our everyday transactions. Bearing no intrinsic value nor bound by any tangible assets (such as gold), money need not take physical form in order to exist. It endures purely as information and in turn, governs almost every facet of our daily lives because of the meaning we give it. Consequently, money –or rather, the love of money– is considered to be the root of all evil. If that were the case, what then, could be the root of all money?

At the 11th edition of CreativeMornings Utrecht (22 February 2013), Dutch artist Dadara (Daniel Rozenberg) summed-up his response in a single word: love. As founder and CEO of the Exchanghibition Bank, Dadara has engrossed himself entirely in monetary affairs and is now in the business of turning art into money. By designing and printing one-of-a-kind banknotes of exuberant denominations (millions, billions or zero) and inviting people to exchange them for legal tender at his pop-up bank, the artist-turned-banker is challenging the original construct of money, exploring alternative options in its place. Fascinated by the arbitrary precedence that money has been given by society, Dadara has become expertly obsessed with its inner workings.

“The whole project started from an art perspective,” the CEO said during the morning’s post-lecture interview. “I’ve always been an artist my whole life and I always created things because I felt I had to do it. It’s like total intrinsic motivation. And then, at a certain age you start realizing that the world works in a different way because people don’t do things because they want to do them, but because they earn money. I always compare the world to a giant playground with a parking meter.” Frustrated by this “pay-as-you-play” reality, Dadara was initially anti-money, paying no mind to its worldly significance.

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Indie BRANDS Event | Creativity, Competition and Entrepreneurship

It was standing room only at Pakhuis de Zwijger*, Amsterdam during the 3rd edition of the Indie Brands Event (22 February 2013). In celebration of its 1-year anniversary, Indie Brands –a book written by Dutch author Anneloes van Gaalen, featuring 30 independent brands and their inspiring narratives– convened yet another night of fascinating talks, interviews and panel discussions, putting a spotlight on creative entrepreneurship, branding and competition. Despite the event’s predetermined theme, the evening’s conversations centered on a much larger issue: the truth.

“Indie brands are the frontrunners of truth,” declared John Weich, creative director of Monumental Propaganda. The writer and storyteller is convinced that communication is essential to independent brands, enabling them to enhance their products by conveying what is true. “There are two things you can do when starting an indie brand,” he said. “Find the truth and tell it. Or create a myth and sell it.” Though compelling stories have a way of captivating audiences, revealing the entire truth may not be in a brand’s best interest, particularly during the early stages of development. The strategic alternative is truth with a slant.

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Blissful Endeavors | The Path to Creative Happiness

victor van gaasbeek         CreativeMornings Logo

In the truest sense of the word, genuine happiness is an unattainable ideal. It is, like love, infinitely indefinable and as fleeting and fluid as knowledge. Although we seek that which we cannot grasp in our day-to-day existence, emotional happiness comes naturally to those who least expect it, in moments when we are very much unprepared and at times when we are truly open. In other words, when we are at play.

At the 10th edition of CreativeMornings Utrecht (1 February 2013), illustrator and graphic designer Victor van Gaasbeek shared what he believes is the ideal path to happiness, declaring that a happy creative is in fact, a better one. Best known for his Sliced Pixel Project, this young gun never misses an opportunity to learn something new. As part of a unified lecture format for the first half 2013, his talk centered on a global theme, preselected by the six original CreativeMornings chapters. For the month of January, happiness was the motif of choice.

It is generally assumed that most creatives are in high spirits. Instead of having to face the beleaguering humdrum of the daily grind, these individuals have skillfully managed to turn (at least) one of their hobbies into an actual profession. Utopian though this may seem, it is an occupation nonetheless, meaning the majority of creatives are often at the mercy of clients. “When you do something you love for money, it doesn’t quite work out the way you want it,” says Van Gaasbeek. The client’s preferences always come first, sparing little room for artistic freedom. In order to put an end to this frustration, the designer is convinced that creatives should engage in self-initiated work: “doing the things you love, exactly what you want, when you want.”

Compared to client-driven projects, Van Gaasbeek maintains that self-initiated work should be of equal, if not greater importance. Since experimentation, failure and learning are the cornerstones of creative development, endeavors such as these serve as platforms for perfecting your skills and paths to self-discovery. Ultimately, they allow you to find your creative self, what your strengths are and where your artistic preferences lie. Above all, they are deliberate initiatives to have fun.

Be that as it may, the aim of any self-initiated undertaking must never be compensation. “Money isn’t the goal,” insists Van Gaasbeek, declaring that self-initiated work is all about happiness. Each task is a labor of love, driven by a desire to better oneself creatively, while making mistakes and learning new things in the process. True enough, creativity has its own rewards, if you are willing to put in the hours –a fact creatives claim to have little or no time for.

“If the project is fun enough, I’ll find time,” Van Gaasbeek says. The key is having a vested interest in a particular medium or subject matter, elevating the work into an individual cause. Collaboration is also a clever means to get things going as self-motivation is frequently lacking, especially when clients are breathing down your neck. “‘I don’t have time’ is a lame excuse,” according to the designer, affirming that any engagement in a self-initiated undertaking is time well spent.

Indeed, it is when we are most uninhibited that we experience joy, simply because we can be ourselves. While the creative profession implies taking on certain responsibilities, creativity should not be limited to working 9-to-5. Rather, it is an integral part of everyday life, both at work and at play. Though we are blessed with the gift of creativity, being creative is a personal choice that must be put into action. For what is creativity if we do not create? ✌

☞ For more information on Victor van Gaasbeek, the Sliced Pixel Project, CreativeMornings Utrecht and CreativeMornings™, visit the websites listed below:

Victor van Gaasbeek, Sliced Pixel Project

CreativeMornings | Utrecht and CreativeMornings™

Follow CreativeMornings Utrecht, CreativeMornings™ and phillipqgangan on Twitter:  @Utrecht_CM (CM Utrecht), @Creativemorning (CM Main) and @phillipqgangan

Creative Mornings Utrecht x phillipqgangan

Indie BRANDS x phillipqgangan: TWO-O

TWO-O Sunglasses

In today’s modern world, progress is forever at odds with nature. At a time when society is constantly inundated with technological advancements, bridging the gap between sustainability and rapid development is a Herculean task. As our materialistic values are admittedly slow to change, the key is striking a balance between conservation and consumption. Rising to the challenge is TWO–O.

As creative entrepreneurs with a conscience, Rodny Heemskerk and Bob Koning launched TWO–O in July 2011. At their studio in Amsterdam, the pair designs an ever- expanding range of stylish accessories –from bicycle crates and iPhone cases to cufflinks and bar blades– all made from recycled wood. Each piece is a unique expression of the material’s elegance and durability, blending natural beauty with timeless design.

With their hands-on mentality and a critical eye for detail, TWO–O aims to raise consumer awareness through the development of sustainable products. Their latest project –sleek, wooden sunglasses– seeks to inspire like-minded, eco-conscious individuals to make green choices. Coupled with their commitment to craftsmanship, TWO–O is a brand that goes against the grain. ✌

TWO–O | We Make Gadgets

✍ TWO–O is one of the many brands featured in the upcoming Indie BRANDS Event. Presenting a night of captivating talks, independent brands and their tantalizing products, the evening’s festivities put a spotlight on creative entrepreneurship, ingenuity and innovation.

☞ Indie BRANDS x phillipqgangan, features profiles and interviews on up-and-coming independent brands on the Indie BRANDS blog.

For more information on TWO–O, Indie BRANDS and other brands featured in the Indie BRANDS blog, visit the websites below:


Indie BRANDS and the Indie BRANDS Blog

The Official launch of Indie BRANDS (book) was featured in the phillipqgangan website and can be viewed here: Indie BRANDS, the Launch

The 2nd edition of the Indie BRANDS Event (The Denim Edition) can be viewed here:   Indie BRANDS | The Denim Edition

Indie BRANDS x phillipqgangan: Halbe Bier

The success of a revolution is determined by the strength of its ideals. While the overall goal is the achievement of societal change, the method relies on the principles worth fighting for. Nowadays, it seems that a Tweet is mightier than a sword. Yet, when it comes to the salvation of the arts in the Netherlands, Halbe Bier is the preferred weapon of choice.

In response to the overwhelming budget cuts across the cultural domain, Dutch artists Teun Castelein and Henriette Waal founded Halbe in 2011. Their aim was to create an idealistic beer, made by artists for artists. Satirically named after the Dutch State Secretary behind the inevitable austerity (Halbe Zijlstra), halbe is also the German word for pint. The beer’s profits are intended to subsidize the arts, while the artists themselves oversee the production.

Homebrewed in small batches by De Buitenbrouwerij (The Outdoor Brewery), the blonde ale is available in limited edition, hand blown glass bottles and mugs at an increasing number of cultural institutions in Den Haag and Amsterdam. Striving to promote a better world where art reins supreme, every poured pint is altruism in practice. More than just a tasty beverage, Halbe beer is art for art’s sake. ✌

☞ Indie BRANDS x phillipqgangan, features profiles and interviews on up-and-coming independent brands on the Indie BRANDS blog.

For more information on Halbe Bier, Indie BRANDS and other brands featured in the Indie BRANDS blog, visit the websites listed below:

Halbe Bier

Indie BRANDS and the Indie BRANDS Blog

The Official Launch of Indie BRANDS (book) was featured in the phillipqgangan website and can be viewed here: Indie BRANDS, the Launch

The 2nd edition of the Indie BRANDS Event (The Denim Edition) can be viewed here:   Indie BRANDS | The Denim Edition

Indie BRANDS x phillipqgangan

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