THREADLESS, ETSY AND BON BON KAKKU. Or THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF THE CREATIVE PROCESS
The artistic genius stopped to be elitarian years ago. The DIY philosophy first and personal computers after let anyone feel like maybe not an artist but at least a “creator” able to put on the (metaphorical) page ideas, visions, aesthetics, messages. As a derivative product of the punk years (think: fanzines, xerox posters, customized leather outrageous outfits) the widely spreading do it yourself approach to the creative process has become in the last years probably one of the most influential and important movement in the design history. Anyone has a voice and something to say and you don’t have to ask anyone for permission to let this voice be heard by the world. You can be anything you want, as long as you know what you want: design your typefaces, posters, sweaters, buttons, brooches…you name it. Book titles that became real bibles of the movement and seminal magazines such as ReadyMade, Craft and Make:, Martha Stewart’s (now dead) Blueprint and Real Simple with millions of always new projects to follow are the heritage of the domestic science and beauty tips columns found in the female magazines and they are pure symbols of this renewed renaissance of craft, of the learn-how-to culture and ultimately creative approach to every aspect of daily life.
Beside the press, is the internet that made everything super approachable, accessible, purchasable: independent fashion designers producing and pushing their own clothing lines defeating the hidden rules of the market, hand made jewelery designers, limited edition silk screened posters, customizable t-shirts, anything is out there and the designer behind it could be (also) you. Few years ago few websites really boosted this democratization of the “creative good”, the process behind its realization and the selling phase.
When Threadless started back in 2000 was in a short time a big success. Co-founders Jake Nickell and Jacob DeHart started this company -unique in its genre- with $1,000 in seed money after entering an Internet t-shirt design contest. The idea behind is simple yet innovative: members of the Threadless community can submit their designs online (sometimes answering specific online theme competitions) and then get scores. Some of the submitted designs get selected for printing and the tees (available in different colors, sizes and for guys and girls) are sold through an online store that has thousands of visitors everyday. Creators of the winning designs receive a prize of cash and store credit. In the last three years Threadless was able to wider the range of products starting to produce also illustrated hoodies, kids tees, art prints, and opening related website as TypeTees, Select (with tees by top illustrators like Michael C.Place, Hort, Alex Trochut, SiScott, Tim Biskup, Jon Burgerman) and ThreadlessKids. The Threadless community became larger and larger and very active thanks to a street team, designer interviews, a blog forum, an exclusive club, the so-called Bestee Awards which recognizes significant achievement in various areas of Threadless participation, acknowledging the important work of the entire community, and fan rectruitment on Myspace, Facebook and similar social networks.
Five years later Etsy was born. A must in the selling-buying of all things handmade, Etsy, the crafty Ebay par excellence, created by iospace, a small company composed of Robert Kalin, Chris Maguire and Haim Schoppik, stands as a community of sellers and buyers that are first of all “makers”. Offering a wide range of unique products (bags, vintage items, papers, toys, brooches and more) it connects consumers with independent creators and designers to find the very best in handmade goods, while providing the artists with the technology and information they need to make a living, making things, going beyond the anonymous chain store you can find everywhere, the logics of distribution, the physical relationship between store owner and consumer, but, at the same time, reconnecting producer and consumer, and swinging the pendulum back to a time when we bought our bread from the baker, food from the farmer, and shoes from the cobbler. Shopping on Etsy (let’s say you’re looking for a leather handbag) kinda has the same flavour of digging into your granma’s trunks: you look for something you know it’s gonna be there but you also find something else, which is unexpected and uniquely special. That’s what they call serendipity right? One of the main members of the Handmade Consortium, Etsy is today one of the nine prominent forces in the DIY and handmade worlds.
Bon Bon Kakku is a interior manufacturer Vallila Interior project. What does Kakku mean? It’s Finnish for cake. The words Bon Bon represent the decoration for the cake, the design. Bon means also good in French, and bonbon is French for sweets. Bon Bon Kakku represents a common design forum, where everybody can participate. The forum is like a cake shared in pieces, and there is a piece for everyone. Following the example of Threadless and Etsy, Bon Bon Kakku stands as a pioneering e-store where you can design your own fabrics. Created to give everybody a chance to design and buy fabrics of their own taste, to give other people chance to tell their opinion of those designs as well as to give others a chance to give their opinions on the designs submitted, Bon Bon Kakku, featuring designs by the studio Kokoro & Moi (formerly known as Syrup Helsinki), is helping to define the new frontiers of fashion and textile design and its fruition. Rules? To get your own design to the shop first you have to register yourself, and then submit your design to the website for the scoring. From every competition 5-10 designs are accepted for the web shop. So if your design is a success, it will be also sold on the site. Designers from all over the world, from China to Brazil are participating to the competition. The designers are not paid, but the designer will have 6 meters of his own winning design for free, if his/her design is accepted to the web shop where they are sold for 25 €/meter.
Can the design scenario get more democratic than this?