Monthly Archives: July 2008

“Classey-Lady” and Other Global Travels at the Mall

by Sally Applin

Last week, my friend and I went to check out the Giant Mall in Milpitas. We thought we’d take in the bargains and see what there was. The stores range from high end (Neiman Marcus Last Call and Saks Fifth Off) to low end–Steve & Barry’s, where everything was $8.98.

The first experience we had was at Steve & Barry’s. Steve & Barry’s has just filed for bankruptcy and the store really showed it. Many items weren’t where they were supposed to be. It was as if the store had suffered from some sort of wave that had pushed all the merchandise to a giant pile outside of the fitting room and swept the rest to the floor or the lower shelves. Most garments weren’t that well made, but there were a few things that were surprising. The womens’ jeans were cut superbly and had a great fit, the right amount of stretch and a nice dark wash. Everyone had figured this out who was under a size 14 because the smaller sizes were missing–except for those that had washed up by the dressing rooms, which is where I had found a pair in my size to try on.

I purchased a pair of extremely well made and durable Khaki shorts. The tag said that they were made in Kenya.  After flagging down a clerk to pay for the shorts, we left the shop.

As we traversed the mall, we noticed that there seemed to be a lot of those little carts that are in the middle of the walkways. The carts are rented out for a smaller sum than a retail floor space and have flourished in the past decade. They are a halfway point between brick & mortar and an online presence and are very common at malls these days.

We stopped at one cart because it featured a long plastic pad with fake rocks embedded in it, resembling a river bottom. (I could really diverge here and talk about that the environment is wrecked so badly that portable river bottoms are now being manufactured, but I’ll save that.) The New York Times had an article on these fake river bottoms recently and one of the things it had mentioned was that for older people, stone walking helped build balancing skills. I asked the woman who was minding the cart if she had read the article in the New York Times. She did not understand me. She nodded, but could not reply. My friend noticed that she sold cupping glasses, which are used for a type of massage therapy style treatment. My friend asked her how the cups work. The woman pointed to a sign in a foreign language with an English sentence that said something like “Cups for healthy lifesyle.”  I realized that it was no different from being overseas. The general language of commerce, minus the questions, is all that is necessary for a transaction. One doesn’t need to speak the language, if one can initiate and repeat the pattern. This cart reminded me of an online cart–for an online transaction. The system was the same, and just like online, there was no phone number to call or email address for questions. This fascinated me. Live, but virtual–all in one!

We continued to walk the perimeter of the mall. We came upon a shop called “Classey Lady” that had a large “50% OFF!!” sign displayed prominently in the doorway. My friend thought it was an ironic joke that the proprietors were in on. It wasn’t likely. It is more likely that as the cart was, the store was owned by someone without English skills, but who understood and had good connections with cheap manufacturing and could offer the clothes at a substantial discount.  Spelling didn’t matter–why not “Classey Lady,” indeed.

When I got home, I showed my husband, who has a background in supply-chain and manufacturing, that the shorts I’d purchased were from Kenya. He said something to the effect that it was interesting, and that he suspected it was still Asian/Indian manufacturing because they are so entrenched in the garment trade and that they have begun to purchase land and trade into Africa. He offered that it was purely a speculation on his part, but in a few hours, he’d mailed me an article that Steve & Barry’s clothing was made by Rising Sun (K) Epz. Ltd. 

I cannot source this company. Is “rising sun” a common term in Kenya? Is it part of the Indian garment manfacturing company called “Rising Sun Garments Pvt. Ltd.” or one of the nine or so Rising Suns sourced in China?

It just doesn’t seem that Kenya would develop this industry–one of the big garment manufacturers has not got to be “offshoring” to Kenya.

I have no evidence of this, but it makes sense. As countries that the US has “offshored” to, become prosperous–it becomes too expensive for them to do their own labor, so they are subcontracting to Kenya, to Thailand, to Korea, to Vietnam, etc…

Maybe this isn’t news.

Trend: The countries we offshore to must make so much money now that they have to offshore. What happens after Africa? Will people ever offshore back to us because we’ve become such a bargain?

©2008-2014 Sally A. Applin. All rights reserved.

The Refreshing Taste of a “Synthetic Blood Nourishment Beverage”

by Sally Applin

“Synthetic blood products contain varied cellular content than actual blood. Please consult a Tru Blood Cellular Specialist for specific nutritional information”

There is a new drink that is marketed as a “synthetic blood beverage.” This is fascinating: we buy water in bottles now, why not “blood”? It isn’t blood, though, its a blood beverage. (Actually water is a blood beverage too. In fact, technically, all beverages might be able to be called “blood beverages” in that they are metabolized and contain fluid, but I don’t want to spoil the party yet.) 

Anyway, the website for this stuff reveals vampire/vampyre type of sales pitch where the site asks you when you “turned” before letting you log in. 

The product is divided into 4 different “types” of  “blood” — and visitors take a “quiz” to find out their “Type” which is divided into O, A, B, AB–the same as blood types, minus the positive and negative.

The quiz asks such riveting questions as “How often do you get the urge?” (for what?) and “What is your type?” with pictures of men and women in silhouette. At the end of the quiz it tells the participant what “Type” they are and what “types” they are compatible with. (Don’t vampires like all types of blood? Do they discriminate? Do they have favorites?)

For example, the AB type is “The Cerebral Architect,” who apparently prefers to mingle with “all the other types” while drinking a “synthetic blood nourishment beverage” that “boasts a succinct combination of sophistication and judiciousness.” However, the B type is “The Cheerful Go Getter,” who is “most affable” with type A’s and drinks a beverage containing flavors that are “painstakingly imagined inducing an overall calmness.”  Let me get this straight: a type A (vampire) is a “Cheerful Go Getter” that needs to have calmness induced. Perhaps they are–if they haven’t had blood in awhile and they are on the prowl that would certainly kick in the “Go Getter” in any vampire.

But wait! There’s more! They sell underpants!  (They are sold out now, as are the “onsie” for babies. Seriously.) But you can still find the Tru Blood Coffee Mug. (A coffee mug? For vampires to use whilst drinking their “synthetic blood beverage”?) Some people do think that coffee runs in their veins so it could be spun that way, but it still seems well, sort of…silly.

I think this is branding gone very very very wrong. Its also worth noting that the website never tells you what is in this drink–they just refer to it as a “synthetic blood beverage.”

Trend: Besides the HBO show, there are probably there are some vampire/vampyre movies coming to the big screen near you–including Twilight, the adaptation of the popular young adult book. Be wary, those vampires may need “calmness induced.” Let’s hope they are wearing their underpants.

©2008-2014 Sally A. Applin. All rights reserved.

Dust Bowl Chic

by Sally Applin

I like to speculate on what the next big fashion trends are going to be and I have to say this time I figure that we’re going to be revisiting the dust bowl. 1930’s depression era colors, styles, patterns. Minimal jewelry, longer hair (cheaper to maintain), natural fabrics. Worn looking shoes, maybe with different tones in the toe and back and perhaps laces and hooks will come back. 

The trend could come from the Great Depression–the obvious choice. However, with Global Warming, parts of the planet are going to be hotter, drier and dustier.

Trend: hot, dry, depression = retro clothing and styling of hot dry depressed times.

©2008-2014 Sally A. Applin. All rights reserved.

Desperation is the Mother of Innovation

by Sally Applin

Maybe its just me, but in the last week or so I’ve had this awareness of more innovation. Things like vertical farming, which I heard about in 1998 and was mentioned in this week’s New York Times and also things like the reanimation of one of the car dealership graveyards on El Camino in Menlo Park. For many years now, they’ve been vacant and I’ve been wondering what might take their place. Today I found out. At least one is going to be a Tesla electric car dealer. Its a smart place to put it–lots of moneyed technology types interested in the latest high priced electronic car to get them from A to B in a higher than Prius status– will certainly support the Tesla’s 80k+ pricetag. There’s talk that this newer all electric car will usher in the new era of radically different transportation. They’re finally taking steps to create a *real* high speed rail from San Francisco to San Diego, too. 

Trend: My prediction is that the current economic downturn and the oil crisis is going to set in motion way more and faster innovation than we’ve seen in a long time. I expect to see more commercial ships that are hybrids of power and sail–or at least sporting solar panels!

©2008-2014 Sally A. Applin. All rights reserved.

Trading Down

by Sally Applin

I think there is a trend undercurrent going on. I’m in it though, so it makes it more difficult to write about. Its also on the cusp, so not quite yet defined.

It goes something like this:

It feels, at least here in Silcon Valley, that there is some sort of _shift_ happening. I noticed it when I was out of the country for a month or so earlier in the year. Its this transition–from bags being given out at the store, to bags that one brings to reuse; from high end luxury cars, to small gas saving vehicles; from opulence to reduction.

In the New York Times today there was an article on one of the women who had been a founder of the Kate Spade line of fashion merchandise. The company was subsequently sold, and this person is now semi-retired, living with her three or so kids in a 4 million dollar New York townhouse. What is interesting about it, is the return to ruin of her style. She covered her antique sofas in white muslin and invited her children and their friends to draw on them–she painted dried twigs and strung them with Christmas lights to make lighting for her main rooms and used very cheap sconces from a local shop for her stairway lighting. Stacked vintage luggage serves as a bedside table. Her whole home seemed to be decorated in, and functioning as a “reuse, recycle” sort of home, not the showpiece architect designed sample of perfection, which so many aspire to, and which she herself lived in with her husband (now-divorced) several years prior.

Another article, also in the Times, focused on how even those with private jets are “sharing” them with friends, as one would share a taxi ride uptown.

Okay, admittedly these are very high-end examples.

To put my finger on it, it seems that priorities are shifting which in turn are changing some internal values. The economy has got to be a factor, but its also as if the neighborhood collectively woke up one morning and decided that they had entirely too many possessions and weren’t being smart about how they were using what they had.

Trend: not sure what it is, but it feels like there is some sort of values resorting going on…

©2008-2014 Sally A. Applin. All rights reserved.

iPhone but I Don’t Vote

by Sally Applin

“Ben Thomas, 27, had his own explanation for iPhone mania. “It’s a chick magnet,” he said. (AP newswire)

The most interesting thing about this for me–is the volume of people worldwide who want the device. Wanting it enough that they will wait outside for hours including overnight to be among the first to have it. 

I wish we could get that kind of voter turnout in the US come election time.

Trend: Status over Civics

©2008-2014 Sally A. Applin. All rights reserved.

The Rat Lab

by Sally Applin

I’ve noticed this one for years…but haven’t written about it, until now. Impatience. I think computers are training us at some level to be more impatient with one another. Fundamentally, we’re animals and like any creature trained for action=reward. Push the button, get the pellet.

In the information age, the button that we push is “enter” and the pellet that we get is information in whatever form we requested. Push the button, get the info.

We take that with us. We’re out engaging with someone. They aren’t moving fast enough–or correctly enough–or they aren’t giving us the right information–we’ve pushed the button, where is your response??!

An example of this is a programmer I used to date many years ago. At the time, I thought he was the odd guy out with his intolerance and impatience if I didn’t respond immediately or the way he wanted me to. I thought it was an isolated issue, just with him. However, over the years, amongst working and dating people within the technical community, I started to notice this as a pattern. They’d push the button, they wanted their response. Just like running their programs.

Now with search engine popularity, this has trained the entire computer literate society. Push the button, give us our information. 

A lot of recent news has blamed this on the narcissistic children of the boomers, and I think some of that impatience comes from that, but I’d bet a bigger wager on the collective rat lab training of the computer literate human race to push buttons and get responses.

Trend: as more people come online and are “trained” by pushing “enter” to get responses, the impatience of society overall is going to grow.

Best get your pellets ready.

©2008-2014 Sally A. Applin. All rights reserved.


by Sally Applin

Sunbathing used to be encouraged as “healthy” — soaking up the rays to gain that glow. SUV’s were encouraged too–“Safer”! “Bigger”! etc.. but they soaked up the fuel as we used to soak up the rays and now the planet has less oil –and those of us who used to sunbathe have less healthy skin.

For sunbathing, the trend moved to spray and self-tanners, and sunscreens that block the rays.

For SUV’s, the trend is: over. People are giving up BIG cars. The new status must have car is the Prius. Besides being one of the choices for fuel efficiency, a side benefit is that they flatten the status hierarchy. All of a sudden those luxury and/or big car people, in an effort to save on the fuel, are buying the Prius, as well as those concerned about the environment. This could indicate the end of car/driver elitism.

However, its likely to be replaced with the smugness that goes along with the status of having one. Procuring a Prius these days is like finding cheap gas. Waiting lists are at least 50-100+ people long for about 10 car allocations every 2 weeks to the dealers. Cars are full price, or marked up a bit or a lot, and the used ones for sale, even a few years old are selling for what a new one does because they are available with no waiting list, and more exclusively, they have the “access” stickers that allow for a single person in the carpool lane, which is no longer available.

The trend: status is shifting. From brand values, to mobility and access.

It kind of makes me want to sun myself at the beach…if I only had a Prius to get me there….

©2008-2014 Sally A. Applin. All rights reserved.

Resistance is Futile. “Exterminate” Anonymity

by Sally Applin

Today the law went into effect for mobile phone usage. Drivers in California can no longer hold the handset to their ear if they talk on their mobile phones while they drive. (They CAN, however, text, which sort of defeats the point…)

About 10 years ago I did a research study on headsets for a telephone headset manufacturer. One of the things that was interesting was how “weird” people thought they were and how they never wanted to wear them outside of their workstations.

Today, while I was at UPS, I was the only person in the store who didn’t have a Bluetooth headset on. Okay, it was a small sample just me, one other customer and the guy behind the counter. 

However, I told them that I’d seen that Dr. Who episode where the codes to turn the humans into Cybermen were transmitted through the mobile headsets. They laughed and said that they had seen the episode too.

To get back to the title of the blog, I do have to say that I think–now, 10 years later, to not wear the headset is more of a mark of “weird.”  

I also think that what is coming–will be government and other messages forced broadcast through the mobile network. To an extent, as much as we’re Cybermen now anyway with these headsets, we will now become more so. With added broadcast messaging from wherever into us. What entity is going to resist the power and control to reach almost every human with a phone?

©2008-2014 Sally A. Applin. All rights reserved.