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Introducing interTrend’s new Executive Creative Director, Jeffrey Ng (a.k.a. jeffstaple)

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Photo: Lindsey Ingram

Last week at the Psychic Temple, Jeffrey Ng was formally introduced to the staff of interTrend as the creative agency’s new Executive Creative Director. I asked Jeff (a.k.a. jeffstaple of Staple Pigeon, Staple Design, and Reed Space) and the Long Beach-based group’s CEO and co-founder Julia Huang to talk about the hire, how it happened, and why they are excited about it.

iT: Julia, Jeff is a bold choice for Executive Creative Director of an Asian advertising agency. Can you describe what he brings to the team?
JH: My friend John Jay at GX (Wieden+Kennedy) once said to me that a great Creative Director makes those around him or her better and lifts the collective bar of excellence through inspiration. It’s never about the ego or creating a great individual portfolio. Jeff fits that bill rather nicely.

iT: Did you have to convince Jeff that he was right for the job or was it vice versa? None of the above?
JH: The funny thing is, I’ve known Jeff for several years and we have worked on different projects together but never for interTrend. A couple of months ago, we had a discussion creativity in advertising is so different now. Something clicked and the conversation organically flowed to how he could take on the role of Executive Creative Director for interTrend.

iT: What does his accepting the position say about what interTrend has evolved into and where it’s going?
JH: Multicultural marketing has evolved into something very different from when I started the company. Asian American advertising and marketing, even more so. Reaching the target market for our clients is still very important from a return-on-investment standpoint. But we are focusing more and more on cultural influence of Asian Americans. As Jeff quoted our mutual friend Dave Choe in his kick-off presentation: “This is the absolute best f*cking time to be Asian!”

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Photo: Lindsey Ingram

iT: Jeff, I love how you cited the ascendance of Asians around the world as your prime reason for taking the gig. What’s your take on interTrend’s relationship with Asian culture in America?
JN: I really think they’ve been paving the road—perhaps unknowingly. I’ve never spoken with Julia about this, but I would imagine she saw a necessity in the marketplace and she realized she could fulfill it. The original necessity was that there was a need for U.S.-based companies to communicate effectively with Asians. As time has progressed, that messaging has needed to be more and more sophisticated. In my opinion, Asians are very often at the pinnacle forefront of almost every facet of culture. We are in a very enviable position. As a company or brand, it’s no longer “You should communicate to Asians.” Now it’s “You must communicate with Asians—and it better be damn good.”

iT: Is there anything about your career trajectory that makes the timing right on your side as well?
JN: I have founded three incredible companies and have a team of 35 people, mostly in New York City. We have a menswear collection (Staple Pigeon), a boutique creative agency (Staple Design), and a lifestyle retail concept (Reed Space). In some way, I feel that I’ve reached a very comfortable position in all these industries. There’s still more to do, but I think with my guidance the team will get us there. Now I’m really interested in doing things that move the needle. So I want to apply my learnings from the past 20 years to making things shake, rattle, and roll in the mainstream.

iT: Julia, I’m sure you’ve considered that more conservative clients may not “get” Jeff’s body of work. What is your response to that notion?
JN: The kind of pedigree clients or advertising agencies are looking for in an Executive Creative Director, while still important, is not the priority anymore. Consumers are looking for authenticity in brand messages and Jeff gets it.  And I’m confident that clients will understand that he gets it, too. Through his many successful businesses, Jeff has always understood the pulse of what’s happening in the world of culture.

iT: Jeff, as a guy whose business and client work have always seemed very personal, how do you feel about taking on a mass-market audience?
JN: It may seem like my work has been tied to me personally, but I’ve always had the ability to separate emotions from the reality of doing business. I think the thing I have been deliberate about is being “authentic.” That’s either authentic to the project, to the client, to the consumer, or, ideally, all of the above.

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Photo: Lindsey Ingram

iT: What are some of interTrend’s recent campaigns that you are a fan of? Why, and what would you like to do more of?
JN: Interestingly enough, the most impressive campaigns have been the in-house ones. The summer internship and the Psychic Temple poster campaign were standouts. This tells me a lot. Our clients need to allow us to spread our wings and show them more of what our capabilities are. This isn’t their problem, though—this is our problem. It’s an inability on our part to showcase our skills or instill a level of confidence. I don’t expect this to happen overnight, but I do think a major goal of mine is to push that boundary as far as possible.

iT: I’m pretty sure I’ve heard you say that New York City is the greatest place on Earth. Is there anything about Long Beach that you look forward to being around more often?
JN: Clean air, sunny skies, and Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles.

iT: Julia, when the office moves into the Psychic Temple, what do you think about employee uniforms/work wear by Staple?
JH: To be honest, with so many birds residing in and around the Psychic Temple we just need to be careful that our everyday outfits don’t get stained by the famous Staple pigeons above!

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Photo: Lindsey Ingram

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long Beach: Work in Progress videos are up

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The third and final video from Imprint’s Long Beach: Work in Progress conference was posted last week. We’re very proud of the event’s stellar lineup of friends (from a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer to a banned-in-Japan, Canada, etc. musician) who came out to both dig into our home base’s unique history and subcultures and help cultivate them. These shorts were made to carry their message beyond the historic Edison Theatre and into the streets, as well as convey it to all folks regarding their own towns.

Check out the short film below:

And don’t forget the first two videos with self-explanatory tites, Teaser and A Statement. Please watch, share, and grow your own culture!

Long Beach: Work in Progress

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interTrend’s sister company Imprint always explores the most interesting topics: next-level media, up-and-coming technology, the origins of streetwear, architecture for humans and pets. Its upcoming conference will address a topic that is very near and dear and pertinent to both of the businesses.

Anyone who follows our Psychic Temple blog, which details the history, construction, and surrounding culture of interTrend and Imprint’s future creative space, knows that the companies will be moving from a corporate high rise to Downtown Long Beach’s second oldest commercial building. We are not only investing in the neighborhood but visibly changing the landscape and driving local business and accelerating the culture as well.

Long Beach: Work in Progress is part of our efforts to not only be present in the community that we have set our roots in but celebrate and grow it. The conference will revisit the city through the lenses of architecture (authors Cara Mullio and Jennifer M. Volland on Case Study House architect Edward A. Killingsworth), food (Los Angeles Times writer Jonathan Gold), music (members of T.S.O.L., The Vandals, and Dengue Fever), and skateboarding (pro Chad Tim Tim, ex-pro Justin Reynolds, cinematographer Ricki Bedenbaugh, and shoe designer Paul Kwon) and discuss ways that individuals, businesses, and artists can nurture genuine culture, share it, and benefit everyone.

The event will take place one week from today (Friday, April 26) at the historic Edison Theatre and interest not only Long Beach residents but anyone who wants to celebrate and grow their hometowns. Check out the Imprint 2013 webpage for more information as well as a link for ticketing. We hope to see you there.

Twentieth Anniversary Tenugui (2 of 2)


Have you received your interTrend twentieth anniversary tenugui yet? To commemorate 20 years of evolution and achievement, the agency has created a special collection of 10 tengui-inspired handkerchiefs. Having previously blogged photos of five artists and their contributions, I finally rounded up images of the remaining participants with their pieces. Above: Deth P. Sun at the L.A. Art Book Fair and Susie Ghahremani in her San Diego backyard.

Above: Allister Lee in his Toronto studio and jeffstaple somewhere around the world in front of his laptop. Below: Prodip Leung in his Hong Kong home studio. The final image shows the inside of the tenugui wrapping, which includes a brief manifesto and short biographies of artists, including the five contributors previously blogged: Sophia Chang, Miran Kim, Stella Lai, Monkmus, and Qingnian Tang.

The traditional Japanese cloths serve numerous functions (bandanas, wipes, kendo) but are also used as decoration, made as souvenirs, and given as gifts–as in this case. I hope one works its way toward you.

Twentienth Anniversary Tenugui (1 of 2)

The pieces have come together for interTrend’s twentieth anniversary tenugui project. The patterns and images were provided by some of our favorite artists and designers, and I took photos when I was able to hand-deliver samples and sets to them. Above: Miran Kim, Monkmus, Sophia Chang. Below: Qingnian Tang, Stella Lai.

The final picture shows how they’re being packaged. Perhaps I’ll show the interior of the wrapping paper in a future post, after I receive photos from the other five contributors (Allister Lee, Deth P. Sun, jeffstaple, Prodip Leung, Susie Ghahremani). In the meantime, look for the pieces to leak out to friends, family, clients, and crew…

Knockaround + Imprint at the Art Theatre

This morning, the historic Art Theatre in Downtown Long Beach was the site of interTrend’s final Agency Meeting of 2012. We’d like to thank Adam “Ace” Moyer for braving the 405 to share his experiences and lessons learned in starting up the San Diego-based Knockaround sunglasses company. With a little guidance from interTrend’s Imprint Venture Lab, it has evolved out of a one-car garage into a brand that is spotted on celebrities and collaborates with top-shelf names.


Did I mention that Ace got to throw the first pitch at a Padres game in 2012? Or that Snoop Dogg/Lion flaunts the gear often–and not just the rasta ones? Moyer’s attitude is as humble as his company’s story is inspiring, and we can’t wait to see how 2013 goes for them.

Architecture for Dogs in Miami

Imprint Culture Lab’s Architecture for Dogs installation concluded its five-day stand in Miami’s Design District yesterday. You should have been there. But in case you weren’t, here are some pictures and captions.

Above, Imprint Venture Lab‘s Julia Huang (center) with MUJI’s Kenya Hara (in gray) and crew. The venture was produced by Imprint  and created by the Kenya Hara Design Institute.

The roster of contributing architects was stellar (Atelier Bow-Wow, above; MVRDV, Konstantin Grcic, below) but never took itself so seriously as to exclude its target audience or their owners.

Now and then, human participants received some attention and accolades as well. The perfectly executed combination of human designs and nature, craft and instinct, and concept and whimsy was as primal as it was conceptual, and gathered coverage both nationally (ABC News, Time magazine) and locally (Miami Herald, Miami New Times).

For more information, as well as the designer doghouse blueprints, visit architecturefordogs.com.

California’s Designing Women at The Autry

While it is often assumed that The Autry is a straight-up cowboy museum, there is so much more to it than that. Indeed, when you read that its mission is to explore and share “stories, experiences, and perceptions of the diverse peoples of the American West,” the center sounds a lot like a bookend to what interTrend is trying to do with Eastern cultures in America. And the Golden State, where both happen to be located, is indeed the point where East and West meet–a point often made clear in the museum’s latest show, California’s Designing Women.

Guest curator Bill Stern (who curated LACMA’s popular California Design show) teamed up with The Autry’s Chief Curator Carolyn Brucken to showcase the contributions of women in commercial design and fine craft as well as the decorative arts in the show. It happens that even the earliest pieces reflect an Asian influence on California design, including a lamp by Lillian Palmer (above) and screen by Esther Bruton (below). Naturally, the cultures are also blended in print pieces and ceramics.

There are other forces on display as well: Mexican influences, new materials and technologies, emerging aesthetics and ideas, postwar challenges and innovation. It was in this landscape that giants of design emerged such as mid-century furniture designer Greta Magnusson Grossman, dinnerware icon Edith Heath, 1984 Olympics graphics master Debra Sussman, and multi-disciplinarian Ray Eames (below).

As the materials shown become more current, they also become more diverse and more overtly political. The timeless prints by Esther Hernandez and Nancy Hom haven’t lost any of their graphic power (or coolness) since they exploded onto the cultural consciousness of the early ’80s. Sun Mad and Working Women could be wheat-pasted onto a wall or put on a T-shirt today.

The program wraps up with seminal digital works by the likes of April Greiman, whose Does It Make Sense? (below) was made on an early Macintosh computer. From Arts and Crafts to the ’20s and ’30s to Mid-Century Modern and beyond modernism, the survey of important design by women who are uniquely Californian is as comprehensive as it is inspiring. It was an easy decision for interTrend to support this particular exhibit, not only because our communications and advertising agency is a woman-owned business, but also because it is a great example of what it means to be a part of the West.

California’s Designing Women shows at The Autry until January 6, 2013. And while you’re there, don’t miss the rare glimpse into Katsina in Hopi life as well as the regular rotation of artifacts, art, and events that celebrate one of the greatest societal mash-ups in the world: The American West.

Jane Nakagawa is interTrend’s Vice President of strategy, customer creation, and research. She also sits on The Autry’s Board of Trustees.

Tenugui project preview 2

interTrender Kingley Choi had way too much fun photographing the uncut Tenugui samples in Downtown Long Beach last week. Above: Lobster attacks the convention center. Below: Loch Ness Monster sighting on the coast.

Detail of patterns by Qingniang Tang and jeffstaple.

More details, clockwise from top left: Allister Lee, Qingniang Tang, jeffstaple, Stella Lai, Monkmus, Miran Kim.

Clockwise from left: Qingniang Tang, jeffstaple, Stella Lai, Sophia Chang, Prodip Leung, Monkmus.

We’ll let you know when the finished pieces are finished and floated out there. Thanks again to all of the artists–including Susie Ghahremani and Deth P. Sun, whose pieces were camera shy. And Kingsley for the amazing photos!

Wittmann watches

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Last week, I described our ongoing relationship with Wittmann Elementary School in Cerritos. Most recently, representatives from each of interTrend’s departments gave talks and consultation regarding the researching, making, and marketing of a product. In addition to providing real-world applications to various school subjects and raising a little money, the project also promoted good citizenship and conflict resolution.

This week, we received the fruits of the Wittmann students’ hard labor. Be on the lookout for Wittmann PeaceBuilders timepieces this summer and in the fall. Better yet, purchase one and support the cause and the kids if you are lucky enough to come across an opportunity!

 

Julia Huang is the founder and president of interTrend, an award-winning advertising agency that specializes in connecting Fortune 500 clients with Asians around the world.