Friday, February 27, 2009

Christmas in February

I may as well write about what's going on with our "business" (at some point I'll stop putting that in quotes, but it still feels alien to me). Eventually I'll move all this over to the store blog - yes, it has one! - but for now, this'll do.

Today we got like six boxes of stuff all at once. Among them was the first shipment of merchandise. It really was like Christmas going through everything - it was exciting.

First of all, I got this:

1,000 watts of cheap studio lighting. Probably enough to blow my house's 80 year old electrical system if I'm not careful. So this will be the last time you see my crappy on-camera flash photos, hopefully. You certainly won't see any on the store site. We're going to take real product shots once we're fully ready, but I didn't set up the lights tonight. We don't have our red velvet backdrop yet, so it was pointless anyway. But here's a sampling of our first shipment of clothes...

This is not everything. We're continuously buying stuff now. We're pretty much on the hunt every spare minute. And keep in mind that as random as it may seem, there is a method to the madness here. Also, pricing has not yet been decided. You'll have to wait until the store opens.

Sex Pot Revenge t-shirts. And yeah, there's an "F" to the left there, not a "B".

I love Sex Pot Revenge, they're probably my favorite Japanese apparel maker. More stuff:

Black pants with a white tartan pattern and the SPR logo and slogan. I love how their slogan is misspelled. You'd think they would at least look up something that important in a dictionary. And what does it mean to say they want war to be "decontrolled"? They just want uncontrolled war all over the place?

This shit is expensive at retail:

11,900 yen is like $125. For a pair of pants!

Don't worry, we're not going to be charging retail.

This is a great bag. I love this bag. And I'm a guy! It could almost qualify as a man-purse.

Alright, enough with the SPR. Changing gears completely.

We also got a dress form today. Woohoo! So now we can make stuff look like it's supposed to.

We need panniers/petticoats before we take real product photos of these dresses and skirts, though. We've got them coming, just haven't received any yet. This is a Baby, the Stars Shine Bright jumper skirt. Yes, we're doing rock, punk, gothic and lolita. We've got more like this on the way. We'll see what sells. It's all an experiment.

Another one - I actually think this one is really cute:

Still needs a pannier, though.

This is an Algonquins t-shirt and a Sexy Dynamite London tartan skirt. The back of the skirt has a BIG label on it, as a lot of Japanese clothes do. They like to advertise who they're wearing.

We're planning to get some accessories to dress up outfits like these in the real product shots.

This jacket is from a label I hadn't heard of before called Funky Bitch Diamond. It's an h.NAOTO brand, apparently, although it's not on the web site (where all his other stuff is). It's definitely s-inc, though. And there's a big "H" in the skull.

The dress that's underneath it is by A-mish, who make Algonquins, although we couldn't find a label other than that. It is a used dress - we're selling both new and used clothes. The jacket is new.

This jacket is really small, by the way - so don't get too attached to it unless you're about the size of an average 12 year old. A very small adult could wear it, but it's small even for a Japanese jacket.

We're going to note specific measurements for everything we sell in our store. A lot of Japanese garments don't really have sizes like "medium" or "large" (though some do), but instead they just have actual measurements. We're not going to sell anything without making it crystal clear how big (or small) it is, since Japanese stuff always runs pretty tiny.

Oh, one funny thing. These are fake:

Yeah, we got kinda burned, but at least they were cheap. We will not be selling these. We're not selling fake crap. And these are crap; they're falling apart. Even the font on the logo is wrong. There is a ton of fake Vivienne Westwood stuff out there. Be careful!

Well, that's it for now. I'm anxious to open up for business! Soon...

Monday, February 23, 2009

My somewhat extended absence

I've got a bunch of posts saved up that I've been meaning to write, but I've been preoccupied lately and probably will be for a little while longer. My wife and I are opening a store.

This post on KERA magazine is currently my #1 in terms of page views. (This and this were #1 before it, at different times.) And it's been that way since I posted it, which was not a short amount of time ago. It's not like it's on the front page or anything. This is all Google search traffic, most of it from the United States.

So we were thinking, maybe there's a market for this stuff here. There are some other web stores selling it to one extent or another, so if nothing else, it's not a completely crazy idea.

I'm not going to give away all of our plans but just so nobody's disappointed, we aren't planning to be the Wal-Mart (or Maruione) of Japanese fashion on day one. We'll be starting small, initially with only a web store and limited stock. We'll build over time, and we're working on relationships with the major brands. That's what we hope will eventually be a differentiator for us - we'll be specializing in the real Japanese brands, not cheap Asian knockoffs, unlike most US web stores that claim to sell Japanese fashion. And we want to carry all of them. We're going for authenticity, and we're shooting for the moon. But we're realistic about how to get there.

Thing is, we've first got to prove that we can sell stuff before the major brands make a deal with us. So we're sourcing inventory from all over at the moment, including used, and initially our site will be more proof-of-concept than anything else.

We wouldn't be doing this if we didn't think we had some major advantages over others that might be trying it, including major web stores in Japan. I think we've got the potential to turn this into something pretty big over time.

I'll let everybody know when the site launches. It'll probably be a couple of months.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Random update

My posts lately have been pretty boring, I know. It's winter, and up until this week it's been brutally f'ing cold here, and snowing all the time. I hibernate in winter anyway, and I definitely get a bit of seasonal affective disorder. (That's been getting better over the years, though; 10 years ago, I could barely get myself out of bed during winter.) Even my brain shuts down - I just don't want to think about anything. That includes blog topics.

And I haven't been going out much. Just been doing stuff like this at home:

That's Japanese yakiniku, which is all about cooking your food at the table. It's actually great during winter because it heats up the whole room and you eat the food right off the grill. So it's really hot. And it's fun too, for food you can cook at home. It's not a solo activity.

It's starting to get warmer, so hopefully I'll be in more of a mood to actually go out and do some interesting things soon. I am still plugging along with the music - eventually I'll have enough to actually post something for you to hear. I'm in the market right now for a drum machine and a bass guitar, then the dreaded microphone comes last... yes, you might actually get to hear me sing. Someday.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

This is a kind of victory

Geek post alert. But I have finally vanquished my most hated foe.

You see what this is? This is a set of waveforms. Beautiful waveforms. Waveforms that represent sound! Meaning I finally managed to record music in my computer.

I've been fighting with my audio interface basically ever since I got it. It worked for like a week and then quit. These things are so finicky, and Windows is hardly the ideal operating system for recording. Problem is recording is a real-time task - sound waits for nobody - and Windows is not a real-time OS. It's constantly making the audio interface wait, which of course it can't do. So I'd get like 1 second of recording and then either rice krispies (snap, crackle and pop!) or silence. This is why professional recording studios use Macs, people.

Solution? You'll never guess: Windows 7 beta. That's it. The OS that Vista should have been. Yes, there really is a difference. I don't know if Microsoft consciously tuned Windows 7 up for real-time apps or what, but all I know is I can finally record, and I didn't have to buy a Mac to do it. Yay.

I've already got two song ideas down in two nights. At this rate, I'll have my first solo album in no time.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Fender's Recession Price Increase

So you own a business. Your stuff's not selling all that well. The economy's bad. Unemployment's up, the GDP is shrinking. What do you do?

Of course! Raise prices!

This is apparently Fender Musical Instruments Corporation's strategy. Their February price list (PDF link) went into effect today. Take a look through it, but make sure you're sitting down. Or, if you really want to be prepared, may as well just bend over now.

I'm a Jazzmaster fan so I'll pick it out as an example:

'62 AVRI Jazzmaster: $2,360
Elvis Costello Jazzmaster: $2,530
J. Mascis Jazzmaster: $1,590
Classic Player Jazzmaster: $1,400

Now, yes, these are list prices, but they're about 25% higher than the list prices were yesterday. Other guitars have even greater increases - just look at the full list. Already, I'm seeing some auctions on Ebay with Classic Players at over $1,100 and Elvis Costellos at over $2,000. That will probably be the going retail price. (Previously, Classic Players were $800 and Elvis models were $1,599, so that's a huge increase for those specific models).

Is there any way around this stupidity? Yes.

Current stock is still being sold at the old prices. So hit up Guitar Center quick. Help me out in the process by clicking the image below to get there.

Used prices also haven't reflected the change yet, but they'll probably increase over time to come closer to the new guitar prices. Hit Ebay while you can.

If you miss the boat on both of these options, just buy Japanese. Fender Japan has raised their prices slightly over the past year, but they were already cheaper than Fender USA and they didn't raise prices that much. So they're now going to be the clear better value again once all this dust settles. They're better guitars than the Mexican Classic Players anyway, which now cost about $300 more. The really good news is that Ishibashi is now selling new guitars to the United States again - Fender has lifted that prohibition. And buying used through U-box is still an option too, if you really want a guitar on the cheap.

There is still one more thing you can do, if you hurry: get a Thin Skin. These are special run Fender-made instruments with a thinner nitro finish. Some think this allows the wood to "breathe better", and they'll probably age quicker too. If that appeals to you, check out Dave's Guitar Shop or Wildwood Guitars. They do come in some nicer colors than the AVRI's, although the fretboard and frets aren't vintage style. The prices will likely remain the same as they are until stock runs out - a Jazzmaster is $1,599.

What is Fender thinking with this price increase? You got me. Yes, I know the famous story about Gibson in the 1980's and how they were almost out of business and they raised prices and suddenly people started buying their guitars again. Well, first of all, that was a confluence of events that favored Gibson - the country was coming out of a recession at that time and the economy was gaining steam. They were also helped by Fender's own QC problems - their main competitor wasn't doing so hot either. And they didn't have all these good-quality Asian imports to deal with back then. Gibson and Fender are both in danger of relegating themselves to niche guitar makers if they keep up pricing like this during a recession.

Not to mention the fact that Fender's supposed to be the working-man's guitar. The whole point of Fender as a company is to make guitars regular people can afford and play - that's why they exist! A 25% price increase during a recession goes against everything Leo Fender would have stood for.

If I'm going to pay that much for an American Jazzmaster, I'm just going to buy a vintage one.

About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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