A Continuous Lean. podcast

The ACL Podcast 005: Lisa Birnbach

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As someone fascinated with the origins of prep and American style, a conversation with Lisa Birnbach is always going to be something I find compelling. Like a lot of people who are intrigued by prep, I view it as an interested outsider who wants to understand how it became what it is today. Lisa helped to define the preppy lifestyle and also played a big part into pushing it into the mainstream culture with The Official Preppy Handbook. Preppy style really took hold after The Official Preppy Handbook was released. It’s interesting to think about prep in those early days, where it went and where it’s at today. Especially considering what has happened at J.Crew, Brooks Brothers and other big American brands recently.

In our chat Lisa talks about the origin story of the book, her interactions with the prep devotees and how Hamburg is the preppiest city in Europe. Hope you like it.

The ACL Podcast is more of an add-on to the newsletter than a full fledged podcast. You can listen in Spotify or on Apple Podcasts directly if you prefer that to Substack. If you enjoy this edition, please consider subscribing and sending to a friend who you think would like this. I appreciate your support.

Thanks to Al James for lending me his music: Hard Working Dogs by Dolorean.

This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at www.acl.news/subscribe

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    The ACL Podcast 005: Lisa Birnbach

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    As someone fascinated with the origins of prep and American style, a conversation with Lisa Birnbach is always going to be something I find compelling. Like a lot of people who are intrigued by prep, I view it as an interested outsider who wants to understand how it became what it is today. Lisa helped to define the preppy lifestyle and also played a big part into pushing it into the mainstream culture with The Official Preppy Handbook. Preppy style really took hold after The Official Preppy Handbook was released. It’s interesting to think about prep in those early days, where it went and where it’s at today. Especially considering what has happened at J.Crew, Brooks Brothers and other big American brands recently. In our chat Lisa talks about the origin story of the book, her interactions with the prep devotees and how Hamburg is the preppiest city in Europe. Hope you like it. The ACL Podcast is more of an add-on to the newsletter than a full fledged podcast. You can listen in Spotify or on Apple Podcasts directly if you prefer that to Substack. If you enjoy this edition, please consider subscribing and sending to a friend who you think would like this. I appreciate your support.Thanks to Al James for lending me his music: Hard Working Dogs by Dolorean. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at www.acl.news/subscribe
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    The ACL Podcast 003: Matt Taylor of Tracksmith

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    Tracksmith is interesting to me because of how it has managed to take inspiration from history —to embody the aesthetics of a heritage brand— while simultaneously being completely forward-looking and modern. I’ve seen a lot of brands try to do this and it almost never feels right. Tracksmith took the good parts of archival running and modernized it to create an inclusive, fun, New England-centric brand that seems to know itself (and its customer) very well. I would guess that everyone wrote-off the brand initially when they considered it was going up against Nike and all of the massive companies that dominate athletic apparel. What was obvious to the Matt Taylor, who founded the brand in 2014 with Luke Scheybeler, was that there was an unrepresented group of runners who didn’t seem to connect with the big brands. That’s where Tracksmith’s boutique approach fit right in. Matt Taylor ran track & field at Yale. He later worked on running for Puma. Scheybeler is also a Rapha co-founder and he helped both brands establish a strong initial visual and creative presence. Tracksmith pairs technical details with classic Ivy-inspired design elements in a way that’s easy to describe, but hard to actually execute. Beyond design, the focus of the product is highly functional for both the casual and elite runner. Matt’s collegiate running experience and the brand’s New England roots have both shaped what Tracksmith is today from a design perspective. Tracksmith fills a void for amateur runners with a technical yet classic aesthetic. It’s important to disclose that I do marketing consulting with Tracksmith. I want to be completely transparent about that and it’s not something I am trying to hide. Doing this story was my idea and no one at Tracksmith pushed for this even a little bit. I have been pressured by clients in the past to write stories and I have always politely declined. That’s not what I am about and if you look back at the partnerships I have done in the past I am extremely transparent about conflicts of interest. I work with Tracksmith for the same reason I did this story, because I like the brand and believe in the people there.Tracksmith is a DTC brand that’s going for longevity and quality first. In that regard, it’s one of the exceptions to the rule when it comes to DTC companies. So many start-up brands solve no real problems and seem to only exist because of performance marketing. Matt talks about that a little bit in this interview with Colin Nagy on LeanLuxe. The way Tracksmith’s product, image and core values align in such a cohesive way stands out to me. That’s why the brand has activated such a passionate community in the same way that Rapha does. That’s a massive accomplishment especially in the face of the competition that exists in running. We recorded this chat in the fall and our conversation was wide ranging. We did cover a lot of important stuff like how to build a brand, sustainability in fashion and who makes the best pizza in New Haven. It’s all in there, I hope you enjoy. The ACL Podcast is more of an add-on to the newsletter than a full fledged podcast. You can listen in Spotify or on Apple Podcasts directly if you prefer that to Substack. If you enjoy this edition, please consider subscribing and sending to a friend who you think would like this. I appreciate your support. Thanks to Al James for lending me his music. The song is: Hard Working Dogs by Dolorean. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at www.acl.news/subscribe
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    The Big Question

    38:48

    Today I’m not shopping for stuff on sale, I’m asking myself the big questions. Why do I own all of this stuff? How did I get to this point? Should I be buying stuff on Black Friday? Since I am committing to downsizing 60% of my possessions in the next 12 months I wanted to talk to Sean Hotchkiss about how he did it. I also wanted to ask him how it feels four years on. That’s the basis for the conversation above. He sent me this photo. These are his clothes. He told me that this is 75% of what he owns. His goal is for all of his clothing to fit on this one rack. He said he has more stuff than just this, but what is pictured is the bulk of it. I’m sort of shocked and at the same time impressed. This is the same feeling I have when Coggins tells me he travels with one pair of pants. Why does having less stuff seem so difficult?The more that I have thought about divesting the more I have generally struggled with the anxiety around the idea. It’s not just the difficult mechanics of getting rid of stuff, but I’m also feeling so much emotion around the process. The questions in my head go like this. What if I need XY or Z in the future? Am I a fool to get rid of so much stuff that has so much value? Why do I feel like this is so difficult?On the flip side, I think that if I would have put all of the money I spent on all of this stuff into the stock market I would have made a killing. Instead I’m in a room with a bunch of things I don’t want and I’m facing a lot of work to get rid of it. This is equal parts depressing and uplifting. It’s a strange emotional paradox that I haven’t previously encountered on this level. I also want to say that this is just my process. I’m not trying to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t do with their money. I am not saying that I know better or Sean knows best. This is just how I feel and I want to share with the hope that perhaps people will find a connection for themselves. All of this thinking about simplifying has actually reinforced my belief in buying less but better things. If I would have stuck closer to that belief I would probably not be in this position in the first place. The only thing I might buy this Black Friday would be a gift or because I want to support a brand I believe in and want to exist. I know a lot of small brands need help right now and those are the ones that I will be looking to this holiday season. I’ll get into this in a bigger way soon. I just don’t want people to forget that this is a strange time and small brands need help to get through it. This is a public episode. Get access to private episodes at www.acl.news/subscribe

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