Mike's Mash-Up 6/3/2010

Mike's Mash | May Part 2

Mike's Mash Up
Michael Akira West is the Owner and Creative Director of 686 Technical Apparel. The following are some of his experiences inside and out of the industry across the globe.  *Add Comments at Bottom of Page!

D World
May 28, 2010

The daddy of em’ all... Disney World! Just like with Universal, I typically wouldn’t be here unless I had a reason to be, but after all these years, I really just think I’ve been in denial. After checking this enchanted world (and I mean WORLD- this place is huge!), I'm hooked for life. It is amazing how far your imagination can take you and the rest of the world. It was endless in Roy Disney’s mind and now it is in mine.

First let's roll through Downtown Disney and check what they have. Y’all know how much I like Legos.

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They have some things I dig in one of the shops.

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Slick did this a few years ago for Bloc 28. Its still dope today.

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Between you and I, we were talking to Bloc 28 years ago about doing something, and I recall they were very sensitive on doing anything that would portray Mickey in a different light. I was stoked to see that Slick was able to bring his flavor into something so traditionally happy-happy.

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Instead of boring you with all the narration of what I saw, heard, felt, tasted and did, check out some highlights. SHREK in 4D!

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Men in B!

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Holy Shit!

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The Animal Kingdom is so rad!

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I always vote for the villain.

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Fairfax what!

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The #2 best ride ever.

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The #1 best ride ever.

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The U Studios
May 27, 2010

I don't get to travel too often to the state they call Florida. When I finally got a legit reason to go, like for work, I took the chance to see this place they call Universal Studios. Yeah I know we have this down the street from my pad in Los Angeles, but I usually don't go to amusement parks back at home. I guess it's because it's too damn crowded or I just haven't found a reason to go yet. In any case, I traveled all the way across the country to check out what the U Studios had to offer.

Hmmm... looks familiar.

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Damn, no matter how old I get this still looks pretty dope.

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I'm into storytelling, I always have been, but when it comes to the amusement parks, they simply do a better job. Let's check out how Spidey does it.

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First let's get in line. Actually we're not in line for a ride, we're actually going through the Daily Bugle.

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The editor in chief.

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Don't forget these.

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Yes, the Spiderman ride is in 3D. It's actually more like 4D as you not only get to see things coming at you, but you get to feel it as well. How's it Spidey!

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What the hell is coming at me?!!

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After your done living the life of Spiderman, you get the chance to "bring home" what you just felt. Biz 1 01: Identify the customer, engage the customer, get them emotionally attached, then sell. Even I believe I want this.

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Dr. Seuss is another example why you'll forever be attached to...

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...this little thing.

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I'm not a super fanatic of Harry Potter...

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but I do think this new experience will blow people's minds (as it did mine) when it comes to recreating Hogwarts.

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Typos
May 26, 2010

Canadian Student Nolan Herbut recently developed an interesting take on what he calls the "Wolfgang Keyboard" chair. I'm fascinated by all things furniture, but more importantly one of my inspirations is to bring new life to common objects. I call this process "Reclaiming". You'll soon see what I mean.

For now, see what Nolan does to this hand-made birch wood bench housed with a grip full of keys.

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The standard keyboard has 100 keys. This bench has over 2000.

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Make the grid.

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They all press down just like a functional keyboard. That's a lot of wor k!

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The More You Know
May 25, 2010

I'm not one to self promote. Hell, it was tough enough to even begin this blog since I'm typically a private person. After a year or so of doing this, I find that it's actually kinda therapeutic (weird huh). If you check out the Mash Up, you probably know I'd rather push my experiences than show myself. However, when Tiffany and Shelby from "Shop-Eat-Surf" (the leading biz trade site in our industry) asked me to tell my story on how I got here, I thought it would be a cool chance to let people know that anything can happen and that quality over quantity is key.

They have a section called "Core Careers" at the site, which features the personal paths to where heads are today. If you're interested in hearing how skateboarding and a few other people affected my life, check it.



Movin' It
May 24, 2010

Ever since my buddy Andy started hosting MTV's new show "The Ultimate Parkour Challenge" (which I thought was called something totally different), I have been engaged in the many ways that the human body moves. I've always been fascinated in still photos capturing a person's movement (it reminds me of when I thought I could fly as a kid), and it's even cooler when you see it in peculiar locations.

Parisian photographer, Denis Darzacq on Mocoloco, captures his interpretation of art through supermarket consumerism with local street dancers. It's called "Hyper" and will be at the Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles in June.

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The Other Side - The Artery
May 21, 2010

When I first came to China almost 20 years ago, I use to fly into the old airport in Hong Kong. I remember it was sketchy when the plane came super close to the high-rise buildings. That was then, but when you fly into Hong Kong now it's about 30 minutes away from the main area which I call the "Artery" to Asia. I think that's because it is literally a country within a country that holds every walk of life, every cuisine and just about everything else you would need from an international city. At the same time, it is the entrance into the most powerful country in the world. Like always, I'm only here for one night, but I'd like to stop by and catch up with some friends. First things first, I gotta get there. Where am I going?

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Good thing it's not that busy tonight.

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Smiley face says...

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For as long as I can remember, TST always looked like this...

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and this.

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I think Japan is rubbing some heat to Hong Kong. Pretty soon you'll be seeing your underwear in these little machines.

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Where's our dinner joint at?

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Eugene and Jasper always know the bomb joints to eat at. Indian food in China sits well with me...

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and so does this Mango shake.

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See how good that was?

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Eugene got a new phone. I think his HTC is better than his old Nokia, (but not as good as mine)!

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Chris says, "Made by Made by Monsters!"

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LFK is madness!

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Night time scenesters high above the sky in Hong Kong...

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One thing I've learned from my travels is that there's an international language of "watch how much you drink and don't be the first to pass out." Jasper shows us the first step on what this means to Larry.

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Larry so graciously demonstrates the last step of this simple process.

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May 20, 2010
The Other Side- Food & Drinks

What's a trip to Asia without experiencing all the great things the country has to offer? Contrary to what people think, they have everything and more than you can imagine (including these greas y things).

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The Chinese think of everything. When was the last time you had gloves to eat pizza with?

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No finger lickin' here.

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When you visit the factory owners, they love to take you to eat and show you a good time. I don't think I'll ever get use to drinks at noon.

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This is what our table looked like for lunch.

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When was the last time you had seen double yolked eggs?

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How about fried spinach covered with fried scorpions?

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Yes, I said scorpions!

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Maybe these chicken pieces don't look bad after all. Please pass the head, will you!

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Everything tastes better when you're in the city where this stuff is made fresh.

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On another occasion, we had "hot-pot" (the Chinese version of Shabu) for lunch. Just like all places in Asia, it's traditional to wait for the host to determine where you will sit. It looks like we're about to play musical chairs here.

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The stuff looked really good.

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Maybe I'll pass on the blood cubes this time.

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More my style... I love having teppanyaki for dinner!

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I also love grilled cod...

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and raw beef...

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but not fish eggs so much.

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You can't go to a teppanyaki joint without trying the fried rice. It's true what you've heard, the best fried rice is when you use left-over rice. When it's all done, no single rice will stick together. It's great!

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The Other Side- Places & People
May 19, 2010

This particular trip covered both the Northern and Southern parts of China. I was too busy admiring the differences in the regions that I almost forgot to take pictures, but I managed to get some in so here are a few.

One of our factories is located next to a large elementary school. Every morning, at 10:00 am, the whistle rings and the entire school comes out and does their exercises.

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Just like back at home, kids make it all their own. Some like it, some don't, and well... some just wanna have fun.

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Another one of our factories is located in an area where the government is planning to tear down and redevelop into a new zone. Just last year, these buildings were packed full of people.

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They were tearing down bits and pieces of it right in front of us. Watch out or something might fall on you!

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Safety first.

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If you know your place is going to be "demo'd" you don't tend to keep it maintained.

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When I was in Vietnam last year, I saw an entire family of five on one scooter! The max I could find here was only three.

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In this part of China, a lot of people take the bus.

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You can't see it that well here, but they sure pack people in tight!

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3-wheeled things.

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Almost.

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Not good for guys.

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What's for dinner?

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Yes, this is China.

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The Other Side-Things on Your Feet
May 18, 2010

I know the garment business inside and out, but when it comes to footwear production, I still have a long way to go to fully grasp all the areas of production. Just like with our garment factories, we work with the best in the business. I've been blessed to have solid relationships with our manufacturing team. We don't work with brokers or with middle men. I like to be as close as possible to the heart of the process and get to know the owners really well. There's some highly confidential things that I can't show you, so you're gonna have to deal with a few snippets.

With every good fit, comes outlasting performance. It looks much simpler than it seems, but developing the "perfect" fit takes a long time ...and money.

Markers and cutters are used for garments. Dyes are used for boots and footwear.

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Watch your hands!

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These machines cost quite a bit, but they do a hell of a lot.

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Down the line.

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Up and around.

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Do you know where these end up? We have an answer (coming in September) that will revolutionize the manufacturing process.

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Color me up.

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The Other Side- Quality & Control
May 17, 2010

It's the time of year when I pack my bags and take off for our annual Asia Production Trip. This trip is an important one since the bulk of our business is in winter when I personally make sure things are 100% legit before we ship anything. A lot goes down in what I call "the other side," but to simplify things, I'm gonna summarize my trip in a few parts. Check out the first one with quality & control.

Things always start off with lots of people around a table checking piles of notes on what is supposed to happen where and when.

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Next is the traditional "flybys" to the factory floor.

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Although most of our goods are already packed and ready to ship, we have a few late releases that are currently in production. I like to take walkthroughs from beginning to end starting with the fabrics.

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To the cutting floor...

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Back in the day, when I produced my goods in Downtown, L.A., I remember making all the markers for the patterns to cutting a few by myself. I've got nothin' on these skilled cutters!

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A sneak peak into something to come.

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There's so many steps that go into making one of our garments, it's overwhelming to the average person. Sewing is a huge part of it, but there's about 100 different sewing steps in one of our jackets. Here is just one.

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686 is a company with purpose. After we make it look good, we have to make sure it is functional- made for the purpose of keeping you warm and dry. Waterproofing the garment with custom made taping on all seams is just one component.

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The trim process is equally important and is done at certain points in the overall manufacturing process. Bungee cords are started here (but not finished) while the jacket is turned inside out with the insulation showing.

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In my world, I call the trims the jewelry of the garment. It's important to us to use the highest quality jewelry to finish our garments. Even if they are things that you can't necessarily see, (like this custom made YKK machine to match our custom YKK eyelits).

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Finishing is making sure that everything is in line with what's expected.

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We have a strict policy on what we expect to see at 686. Packing instructions are physically placed in front of the tables so each inspector knows what they're looking for. It kinda looks like this Gore-Tex one.

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A lot of factories don't steam the garments. I don't care too much about what other people do. I want all my garments to be nice, neat and never wrinkled. (It takes a very skilled steamer to make sure they do it just right on the technical garments.)

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Stack 'em up.

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We're known for having our goods look 100% legit right from the bag. This means every hang-tag, every label, every 686 giveaway is placed correctly. We even have directions on which sleeve and hood is folded where. These puppies are just about ready to go through this process.

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Pack 'em up.

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Ship 'em out.

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May 2010: Part 1
April 2010: Part 1
April 2010: Part 2
March 2010: Part 1
March 2010: Part 2
February 2010