At CalArts and elsewhere, more women are entering the picture

May 25, 2015 Leave a comment
College Animation Women

College Animation Women CalArts Animation director Maija Burnett, center, with white flower necklace on, poses with her female students at CalArts, in the Animation Department on May 8, 2015. (Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

la times

May 8, 2015. (Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

By DEBORAH VANKIN contact the reporter Entertainment Minority Groups Media Industry Cartoon Network (tv network) Loyola Marymount University

CalArts’ and other animation programs see surge in female enrollment; workforce generally doesn’t mirror trend
Maija Burnett scanned her California Institute of the Arts classroom as nearly 60 new students filtered in, empty notebooks in hand. It was the start of the 2014-15 school year, and Burnett, director of CalArts’ character animation program, was meeting this crop of freshmen for the first time in her largest classroom, nicknamed “the palace.”

Surrounded by walls painted entirely black — more conducive to drawing — the students stood up, one by one, to introduce themselves. That’s when it hit Burnett that almost all of them were women.

“Where are all the guys?” she recalls thinking.

CalArts’ blind admissions process meant administrators had reviewed portfolios without considering names or gender. “We were shocked to see so many women,” Burnett says.

Diversity can be seen and heard in animated films
College animation programs in the U.S. have historically skewed male, like the industry itself. But female enrollment at top schools has surged nationwide, especially in the last five years, according to interviews with administrators at top schools.

When CalArts debuted its character animation program in 1975, it had just two female students. Today women make up 71% of its animation student body, and this month 16 women and 10 men graduated from the program. USC’s John C. Hench Division of Animation & Digital Arts is now 65% women.

UCLA’s master’s program in animation is estimated to be 68% women, and Florida’s Ringling College of Art and Design’s computer animation program is nearly 70% women.

That swell of young women studying the craft is generally not mirrored in the workforce. Women make up 21% of the artists, writers and technicians employed under an Animation Guild contract this year, according to the organization, which tracks hiring records for guild animation studios in Los Angeles County.

“They come out of art school and aren’t hired for the creative jobs,” said Marge Dean, co-president of the nonprofit advocacy group Women in Animation. “They end up being PAs [production assistants] or on the production management track, the housekeepers and the organizers as opposed to the creators.”

Even so, women have increasingly been shaping high-profile animation projects in Hollywood. 

Bonnie Arnold and Mireille Soria were named co-presidents of DreamWorks feature animation in January, replacing Chief Creative Officer Bill Damaschke. Disney Television Animation recently produced “Star vs. the Forces of Evil,” its second series created by a woman, Daron Nefcy. The story of the Star Butterfly, a princess from another planet who finds her voice on Earth, premiered March 30 and was the No. 1 animated series debut in Disney XD history.
“Traditionally, a lot of comics and graphic novels — a predecessor to animation — were more geared to boys,” says Bret Parker, Pixar animator and professor at the Bay Area’s California College of the Arts. “That’s shifted. Now young women are realizing animation is an accessible thing they can go into.”

No one organization tracks gender demographics for college animation programs, but the trend is consistent across many undergraduate and master’s programs across the country.

Valencia-based CalArts, co-founded by Walt Disney, has seen the gender divide widen in women’s favor every year since 2010. The Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia grew its female animation student body by 82% between 2010 and 2014, whereas the number of male students grew by 11%. At California College of the Arts in San Francisco, female enrollment in animation grew by about 20% during the same period.

“I noticed the shift about three or four years ago. It was striking — and it’s held steady,” says Tom Klein, chairman of the animation program at L.A.’s Loyola Marymount University, now 55% female.

What accounts for the increase in female enrollment?

One factor may be that more women in general are entering college. Tom Sito, chairman of USC’s animation division, also thinks that successful animated films with strong female characters, such as “Frozen” and “Brave,” have played a role.

Others credit technology. Disney TV’s animation talent development director, Brooke Keesling, who teaches at CalArts, says the gender-neutral Internet — where users on social media often go by androgynous handles — has had a major effect on young women’s ambitions.

“People can share their artwork on Tumblr and Vimeo and YouTube and DeviantArt,” she says, “and see that it’s actually a thing that a lot of people are interested in, not just men.”

‘Boxtrolls’ illustrates how animation houses are playing a new ‘toon
TV shows like Cartoon Network’s “Steven Universe,” created by Rebecca Sugar, the company’s first female solo series creator, have propelled the proliferation of fan art online, CalArts’ Burnett says. “Young women can not only interact together online in ways they couldn’t before, but they can contribute and post their own fan art … and then network and talk to each other about it.”

Women have long worked in animation, but for decades they primarily worked as inkers and painters, tracing the lines of other artists’ work onto sheets of acetate cells rather than creating the characters and stories.

Exceptions were few: Disney’s Retta Scott drew scenes for “Bambi” in the early 1940s, and Mary Blair worked on “Peter Pan” and “Cinderella” at Disney in the late ’40s.

In the 1960s and ’70s, inking and painting positions dwindled as animation work was sent overseas, where labor was cheaper. With the growth of computer graphics for features in the ’90s, traditional ink and paint jobs nearly disappeared.
Today, the realms of TV, film and the Web provide more outlets. Women, however, aren’t frequently seen in roles of film director or TV show creator, conceiving and green-lighting new content, animation historian Maureen Furniss says.

“Women tend to be working in development or preschool programming or in producing, and the males tend to be in more creative roles like directing and heads of studios,” says Furniss, who wrote the forthcoming book “Animation in History” and teaches at CalArts.

“We can’t generalize, but — and this is true of live action and gaming too — it’s still dominated by men,” she says. “It’s starting to change, but not that much.”

The scarcity of women in creative leadership roles may simply come down to a Mars-Venus disconnect between how men and women communicate, “Brave” co-director Brenda Chapman says.

“I think the issue is that women bring a different sensibility into the mix,” Chapman says. “And I think the majority of male studio executives and producers are still expecting what they’re used to — the traditional, male-driven, comedy-heavy stories.”
“Frozen” co-director Jennifer Lee won the Oscar for animated feature in 2014, but a year earlier Chapman had the distinction of being the first woman to win in that category for “Brave.” Chapman’s journey, however, was far from easy. She conceived of the film’s ginger-headed Scottish princess while working at Pixar and was named the film’s director, the company’s first woman in that position. Ultimately, though, Chapman was replaced by colleague Mark Andrews; she and Andrews were given co-director credits.

Oscars Animation Directors Roundtable: The Full, Frank Interview
Directors of “Big Hero 6,” “The Lego Movie,” “Book of Life,” “Boxtrolls” and “How to Train a Dragon” discuss what it’s like to pitch their stories, to overcome challenges and to collaborate with actors in the booth.
That turn of events was in large part because of her being a woman, Chapman says.

“It was less open sexism and more just being in a room full of men and trying to explain my point of view and not being understood because they didn’t get it, it wasn’t in their wheelhouse,” Chapman says. “On ‘Brave,’ I was trying to maintain some integrity for my characters and they just didn’t get it. That was very difficult.”

Looking forward, Chapman says she’s concerned about how a continually shrinking job market could affect women coming out of college.

“When I look at some of the young women filmmakers trying to get into the studio system, they’re just so grateful to have a job they’ll do whatever is asked of them,” she says. “But I’ve seen a few that have a spark, and I think, ‘They’re going to push it when they get further along.’ I’m hoping that happens.”

Burnett thinks that an increased female sensibility in animation will spur more female characters on-screen and greater ethnic diversity among them.

Categories: Uncategorized

Strengthening El Niño Raises Hope For Bone-Dry California

May 25, 2015 Leave a comment


(Blogmaster’s note: This bodes well for the Cotton Crop in CA)

Strengthening El Niño Raises Hope For Bone-Dry San Diego

Monday, May 25, 2015
By Susan Murphy

A map shows the warmest ocean temperatures in red and unusually cold anomalies in blue, May 21, 2015.
A map shows the warmest ocean temperatures in red and unusually cold anomalies in blue, May 21, 2015.
Radio news logo
Aired 5/25/15 on KPBS News.
El Niño conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean are gaining strength. The latest forecast signals a moderate to strong event come fall or winter.
El Niño conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean are gaining strength. The latest forecast signals a moderate to strong event come fall or winter, raising hope for drought-parched San Diego County.

While similar indications were reported last year at this time, this year is shaping up to be different, said David Pierce, climate researcher with Scripps Institution of Oceanography. That said, it’s still too early to know for sure, he added.

“You have to have both the ocean and the atmosphere cooperating together,” Pierce said. “Last year the ocean surface temperatures and the subsurface temperatures below the surface looked like it was going to be an El Niño, but the atmosphere didn’t really start responding. But this year is a little bit different. The atmosphere does seem to be responding.”

Pierce said El Niño is set in motion when massive convective storms form over the warmer-than-usual tropical Pacific.

“It’s kind of like if you roll a ball down a hill and there’s a lot of people around, “ Pierce said. “Someone might run up and kick it and deflect it from its path. So we’re rolling down hill, we’re aiming towards an El Niño, but random weather events can still make a difference.”

He said large storms such as typhoons could knock El Niño off of its trajectory. They could also add to its strength.

“Like in 1997 to ’98, we had a very strong El Niño,” Pierce said. “And that was partly because there were these incredible winds out in the tropical Pacific that really increased the amplitude of that.”

Pierce said current tropical surface temperatures are approximately 3 degrees warmer than usual. During the large El Niño in the late 1990s, ocean temperatures reached 8 degrees above normal.

“We’re not at that point yet, but you don’t expect that because we’re really early in the season,” Pierce said.

He said one of the biggest indicators of a coming strong El Niño is the subsurface ocean temperatures.

“When you have all this warm water down to a couple hundred feet, it’s a really big signal,” Pierce said. “It can really affect the overlying atmosphere. So right now we’re in one. It’s got these pretty strong signals.”

El Niños occur about every four to 12 years. A moderate or strong event can cause above-average rainfall in San Diego as well as potentially damaging waves along the coast. The event can last from nine months to two years.

An El Niño doesn’t always guarantee a wet year in San Diego County. During the last El Niño in 2010, San Diego received 10 inches of rain, which is average, but it produced a significantly stronger than usual wave energy, causing 36 percent more erosion along California’s shorelines than an average winter.

“When you have a strong El Niño, it tends to be wetter in Southern California by about 20 to 30 percent,” Pierce said.

During the strong 1997 and 1998 event, San Diego received 17 inches of rain. In 1993, a strong El Niño was credited with dumping 18 inches at Lindbergh Field.

Categories: Uncategorized

Trend observations with a sociological eye from afar…

May 24, 2015 Leave a comment


The problem we have is this holding pattern that is unfairly blamed on designers. They have a duty to balance their vision of the future where they want to lead you with the cultivation of security in creating items that will be sound purchases. Time and time again this blog has take the duty to remind all that fashion is a business, and good business requires producing products that will be sound investments, especially when finance has been a subject of concern this past decade.

With this concern, the penchant to experiment has been delicate. The need for fashion progress and evolution is tempered by strategic design directions that motivate the public to purchase. the return of oversize that was the hallmark of the 80s is a logical direction as most of those clothes are now gone or retailored so that few have access to these and thus the supply chain no longer has to worry about vintage encroaching on profit margins.

Environmental Alchemy

One of the underlying themes that 2016 Resort collections have revealed early is a theme that fashion has been embracing for some time: architecture. Of course our environment has been a consistent source of inspiration, especially as fashion likes to coordinate with their surroundings on a sociological as well as literal level.

While Nicholas Ghesquiere took inspiration from John Lautner, Dior’s Raf Simmons utilized architectural aspects in the layering and structure of his garments for his resort collection, paralleling the current design hybrids we see in our modern architecture today. The variation of grids, screens, tulles and nettings layered over and inserted with architectural hardness underly our embrace of hybridization as we seek our new century’s language.

This alchemic creativity will be more acute as we come closer to those of age who can take the reigns who have no connection with our twentieth century past. The mix-and-match platform will serve the next generation well as they pick and choose to show us what to say that best represents our next century and sets the tone for the foundation of our new millennium.

To be sure, there are underlying reasons to return to this comfortable cocooning that this blog has covered previously, surrounding our need to security as fear infantizes us. But other designers are not quite on board with this approach, instead choosing to return to security in form that the 90s brings. The Helmut Lang-inspired lab cut coats and 70s streamlined cuts that became 90s hallmarks speak familiar language to the existing shopping public, so it remains. But we are defining boundaries through the self-examination of our design approaches as we become aware of our enduring embrace of retro as inspiration; how fitting that seam detail comes through in the 2016 Resort collections. These acknowledge the subtlety of detail as prominent in design focus while announcing the lines we draw in our lives. We categorize and compartmentalize to better undestand, and i our current introspection this is a necessary step before we strike boldly forward into the unknown.

There are other telltale signs of acknowledging our awareness, and that will be discussed in the next blog…as our way of drawing a line in the sand, so to speak.

The 2016 Resort collections have commenced, with a few of the heavy hitters leading the way. The ever cautious familiarity that fashion embraces is balanced with the high tech execution of material expression balanced with a venture that 80s experimentation allowed. That spirit is essential as we maintain a platform to provide the proper launchpad for whatever talent will shape our next century’s direction. We need this allowance of play if we want to allow unbridled creativity to express itself, something we cannot have if our current fashion climate is too restrained.

The preliminary hints show us fixated on intricacy of details as the new status. The careful execution of stitch work, seams, and accents all hint at our level of technical expertise that we now expect in our age while creating a challenge to other labels looking to create more affordable inspirations by embracing complexity. The inspirations may be varied, from Chanel’s appreciation of the K-pop influence that trending companies alerted us to years ago to Bottega Veneta’s embrace of 70s 90s with a nostalgic color palette to Louis Vuitton’s use of organic multiplicity in its execution and material finishes.

That complexity reflects our current world where work life balance is challenged and where our very fabric of 21st century living has sent simplicity to the history books. Nothing is simple anymore, and our connected world has ensured we are not in the dark of how intricate our world is. The resort collections so far merely reflects the appreciation of that. Let’s see how many designers agree.

As we approach the last half of this decade, we inch closer to our new identity, not only for the century but for the millennium. A new crop of creatives will take the torch passed by previous geniuses of talent and present to us their vision. Theirs will be one of hearsay and disconnect; their voice will have no connection to the last century or millennium, and thus their virgin eyes will bring the first view of the future, influenced to some degree by the stuff of legends illustrated by online content and yet may be reactionary and defiant as do all new generations looking to make it their own.
Off Kilter
 Some of the examination of fashion comes from more anthropological aspects, such as the origin of trends and their parallels with events in current times that recall similar moods. Our choice is to recall and recapture those originating sentiments as we remind the current fashionistas we are again feeling the very things that triggered inspiration for the source of creativity. For example, the high hemlines in line with our moments of empowerment via sexuality. Other aspects are more symbolic, such as volume or textile choice in relation to our emotional state. in these cases, it is the representation that we seek to identify with, and trends that succeed tap well into these understanding of sentiments. The structure in textiles that we continue to embraced coincides with more aggressive defensive aspects, or how volume in the cut of garments is in relation to our personal security levels.
Sometimes we feel the need to be in order, and in other times we embrace the feeling of being out of balance as we attempt to make sense ff the world. The artful aspects of asymmetry fight this desire for order and celebrate letting loose, in response to our recognition that the world seems out of control or that we feel so. In points within various decades, where we feel safe enough to accept this lack of control, the unbridled asymmetry is unleashed.

There is no particular decade where this was more prominent, for each decade allowed this swing between sensible symmetry and it’s antithesis. We have tended to utilize it more in our century if that tells you something about our willingness to allow ourselves some release. That the 20s, 50s and particularly the 80s, a period of great change and self-awareness, was a source for much experimental design within this execution of expression tells us where we are leaning to now.

Yes, there is economic uncertainty and global nervousness, yet financially things seem somewhat better in most places and as in past decades with similar cautious optimism woven through change we give ourselves permission to loosen boundaries. Sometimes we have to let loose to find our balance, particularly when we feel relatively safe to do so. The dichotomy of exploration and insecurity fits us well, even when swimming in oversize output.
Daddy Issues

For those who have lived longer, repetition of previous decades can seem charming. Another generation revisits what was considered groundbreaking while seeing it as representation of the current voice of the times resonates as a harmony of shared values. And yet, those who care to observe the details know that minute differences in retro expression can illustrate how the adopted looks actually call in slightly different motivations.

The 80s took inspiration of volume from the 50s, where postwar excess was celebrated as an antidote to the years of rationing. allowing that generation to rediscover the joys of revived supply lines and rekindled abundance. The push for consumerism was “full on” and yet the cold war sentiments meant shielding us in structured and plush volume

The height of the codl war standoff that the 80s hosted brought back those same fears, stoking revived inspiration in the last decade facing similar concerns while in the midst of a major consumerist push. the luxe excess took to a new level, supported by again structured armor of rigid textile and subsequent shoulder pad buildup.

This time the volume returns. the economic excess and whispers of instability of the late 80s also brought legendary creativity which collections continue to reference. But after years of form-fitting and body-honest fashion, our armored structure has given way to volume sans pads. If the 80s was self-reliant defensiveness, this time we take the protective volume and let it soften. The protective pads are gone and we let it all slouch. We allow ourselves to lose composure as we swim in comforting volume, akin to when, in our adolescence, we take comfort in wrapping ourselves in our protective parents’ garments to play “adult”.

We shamelessly and artfully let ourselves get swallowed. We recapture our innocence in our infancy, recreating those days of dress-up when we knew we were cared for and protected yet were allowed to playfully participate in the little understood yet inspirational role of our caregivers. We feel safe, yet touch base with being grown up.

Will we grow out of this is not the question, but how and in what direction should be. For designers, they are already thinking about that as we approach closer to the pivotal point just as we did the last century.

We, armed with the technology to bring us cumulative knowledge never before seen in the recorded history of mankind, are able to review our past with unabashed totality. As well, we are now able to better examine ourselves and our habits as the internet of things and our connected world illuminate our influences and habits with a click of a button.

Gone are the days of relying on a conglomerate to access information once privy to only an elite group. Now the information is coming available to see, and this is being more widely shared  (one of the perks of the democracy of the internet). We now see that the game of trends and influence comes in all directions and from unlikely places. Well…unlikely for those who aren’t in the design business.

As such, fashion publications such as now have to look at fashion reporting differently. No more can we look at conventional categorization, although patterns do exist. In that regard fashion will never change. It always needs soundbites to include the public; making it too nebulous when we have trained the public to conform is bad business. But now we have general sweeping influences, such as the decidedly 80s aura in the 2015 Fall Winter collections (read: oversize) versus the more regional collage of inspirations that makes it hard for publications to quantify (international elements versus particular nationality focus, for example). These technically have a category, but now we have a new approach based on the variety as designers realize too much homogeneity in trends can be a death sentence in the industry. Look what minimalism did in the 90s…and what it was doing when it repeated (good riddance to normcore).

Now, the landscape shifts, reflecting our connected online world. It’s a balance of variety and commonality. It connects with those who are born into the 21st century, even if the forms are still so last century. As we now take the time to open discussion of the torch passing, we admit we are openly curious. We don’t know yet how it will be, but like the Gibson Girl’s appearance hinting at the next century’s new mindset, our approach to fashion is reflecting something similar that may give clues to how we are going to create our new millennial looks. And just as informed and sophisticated is the potential of our technological landscape, so too is the platform from which this new chapter may spring our new cultural representation.

These last few years will be brimming with speculation and examination to be first because that is how fashion is, and yet the overall trend that decides our new direction may be a rebellion against that very approach as a reaction against our formulaic marketing mindset. If a middle finger was given in the 20th century to those who wanted to restrict movement the century before, this new generation may do the very same with regards to our calculated conceptualization as a symbol of breaking free in the name of claiming their own voice. And that may blindside us just as the the flappers did for the generation before them. Curious? Excited? Aren’t we all now.

As far as the business aspect of this creative industry is concerned, fashion must meet the essential needs of the consumer to remain viable. For some time, the customer has demanded a level of utility to justify their investment. The unsettling economic picture that continuously reverberates through the news does little to calm the nerves of a frugal yet vain public, hence the continued hesitation regarding experimentation has been more confined to the details such as new textures and textiles while keeping familiar shapes alive in collections. Thus, the customer can feel safe knowing their purchase has more dollar per wear.

Unfortunately, this means that the designer is limited in where they can take us as we remain rigid in more classic forms. Eventually the public has less incentive to buy if fashion doesn’t evolve and that can kill business. The creative stagnation out of economic austerity of the early 90s saw the death of many inventive houses when creativity was curbed in favor of utility; the public was too afraid to buy something that was too specific to carry through the changes of the seasons.

But our culture has been well-trained to evolve and to expect fashion to renew. Our attention spans don’t hold out for a prolonged state of stagnation, even if our wallets want us to say otherwise. And so fashion pushes us forth. The compromise? Prints become the new expanded vocabulary.

With our palette cleansed via the minimalist phase that accompanied our need to tune out the noise satisfied, our need to reflect the overload of our senses that our world allows us returns. We acknowledge the overload. We embrace it. We let it wash over us as we seek to blend into the chaos of our world and find ways to reclaim the appreciation of its calamity. The mixing of vibrant colours in conjunction with all we have been incorporating in the creative process bring everything to full life. Note that we still have these traditional shapes with us. But we expand our vocabulary beyond colour and textile to add visual texture.

We look to move forward. we will do that. what we are seeing are baby steps to bring us to receive it. And the next season that follows Fall Winter 2015 will let us know whether the consumer approves of the direction.

The more observant individuals who know their history are well aware of the oscillating pendulum of fashion influence with regards to source. That is, sometimes it’s the fashion house who brings innovation to the public. It could be a new cut, a new length, a new volume, a textile or colour combination…it could be any and all of the above. The new standard harmonizes with how we feel. Sometimes it can be for a season or two, and sometimes it can set a standard for a part or a whole decade.

Other times, the houses run their course and it is the streets that provide new direction. here, a generation takes the reigns to cultivate anew dialogue to make up for what fashion hasn’t heard. The 1920s was a result of youthful rebellion wanting fashion to meet their needs for ease and mobility; the clothes of the previous generation failed to recognize the new freedom this creative generation craved. The new geenration wanted to run and dance with wild abandon, embracing the role of the new mindset for a new century.

In later decades, we saw the pendulum swing again, more so after the postwar where commerce become more reactionary and responsive to youthful expressions. The denim of the 50s, the go-go eclectic looks of the 60s, the glam rock gender testing of the 70s all influenced fashion, and all came from the playful experimentation of the streets.

The 80s, a period of great fashion rule-breaking and innovation, also owes a lot to street fashion. Designers reconstituted the past as we do now as well as looked to street fashion to find new combinations as design inspiration for collections. There was a lot to look at as the decade fostered individuality and supported fashion involvement that was way more immersed compared to prior decades, in large part to greater accessibility of information , materials and capital (even if, for many, it was borrowed). Also, the birth of street marketing photography for design teams gained traction, and some designers were known for parking it in a cafe with a pen and paper in hand. With avant garde expression more prevalent and more celebrated in the fashion world, the individualistic street styles fed our thirst for everything exciting and new.

Since that last decade, there has been creativity in various levels, and yet more seasoned industry players will readily admit that the 80s never really left fashion, so influential and creative its output was. Seeing quite a few collections carry creative expressions that seem right out of the 80s is most intriguing. We have come full circle: our insecurity cloaks us in oversize just as it did in similar unstable status-conscious times while the deviation from rigid trend hallmarks aim to excite the market, all while providing the best-known creative platform to help set an important fashion milestone stage as we inch closer towards a century we have yet to newly identify.

The streets led us into our last century with great impact. So to may the streets do the same again. For now, the collections admit the power of the people, bringing back legendary energy to a new generation looking to own its new legacy yet not yet aware of what that will be. It’s OK; we have patience to give.

W e seek a new voice and yet we find it hard to let go to do so. The Fall Winter 2015 collections reflect this sentiment overall, no matter how one tries to compartmentalize it. It does this by showing collections that throw together prints, layers, combinations, mostly in a slouchy yet artful assembly brought together by the direction of the designer. The assemblies alert us to our siphoning through of our past in an effort to find new vocabulary. However, as this log has repeatedly suggested, the past has already revealed how new voices and new expressions need to come about.

Currently, that person is in their teens and may be playing with what is before them, soaking in our experimentation as a foundation for a new generational, centenary and even millennial platform form which we will see a new way of expressing. Our documentation of history already shows how we achieved this last century. Now, as we wait those already in the spotlight seek to retain influence as they attempt to contribute towards this new voice. They are, yet from a 20th century perspective. A few may have the ability to divorces themselves form their early influences enough to break free with virgin eyes, but ultimately that freshness has yet to mature and take the helm.

It’s exciting, like a countdown to a new identity yet to be unveiled. Each season will seem to give hints, and yet the real page-turner is half a decade away. the question is now where this influence will emerge. Or, with our connectivity that our technology affords, will it be a collective shift by consensus? Throw together a few ideas for the next few years as we all keep our eyes peeled.

This blog has long upheld the notion of fashion being the barometer of our collective social expression woven with our personal expressions. That is, what you wear reflects not just who you are but connects with where we as a society are. While some may feel otherwise, our previous articles outlined how available materials and choices are long planed in advance, carefully chosen to fit with our social evolution. Even those who revisit existing fashions via vintage end up choosing items relevant to what is existing; we can’t help it because we ultimately are programmed to connect. That is in our nature as a species.

Some of the collections trailing at the end of the Fall Winter 2015 presentations feature aspects of sustainability practices where fabrics are reutilized. This time around, the patchworking reflect our sophistication and intelligence that our technology affords (such as Threeasfour), while the approach reflects our ecological and economical sensibilities the times demands (such as by Awaveawake or Raquel Allegra). This isn’t limited to clothing. In the fragrance world, Mugler’s perfumes are designed to be refillable, reflecting economy and ecology that speaks to the public. We choose the elements in fashion to meet our needs while honoring our aesthetics. the frugality may be on either end of the supply chain, but it tells us how we adapt as we aim to carry on.

Categories: Uncategorized

Target’s web sales grow by 37% in Q1

May 24, 2015 Leave a comment
May 20, 2015, 3:46 PMBill Briggs BY BILL BRIGGS Senior Editor

E-commerce growth proves the mass merchant is on the right strategic path for serving shoppers, CEO Brian Cornell says. The web accounted for about 28% of the retailer’s sales growth in the quarter.

Target Corp. piled up strong web sales in the first quarter of 2015, reinforcing the retail chain’s long-term plan to invest in e-commerce, chairman and CEO Brian Cornell told analysts on the company’s quarterly earnings call this morning.

“Digital sales growth was driven by higher traffic and a substantial increase in conversions,” Cornell told analysts. Warmer weather and an early Easter boosted store and web sales, but the big event was the launch of the Lilly Pulitzer product linein April. “We were thrilled with overall demand in our collaboration with Lilly Pulitzer, with most items selling out in the first few days,” Cornell said. “We were disappointed, however, that digital channels were not able to accommodate the surge in traffic at the time of the launch and the team is working to address the root causes and learn from the experience as we prepare for the holiday season peak later this year.” was down briefly on April 19 ahead of the store launch of the Pulitzer fashion line, and website access was spotty the following day as products sold out quickly.

For the first quarter of fiscal 2015 ended May 2, Target, No. 16 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide, reported:

  • Digital channel sales accounted for 2.8% of total sales, compared with 2.1% in the first quarter of 2014. Based on those metrics, web sales for Q1 2015 were $479.3 million, up by 37.0% from $349.8 million last year.
  • Total sales were $17.12 billion, up by 2.8% from $16.66 billion.
  • Comparable-store sales, including e-commerce, increased 2.3%, which the company attributed to growth in transaction volume and average order size.
  • Net income of $635 million, an increase of 51.9% from $418 million in the prior year quarter.

The approximately $129 million growth in online sales represents 28% of Target’s sales growth for the quarter, Internet Retailer calculates.

Target continues on its goal of investing more than $1 billion to improve technology in an effort to restructure and build online, or digital, sales. The company’s changesinclude cutting thousands of jobs over the next two years, which it announced in March.

“We’re encouraged to see early progress on our strategic priorities, including strong sales growth in apparel, home and beauty, nearly 40% growth in digital sales, and positive traffic in both our stores and digital channels,” Cornell said.

Target, whose online and offline sales were badly hit by a big data breach during the 2013 holiday season, is one of three retailers nominated for the “Comeback of the Year Award” at the inaugural Internet Retailer Excellence Awards. The awards will be presented the evening of Wednesday, June 3, at a banquet in Chicago at IRCE 2015, the leading e-commerce conference and exhibition in North America.

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Online retail sales grow 14.5% in Q1

May 24, 2015 Leave a comment
May 15, 2015, 3:39 PM


That year-over-year increase in web sales compares with 1.6% growth in total retail sales. E-commerce represented only 7% of total retail sales for the quarter but half of the growth.

Online retail sales in the United States increased 14.5% in the first quarter of the year to $80.3 billion from $70.1 billion, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported today, when taking into account seasonal variations but not price changes. Excluding seasonality, web sales increased 14.3% to $74.9 billion from $65.5 billion.

In both cases, online growth was much faster than the growth of retail sales. Total retail sales grew 1.6% on an adjusted basis and 1.4% unadjusted.

In fact, the $10.2 billion in e-retail growth on an adjusted basis represents just under half of the $20.5 billion in total retail sales growth in the quarter.

The Commerce Department reported that e-commerce accounted for 7.0% of total retail sales in the first quarter of 2015, when adjusting for seasonal variations, up from 6.2% a year earlier.

However, when excluding items rarely bought online—automobiles, gasoline, heating oil and restaurant and tavern receipts—the web accounted for 10.2% of all retail sales, on a seasonally adjusted basis, compared with 7.8% in the first quarter of 2014.

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Wal-Mart invests heavily in e-commerce as web sales grow 17% in Q1

May 24, 2015 Leave a comment
May 19, 2015, 1:57 PMThe big retailer says its online investments will range from $194 million to $291 million during the current fiscal year. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart’s online sales grew 17% in its fiscal first quarter, slightly slower than its 22% growth in its previous fiscal year.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. reported today global online sales growth of 17% in its fiscal first quarter compared with the same period last year, and plans for e-commerce investments that could approach $300 million in the current fiscal year. The quarterly growth represented a mild slowdown from the 22% growth Wal-Mart reported for its last fiscal year.

Company executives said Wal-Mart’s e-commerce investments in its first quarter ended May 1 amounted to 2 cents per share. With 3.23 billion shares of its stock outstanding, that equates to nearly $65 million in spending on digital assets in the three-month period. For the full fiscal year, Wal-Mart projected e-commerce investments of between 6 cents and 9 cents a share, or $194 million to $291 million.

The money is going to improved e-commerce sites, mobile apps and new direct-to-consumer fulfillment centers in the 10 countries where Wal-Mart operates retail websites.

Wal-Mart, No. 3 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide, did not disclose web sales in dollars for its fiscal 2016 first quarter for its global or U.S. operations. But Greg Foran, president and CEO of Walmart U.S., said e-commerce contributed 20 basis points, or 0.2%, of the 1.1% growth in comparable-store sales for Walmart-branded stores in the United States in the first quarter.

The impact was even bigger for Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart’s warehouse club chain. E-commerce contributed 40 basis points of the 0.4% same-store sales growth, reported Rosalind Brewer, Sam’s Club president and CEO. That means store sales were essentially flat, and all the growth came from the web.

In discussing global e-commerce investments, McMillon said, “We will open two new mechanized fulfillment centers in the U.S., and two others will follow later this year.” He did not go into detail about the kind of mechanization to be deployed at those distribution centers.

Foran, the Walmart U.S. CEO, said traffic from mobile devices was up over 100% in the quarter and that conversion rates improved. He also said Wal-Mart had added another store in the Huntsville, Ala., area to its online grocery sale test. The retailer also has improved its order online, pick up in store program, which Wal-Mart formerly called Ship to Store and recently rebranded Walmart Pickup. “The program includes improved email communication, a new signage package that makes it easier for customers to understand the program, and a focus on a faster pickup experience in the stores. It will roll out to all stores by Oct. 1,” Foran said.

Dave Cheesewright, president and CEO of Wal-Mart International, detailed results and investments outside of the U.S. He said the company plans to launch an improved Sam’s Club e-commerce site in Mexico in the second quarter and a mobile app in the third quarter. “In China, we’ll launch a new app later this quarter for our stores that will enable customers to shop from their local Wal-Mart store and choose to pick up their order in store or have it delivered to home,” he said. “And in Canada, our e-commerce business continues to perform strongly with a comp of greater than 40%.”

The retailer recently announced plans for its second e-commerce fulfillment center in Brazil, McMillon said. Wal-Mart’s online sales increased by a double-digit percentage, and ahead of the Brazilian e-commerce market, Cheesewright said, without getting specific. “Phones, auto and tires, and baby categories helped drive this growth,” he said.

Yihaodian, the Chinese online grocery retailer that is 51% owned by Wal-Mart, booked strong sales of imported items, including milk products and shampoo, Cheesewright said. The e-retailer’s conversion rate improved nearly one-tenth of a percent over the prior-year period and more than 40% of orders came from mobile devices, he said. Yihaodian is No. 7 in the Internet Retailer China 500.

McMillon said he recently visited Shanghai and went along as a Yihaodian employee delivered parcels to Shanghai apartments. “Those customers we delivered to in Shanghai were quick to praise our associate in his service during deliveries,” he said. “They liked our prices but asked for items that we don’t yet carry. I was pleased to hear from them that we didn’t need to open the cases of merchandise because they trusted our delivery associate. That’s a big deal.” In China, consumers often will open a package they receive from an online retailer and even try on the merchandise while the courier waits, then hand back to the delivery person items they don’t like.

For the first quarter of its 2016 fiscal year ended May 1, Wal-Mart reported:

  • Global e-commerce sales increased 17% year over year, but the company did not report web sales in dollars. Internet Retailer estimates Wal-Mart’s global online sales totaled $12.126 billion in 2014 and have been growing at 21% annually over the last five years.
  • Total net sales of $114.002 billion, a decline of 0.1% from $114.167 billion in the same period a year earlier.
  • Net income of $3.283 billion, down 11.9% from 3.726 billion.
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WOMEN IN TECH Making Computer Science More Inviting: A Look at What Works

May 22, 2015 Leave a comment

Four years later, she has just graduated with a computer science degree, is pursuing a master’s degree and is headed to a summer internship at Facebook.

“I didn’t even know anything about the field before; I had never considered it,” she said. “I signed up for it pretty much on a whim and really enjoyed it.”

Ms. Khan’s story reads like a dream for universities and technology companies — where only about 15 percent of computer science graduates and technical workers are women. The industry has been under pressure to recruit more. The difficult question, though, is how to encourage more women on paths like Ms. Khan’s.

Some colleges have made significant strides, including theUniversity of Washington, where Ms. Khan is a student. Their methods offer lessons for other colleges and companies hoping to increase the number of women in fields where they remain underrepresented.


An introductory class in computer science intrigued Sonja Khan enough that she ended up majoring in the subject and is now pursuing a master’s degree.CreditDavid Ryder for The New York Times

Behind the scenes of many of these colleges’ efforts is an organization called the National Center for Women & Information Technology. It provides consultants to college faculties on how to change their programs to recruit and retain women. On Thursday, the center is giving the University of Washington its first award, sponsored by Google, for colleges that have succeeded in this effort. The center hopes to give the award annually.

Thirty percent of University of Washington bachelor’s degrees in computer science last year went to women. Ed Lazowska, chairman in computer science and engineering at the university, called that share “not great.” Still, it is twice the national average and up from 20 percent in 2010 and 15 percent in 2005.

The university has done three big things to diversify its student base, Mr. Lazowska said. The first is to get girls interested in computer science early on, by teaching elementary and high school teachers and students about computing through workshops and field trips. These efforts have particularly large effects at state schools that recruit from nearby high schools.

Still, like Ms. Khan, many students, and particularly girls, are not exposed to the subject before college.

That is why the university gave its introductory courses a makeover a few years ago. The goal was to make computing more accessible and inviting to a broader range of people, Mr. Lazowska said. The courses showed students that they can succeed through hard work and do not need esoteric knowledge or an innate gift.

The new program includes small group sessions with faculty members, classes that connect software programming to philosophy or biology and an emphasis on real-world applications. Forty percent of the teaching assistants are women, and there is a seminar on women in computing.

The University of Washington has also tried to build a sense of community for women studying the topic. It sends students to tech companies or conferences for women in tech to meet others in the field. For Ms. Khan, there were several events that pushed her to continue in the major. A small yet critical one happened early on, she said: After she took the first introductory class, the professor emailed her to encourage her to take the next one.

The seminar on women in computing gave her a chance to discuss some of her insecurities about the field, she said. And as a freshman, she entered a hackathon with friends — despite being worried that she was underqualified to enter — and won second place.

Her university’s efforts mirror what other universities have tried to do. Indiana University, which has used data to track efforts to increase women’s enrollment, won a second-place award Thursday from the National Center for Women & Information Technology. So did Michigan State University, which opened a lab for students to work together on computing assignments.

“It’s not just the sink-or-swim mentality, which in my humble opinion has been present in too much of computing education,” said Lucy Sanders, co-founder and chief executive of the center.

Harvey Mudd increased its share of women studying computer science by doing things like including pictures of women in school brochures and hiring female students as campus tour guides. Carnegie Mellon started a formal mentorship program for women studying the subject, since they were often excluded from male students’ informal networks.

The focus on recruiting and retaining women might increase their numbers but also singles them out, say some critics of programs that change curriculums to attract more women or offer classes specifically for women. Students often say they want to be seen as a computer scientist, not a female computer scientist.

But Ms. Sanders says the American computer science curriculum is in need of a complete overhaul, not just for women.

“I don’t particularly think that the existing computer science curriculum has been effective for anybody,” she said. “It needs to be situated in a real-world or meaningful context so people understand why they’re doing it. That doesn’t make it less rigorous — students learn the same things, but in a different way.

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