A US boat-repair co-operative on the crest of a wave and the case for making luggage in India.
“I spent Valentine’s Day looking for affordable tiles for my shop in back-of-beyond Sharjah,” says Gautam Sinha (pictured), founder of Indian leather goods company Nappa Dori. “Eleven years into the business, I’m still hustling away.” Hustling is putting it mildly. Sinha’s business has come a long way from its beginnings in a tiny shop under a staircase in New Delhi. Today his brand has shops in Mumbai, London and Dubai and its wares can be found at Anthropologie, Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason and a resort in the Maldives. His Dori Cafés, meanwhile, have become magnets for shoppers.
His product line has expanded too, now ranging from satchels, laptop sleeves and passport covers to bar accessories, luggage and trunks. All possess a minimalist aesthetic that tugs at nostalgia. The trunks, for instance, evoke the golden age of Indian train travel and were presented as gifts to visiting heads of state when the country hosted the Brics summit in 2016.
The biggest driver of growth for the brand might be its channelling of artisanal traditions but its products have largely been spurred by the aspirational Indian luxury-goods consumer. “We see Indian products made by international brands everywhere but not those by Indian brands,” he says. “It might sound clichéd but that’s painful to me. We just haven’t been able to crack the formula and I’ve always felt that I had to figure out a way to do it.”
Patrons queueing up at the Blue Moose Café in Port Townsend – a Victorian-era seaside hamlet in Washington state, about 80km north of Seattle – must contend with clattering hammers and buzzing saws as they wait for their omelettes. The four buildings next to the café form the Port Townsend Shipwrights Co-Op, a full-service boat shop that specialises in wooden and metal watercraft. Over 41 years, the co-operative, whose 12 owners are all skilled craftsmen and boat-builders, has earned a reputation as the West Coast’s best place for repairing and maintaining heritage vessels.
There are no mega-yachts owned by Russian oligarchs here – the co-op’s lift couldn’t haul them out of the water. Instead you’ll find a loyal clientele of commercial fishing vessels and bespoke sailboat owners. Current occupants of the boatyard include the Western Flyer, a purse seiner built in 1937 to catch Pacific sardines that inspired John Steinbeck’s travelogue Sea of Cortez, and Hawaiian Chieftain, a square-topsail ketch that is 31.4 metres long. “Anything to do with a boat, we can fix it or get it working,” says co-owner Jeff Galey. “It’s a one-stop shop.”
The co-op employs some 60 specialists, including mechanics, electricians, woodworkers, metalworkers, upholsterers and plumbers. Last year it added another service to the roster when it acquired a sail-maker. The co-op has an annual gross revenue in the region of $5m (€4.6m) and, as it employs almost 60 of Port Townsend’s population of 10,000, is a significant presence in the town, which is notable for its wooden boat festival and annual motorless race to Alaska. Those figures are a nautical mile from the co-op’s modest origins in 1981, when a handful of independent shipwrights in the city-owned boatyard banded together to buy an expensive piece of equipment. After 20 years of subcontracting, the co-owners began to hire employees in 2005. Galey joined in 2007 as a woodworker and three years later joined the co-operative’s ownership board. The co-operative model is an intimate business relationship. “It’s like you’re married to these 11 other people,” says Galey. But when a client approaches with a particularly difficult issue, he is grateful for their support. “If I don’t know the answer, I have 11 business partners that I know and trust to ask.”
The owners hold an annual retreat to discuss how to “provide a high enough wage for all of our employees and ourselves, and bring in enough business without going crazy with too much work”, says Galey. “We’ve always relied on steady growth every year.”
David Hodari on how to – and how not to – advertise to the children of today.
In 1999 a four-year-old girl ended up in a Welsh hospital when her face turned orange. Doctors established that she had drunk too much Sunny Delight, whose ad campaign released shortly before the incident showed snowmen consuming the soft drink and turning the same colour as the girl. At the time I was of the opinion that “Sunny D” was life-giving nectar to be protected at all costs but even a child could tell you that people aren’t supposed to turn bright orange.
Companies have long advertised to children and, though in recent years lawmakers have tightened regulations in many countries, unscrupulous actors will always look for a workaround. Puff Bar, for example, found loopholes in the US around teen vaping rules set by the Food and Drug Administration (fda). When the fda restricted the flavours that reusable e-cigarette makers could sell, Puff Bar began selling disposable vapes in a rainbow of teen-friendly flavours, before switching to synthetic nicotine and claiming that its product was no longer tobacco-based or subject to fda rules.
Sunny Delight and Puff Bar flashed through my mind when I was introduced to a marketing company that focuses on children and teenagers. My knee-jerk reaction was to wonder whether an email from a firm that dropkicks puppies was far behind but I was surprised and relieved when I spoke to Hatter ceo Simon Hatter about how brands can responsibly market to younger audiences.
“We’re not going out and pushing awful products on children,” says Hatter. “We’re very open to telling our clients, ‘We’re not comfortable with that.’ One of our brands wanted us to get kids to share a ‘fitting-room moment’ and we said that it wasn’t appropriate. It’s about understanding that things that would be a no-brainer for an adult aren’t the same for a child and pulling them up.”
Industry colleagues argue that brands should advertise to parents as, after all, they’re the ones with the money. Kids have long been an afterthought in advertising, according to Hatter, but that attitude often leads to sloppy, even offensive, work. h&m, for example, attracted a slew of negative headlines a few years ago after featuring a black boy in an advert for a sweater which bore the phrase “coolest monkey in the jungle”. Brands often have outdated attitudes to family and gender, Hatter points out. “Assuming every kid has a mum and dad: we really pull back on that,” he says. “It took forever to make brands not just use pink and blue for girls and boys.”
“It’s about understanding that things that would be a no-brainer for an adult aren’t the same for a child”
But some companies act in good faith when advertising to children. Lego is an industry leader, Hatter says, though that is because the toy-maker advertises products more than experiences. Hatter has turned down a vape company and isn’t keen on fast food. And while “there are some negatives” to working with clients such as Nike, he counts them among his clients.
For the sportswear behemoths, Hatter has worked on in-store experiences aiming to lessen girls’ embarrassment in that delicate first conversation with their mum or dad about sports bras. A separate Nike project in the uae set about encouraging children to just have fun playing: something that the agency’s ceo says is less welcomed culturally than in the West. Companies have advertised their products to children for as long as advertising has existed: in the back of comics, between Saturday morning cartoons or on Tiktok. While regulation is a smart move, I’d rather advertising to children be left to professionals, like Hatter, who bring sensitivity to the inevitable.
ILLUSTRATION: Michael Parkin