TB! > Good morning/afternoon/evening! How’s everything going lately?
WSF! > April. Monday morning, Sydney, 32 degrees Celsius.
TB! > Give us that quick blurb that you have to tell everyone in regards to what superfuture is/does. Tell us a little bit about yourselves as owners/operators too…
WSF! > Ever expanding inventory of very functional maps and reviews of over 3500 shops and assorted establishments in over 100 cities. superfuture can also arrange your hotels, take you shopping in Tokyo and provide you with a public bulletin board where you can discuss denim engineering or write vile stuff slagging other designers trying to start their new street labels. I started superfuture in 1998 in Tokyo and in 2000 was joined by Chad - who redeveloped the site architecture and helped up-tech the whole operation. Since then we have both slowly but surely worked to further develop the site along with a highly dedicated army of global assistants… As for me…I’m an industrial designer and furniture designer from the days before computers existed. I ended up in Tokyo in 1992 on an arts grant from the Australian Government, ending up as a magazine art director and went freelance in 1997.
TB! > The name superfuture… Where did it come from?
WSF! > super+future=superfuture!. Clever wasn’t it? I think it was the only 11 letter combination left in the universe that cybersquatters hadn’t already claimed by 1998. superfuture can be anything. superfuture city is just the first project. One day superfuture will make it into the dictionary.
TB! > Superfuture started in 1999… It’s now 2005, how do you feel about the growth? Is it beyond what you expected?
WSF! > We always joked around that one day we would have reviews and maps of places as far-flung as Beirut and Moscow…[which we now have] but development has come in bursts. In Internet timespace it is developing at snail speed, but sometimes doing it slowly has had its advantages. If we had gone from 1-100 in the same timeframe as all the dot-coms we would have crashed and burned within 6 months. After only 4 months of going live, superfuture had been approached by 2 mega dot-com companies who were going to “ramp it up” ...Of course, those companies combusted years ago. Unlike most other websites of its size, superfuture is still self-funded and independent. I think it is going to be a very different entity within 5 years time.
TB! > What was your method of marketing the site when you first launched? You have considerable traffic now, how did that come about?
WSF! > What marketing? We used to go around to all the shops in Tokyo and take photos and leave flyers but we have never really marketed it, though we made 100 of the most expensive t-shirts on earth last year with Loopwheeler in Tokyo but still haven’t found time to unpack them all out of the box. Site traffic has grown year after year which has matched the growth in content and site features like supertalk. But we have never really consciously pushed it - more due to lack of time and resources than anything else. When it began superfuture used to be a website which you might have checked when you were about to travel to another city, but now it is a site you might also access to find out what is happening in your own city…so users now have more reason to use it regularly.
At some point having too much traffic might work against superfuture as becoming mainstream would defeat the original purpose of making it.
TB! > Is Superfuture a full-time activity/job for those who are involved from an ownership standpoint? How much of your time is dedicated to managing and growing Superfuture?
WSF! > Full time, overtime, and we have absolutely no time… I still run a design consultancy business out of Tokyo and Sydney. Chad is working full-time in London. This year I am trying to phase out of consultancy work to work 1000% superfuture.
TB! > Let’s talk about global shoppers/consumers or the ‘supershopper’ as you have tagged them… What is the differentiator of this consumer as compared to a domestic consumer? Is it truly a lifestyle?
WSF! > A supershopper is a highly irrational consumer who will never buy just because something is the lowest price… A supershopper will purchase groceries at the supermarket based on decisions regarding the packaging graphics [...well at least that’s what I do]. A supershopper will pay exorbitant prices for a pair of Bape sneakers. A supershopper might live in squalid housing conditions but regularly shop at Balenciaga. Not surprisingly, a supershopper usually has huge credit card debts and is close to bankruptcy by the age of 30.
TB! > Speaking of global consumers… What are your thoughts on eBay and what it has done to somewhat diminish the work/effort it used to take to obtain certain goods? I have seen threads on supertalk stating that the internet has ‘ruined’ certain brands…
WSF! > I think supertalk might have even ruined certain brands…? Some threads have turned into a superslaughter…But personally I’ve never purchased clothes on ebay or the Internet. I prefer to physically go to a shop, abuse their space, overhear the shop staff talking on the phone to their friends about how trashed they got the previous night, have a chat with them, get a bit of dirt about the company they work for then go home and write a review about the store for superfuture…
TB! > How often do you guys find yourselves shopping on a global scale, i.e. different cities across the globe? Is it a regular part of your lifestyle?
WSF! > Having lived in Tokyo for 13 years I haven’t needed to shop anywhere else.
TB! > What’s the ultimate location/city for shopping? Some of the obvious answers are Tokyo, NYC, and London but I have been hearing more and more people mention Hong Kong and Shanghai…
WSF! > Depends how generally you define shopping and what exactly you are shopping for.
Shopping for entertainment or shopping for purchase? For me it is often more about shopping as entertainment and the experience of walking into an incredible interior and architectural space than actually looking for products to purchase. Occasionally I purchase goods but then that shopping process is entirely different. If I shop to purchase I am very strategic. I define exactly what I need weeks ahead, then assess exactly what stores might require reconnaissance. I then do an intense 1-3 day shopping mission, but only make that surgical purchase on the final day.
Every city has a different focus and might have an edge with certain categories of goods -and that is what superfuture tries to pick up on…while Tokyo, New York, and London might have the broadest volume and supply of ‘fashion’ when you break it down a level or two, you might find that there is more interesting streetwear coming out of places like Osaka, San Diego, or Glasgow where younger designers can afford rents, find cheaper manufacturing and so on. superfuture has always been about highlighting cool things ‘wherever on earth they are’...it is not always that obvious. If you are shopping for cheese graters then Milan is Mecca. If you are shopping for pig’s intestines then you cannot surpass Shanghai. In Tokyo even shopping in a 7-11 can be a religious experience.
TB! > Along with consuming on a global level comes travel… Let’s talk about the whole ‘jet set’ lifestyle and everything that comes along with it. What makes being apart of the ‘jet set’ so desirable?
WSF! > Let’s face it, flying is hell and it dehydrates your skin. Taxis from certain airports can be life threatening, though hanging out in fabulous hotels does have its plusses. For me traveling is just a good way to keep a perspective on time. It’s the only way I can remember what the fuck I was doing a month ago. Many creative people are particularly desperate to sponge up new ideas, concepts, art, shops, restaurants, clubs, music, and architecture and there is no more efficient way than doing a dozen cities in a fortnight. Having these types of travel experiences gives that person an accelerated worldly first hand take on the state of global culture at that particular point in history. Of course anyone using superfuture can now do exactly the same thing.
TB! > Maybe even more important, what is your definition of a ‘jet setter’?
WSF! > In the early 60s, aviation and travel was a luxury clearly associated with style, brands, fashion and high brow social scenes. By the 70s airlines like Braniff had exploited it… funky primary colored aircraft, space age Pucci designed uniforms, Acapulco, Rio, Mexico City and exotic discothèques in Paris. However these days flying has become entirely Starbuxed and the concept of jetestting has been reduced to how much you are willing to pay for the chance to sleep through the experience [which incidently, I have never quite understood]... though hopefully the A380 will change all that? Jetsetting now has much less to do with aviation, but a lot more to do with the foyer of your boutique hotel at your destination. [I call it hotel-setting] Besides, most jetsetters I know have chronic jetlag… My jetset brother-in-law has done about a billion miles but currently has a lawsuit against Malaysian Airlines because 3 years ago his first class chair was broken and his back became so screwed up that he requires regular surgery.
TB! > What’s your favorite non-shopping location? Any more exotic or ‘out-there’ destinations?
WSF! > My apartment in Sydney.
TB! > Any favorite hotel brands/chains or boutique hotels you feel are worth mention?
WSF! > I tend to still crash on friends’ floors rather than live at hotels… but every now and again splurge on somewhere fabulous. The whole boutique hotel thing over the past decade seems to have diluted the appeal of a lot of those places as they all start to look quite generic and suddenly your gorgeous hotel in Rangoon has an identical interior and ambiance to a hotel in Philadelphia. You need to find a hotel that has the DNA of the city it is located in and not some clone. And this is becoming harder to find.
TB! > Brands in terms of fashion… Any favorites you want to mention? Give us some insight…
WSF! > I am very basic. I own 5 pairs of shoes. At least 50 Helmut Lang mono-colored singlet and t-shirts [the ones made in Japan and no longer in production] A black Costume National suit. Right now I am wearing Tsubi jeans and an olive ribbed Helmut Lang singlet, Nike Aquasocks, Surface to Air necklace, Helmut Lang wristband [though I think it is a cockring?], and a Mega Casio G-shock with thermal sensor. I have never worn a t-shirt with a logo in my life cos I don’t like the idea of walking around looking like a human billboard. I’ve always been interested in fashion but am by no means obsessed by it.
TB! > Let’s touch on the ‘supertalk’ section of your site… What are your honest and candid thoughts about it? Is it what you wanted it to be?
WSF! > We previously got flooded with emails from people wanting to discuss all sorts of issues with us, and so this discussion has mutated into supertalk. It also allows superfuture users to interact with each other and a real community has materialized, though the core users seem to be from USA, so I am not sure how representative this group is of the total superfuture audience. There is a very different style and tone of writing with our reviews compared to supertalk. superfuture reviews are generally positive and based on reporting about a particular ‘shopping experience’ rather than broad analysis and opinionated views about the brand or products available. We don’t accept or write reviews on stores if they are not worth writing about. supertalk on the other hand has anyone giving his or her learned and often expert and extreme opinions about absolutely anything… As for the design, it is far too ordinary and it will not be what we want it to be until it is integrated with the rest of the superfuture website. It was done relatively quickly and so functionally it is still quite basic. I cannot wait till we re-launch the newer version!
TB! > There are some extremely educated shoppers/consumers that post regularly on supertalk along with some who seem to be somewhat snobby in regards to their opinions of a given brand or fashion statement. Do you guys think you have a good balance of both?
WSF! > Many of the users are extremely savvy and articulate whereas a few are absolute twats.
At one extreme you have notable denim experts such as Ring Ring, and on the other you have a psychotic women under a dozen aliases with a personal vendetta to destroy Isa Saalabi and Nom de Guerre.
TB! > Where do you see superfuture in the next few years? Any long term and/or short term goals you guys have?
WSF! > This year it is hitting critical mass. Big things coming soon.
TB! > Any final remarks or closing comments? Anything you want to touch on that we haven’t mentioned?
WSF! > Thanks for having us… let’s speak again in 5 years time for a recap.