Memes, Refashioned

There’s no obstacle in life that can’t be overcome with a genuine smile. But even in the hardest of times, a polite, insincere grin (even an awkward one) can still make do. On this premise, a meme was born.

If you have any investments in the meme economy, then you’ve probably heard the name Gavin Thomas. Best known as the “boy with the fake smile,” the eight-year-old American has gone viral worldwide. His hilariously insincere expression has garnered him huge followings on Instagram and Weibo alike. Just six short months after joining the latter, he’s already won over millions of followers, and many Chinese netizens are even hailing him as “world-class meme material.”

Recently, Chinese fashion label BIZZCUT released a line of products with the boy (or rather the meme) himself. It includes hoodies, iPhone cases, blankets, and even mousepads. Named auspiciously with the upcoming Chinese New Year in mind, the Peace and Prosperity collection pairs Thomas’s iconic fake smile with vibrant colors and bold Chinese characters, showing that memes can live beyond our device screens and find a place in the real world.

BIZZCUT was launched in 2014 and is run by a small but dedicated team made up of two fashion designers, a design assistant, a graphic designer, and a three-man operations department. We recently interviewed Da Yao, a graduate of Italy’s Istituto Marangoni and the founder of BIZZCUT, about her newly released designs and the challenges of running an independent brand in China.


世上没什么困难,是一个微笑不能克服的。如果有,那就抱以一个尴尬而不失礼貌的假笑——此处应有表情包。

如果你是关注网络文化的潮流青年,那么你一定知道这个红遍大江南北的假笑男孩Gavin Thomas。从 Instagram 火到微博,他的粉丝量在注册短短半年内就突破百万大军,堪称世界级的网红表情包。

最近,国潮品牌 BIZZCUT别闹联手腔调假笑男孩本人联名合作,出了包括卫衣、手机壳、毛毯和鼠标垫等等一系列周边,并为了呼应即将到来的中国新年,这个系列取了个非常讨喜的名字:平安富贵Gavin 标志性的假笑,配上大量鲜艳的色彩和硕大醒目的中文字,让原来活在手机里的假笑表情包,比起不正经来,更多了点酷。

我们采访了 BIZZCUT 的主理人大妖,毕业于意大利马戈兰尼设计学院(Istituto Marangoni)服装设计系的她,于 2014 年创立了这个品牌。现在的团队已经有另一个服装设计师、一个设计助理和一个平面设计师,和三人的运营团队。

Neocha: BIZZCUT’s Gavin Thomas collection draws on the aesthetics of memes; it’s a large departure from the approach of other domestic fashion brands. How did this idea come about? What was it like working with him?

Da Yao: When someone from Taobao Kongdiao (a fashion-focused platform run by the Chinese e-commerce behemoth) approached us about doing a collection with the “fake smile boy,” I was on board immediately. I’m a fan of Gavin myself, and I often use his sticker memes on WeChat. It felt like something in tune with the spirit of our brand, so everything just happened quite organically. It was a smooth process overall. Gavin and his mom approved our initial drafts right off the bat. It felt like we were on the same wavelength, so it was quite enjoyable working together.


Neocha: BIZZCUT “假笑男孩系列的产品有着浓浓的表情包风格,和一般国潮牌不太一样。是什么促成了这个系列的诞生?和假笑男孩的合作过程是怎样的?

大妖: 当时淘宝腔调的小二来问我们愿不愿意做一个合作款,得知是和假笑男孩合作我们毫不犹豫就答应了。因为我自己也是 Gavin 的粉丝,平时聊天也常会用他的表情。同时他的气质和我们品牌调性挺契合的,所以合作自然达成了。过程也非常顺利,我们提交初稿的时候就得到了 Gavin 和他妈妈的认可,可以说是一拍即合,非常愉快。

Neocha: What do you think are the primary reasons young people are drawn to your brand?

Da Yao: Maybe it’s our design philosophy. Compared to other brands, we don’t take ourselves that seriously. We enjoy making designs around self-deprecating humor. People are under a lot of stress nowadays, so a dose of quirky, offbeat humor resonates with them. Another thing is our perspective of what’s “cool”: Every brand wants to talk about being cool. To us, being cool is about exuding confidence. In other words, being “cool” in your own eyes is what’s most important. We hope that our products can help give people this type of self-confidence.


Neocha: 你觉得 BIZZCUT 能够吸引这些年轻人最重要的原因是什么?

大妖: 可能是我们的设计态度吧。相比较很多品牌我们可能显得没那么严肃和正经。就是说我们会用比较自嘲的方式去做设计,现在人生活工作压力都很大,所以一些出其不意、搞怪幽默的设计就会让很多人有共鸣。还有就是我们对酷的看法:每个品牌都在谈论酷,而事实上真正的酷首先是一种由内而外的自信,也就是自以为酷很重要。我们希望自己的产品能给大家这样的自信。

Neocha: What are some of the brand’s underpinning design philosophies and inspirations?

Da Yao: It all starts with me thinking about whether it’s something I personally like—otherwise it’ll never hit the shelves. Secondly, it needs to fall in line with the brand of humor we’re known for. I like design that makes use of pop art; mainstream culture is also something that needs to be considered. After all, being a designer means staying open-minded. It’s about finding a balance between your own aesthetic preferences and what speaks to the masses.


Neocha: 在做设计的时候,你们的态度和出发点是什么?

大妖: 出发点是我首先自己很喜欢的单品才会上架售卖。其次就是符合我们品牌幽默有趣的定位,一些波普感的设计是我比较喜欢感兴趣的,至于大众文化潮流我觉得也很有参考的必要,毕竟作为设计师还是要有一个开放的姿态去做设计,从个人审美趣味和大众喜好之间寻求平衡吧。

Neocha: It’s been a few years since BIZZCUT was founded, and the brand has built a large following of dedicated fans. During this time, what are some the most difficult struggles and challenges you’ve faced?

Da Yao: The biggest risks we took thus far were our releases for the second half of 2018. We tried out some more serious designs, but the reception was lukewarm. It helped us realize that our audience still enjoys how we bring happiness with simple, unsullied humor. But we’re now back on track. This process provided us with a lot of clarity.


Neocha: BIZZCUT 从诞生到现在也有好几个年头了,目前也吸引了一大批忠实粉丝。但这个过程中你们有碰到过独立品牌好险差点没活过来这样的情况吗?

大妖: 最险的基本就是 2018 后半年吧,做了一些比较严肃正经的尝试,结果不是很理想,后来发现大家还是喜欢简单和纯粹的快乐,现在基本回到正轨了,这个过程中自我认知也清晰了许多。

Neocha: Once a brand becomes overly commercialized, it can leave a bad taste in people’s mouths. How do you strike a balance between an authentic independent spirit and being profit-oriented?

Da Yao: Commercialization isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Good business practice means getting more than what you’ve invested, and I think having an entrepreneur mindset is important for designers. We’re not artists. Design is intrinsically linked with marketing. That said, we still strive to strike a balance between mass appeal and our independent spirit. I consider this to be the most interesting part of being a designer—it requires an equilibrium between business acumen and artistic sensibilities.


Neocha: 很多品牌一旦走上商业化,年轻用户就会显得抗拒。你们在独立设计和商业化两者之间,是怎么权衡的?

大妖: 商业化不是一件坏事,商业规则要求一个基本的水平线以上的投资回报率。我觉得商业规则对设计师来说很重要,我们不是艺术家,设计的根本也是为了销售,在这个过程中我们一直在努力平衡独立设计和大众趣味的关系,我觉得这也是设计师这个职业比较有趣的一点——它需要商业嗅觉和艺术品味相结合。

Neocha: What do you think the most important qualities are for an independent brand?

Da Yao: The most important thing is the “independent” aspect of it naturally. Something we constantly remind ourselves comes from a quote by Hu Shih: “What is independence? Independence is following your heart. If you’re free but not independent, then you’re a slave. Independence means not being blind, not being duped, not imitating others, and not relying on others. It means not trusting what you hear second-hand, not trusting thoughts that aren’t your own, and not trusting vicarious experiences relayed by someone else. This the spirit of independence.”

In other words, it’s important to not blindly follow trends.


Neocha: 你觉得对一个独立设计品牌来说,最重要的特点或品质应该是什么?

大妖: 最重要的特点当然是独立啦。引用一段我一直用来提醒自己的话吧,胡适先生讲的:什么是独立呢?‘独立是你们自己的事,给你自由而不独立这是奴隶,独立要不盲从,不受欺骗,不依傍门户,不依赖别人,不用别人耳朵为耳朵,不以别人的脑子为脑子,不用别人的眼睛为眼睛,这就是独立的精神。

不跟风,不盲从这个就是最重要的。


Neocha: How would you describe the BIZZCUT attitude in one single word?

Da Yao: Humorous.


Neocha: 用一个词总结形容“别闹”的调性,你会用?

大妖: 幽默。

Neocha: Aside from your online shop and brick-and-mortar retail location, you’ve recently opened a space for hosting events and exhibitions. Why this expansion?

Da Yao: This space is something new for us. There aren’t long-term goals for it. It’s just a place where we can meet and chat with guests, a place where we can share our design philosophy with people. At the same time, we do plan on hosting events catered to people looking for fun things to do.


Neocha: 除了线上线下店之外,你们最近还开了一个空间,可以举办各种艺术活动之类的。为什么想要开拓线下活动空间?

大妖: 那个空间也是一个新的尝试吧,也不算一个长期的规划,就是想找个地方招待一下一直以来想和我们见面聊天的顾客,然后让他们更加了解我们的设计态度,同时伴随一些有趣的活动,让大家找到一个好玩的去处。

Neocha: What can we expect from BIZZCUT in the future?

Da Yao: Surviving is high on our list of priorities. Refining our products and coming up with more thoughtful designs is also very important. We’d also like to work with some shopping centers and media platforms to do a pop-up store. Aside from these things, we’ll be putting out a premium collaborative projects once every year.


Neocha: 对未来别闹的发展,你有什么计划?

大妖: 未来发展的话,先是活下去吧。然后把产品的品质更优,设计更成熟一点吧。也会和一些媒体和商场合作做一些 Pop-up Store,还有就是每年做一次优质的联名款。

Taobao: bizzcut.taobao.com
Instagram: @bizzcut_official

 

Contributor: Chen Yuan
English Translation: David Yen


淘宝: bizzcut.taobao.com
Instagram: @bizzcut_official

 

供稿人: Chen Yuan
中译英: David Yen