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Carbon Festival 2013.. a recap.

The weekend that just passed marked the 3rd year for contemporary design, style and culture festival, CARBON. Brought to you by our friends at Acclaim magazine, and sponsors Adidas Originals and New Era – this years speaker roll was a biggie for sneakerheads, graff artists and aficionados,­ and style fiends.

twenty4 were lucky to be invited to attend the 2 day forum thanks to our involvement in helping the CARBON crew with the 2013 online program. We got the crew together and went in for some inspiration, brain and eyeball feeding, as well as a few laughs.

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MC’d by 2012 speaker and creator Jasper Wong of Pow Wow Hawaii. Day 1 began with Forum A: Building a Brand. Saturday morning was the highlight of the entire festival for me – so much passion, experience and advice to live by across all life doings.

Kicking off with a great talk about his history as a creative, Sneaker Freaker head and all round nice guy Woody is a force to be reckoned with. The Nike slogan “Just Do It” was his advice to everyone in the room – it also became the ethos of the entire festival. His tips for starting a mag (or any business) included –

  1. Choose partners wisely.
  2. Just do it. Get started, keep going. Don’t take “no” for an answer.
  3. Beware of nice people, time wasters and phonies.
  4. Use your judgement. Hold your ground. Know when to walk away.
  5. Networking. Get over the fear. Harder than it looks, easier than it sounds.

His accompanying slides were a delight too.

Following Woody was RVCA founder, PM Tenore – his nervousness may have got the better of him throughout the first 17 minutes of his 20 minute slot, but his last burst of passion explaining why he does what he does was so humble and supreme that it won over most of the crowd. A believer in collaboration, he created RVCA as “a platform for artists and designers to get the recognition they deserve from the brands they designed for”, and … “if I know everything I know now about building a brand, I probably would have never started”.

Shoe designer and Kith creator Ronnie Fieg was next in line, he drilled down to a bunch of great tips and pointers to his success. Again, pushing the ethos of Just Do It by saying, “it doesn’t matter how you start or when you start, but that you start” … “do what it takes: gain experience. Start at your local shop from the bottom. Be passionate about what you want to do”. He also made a good point to not only think about the product, but more importantly, the consumer – without the consumer, the product has no relevance, saying “create something that’s your vision, but the consumers need”.


The last speaker for the morning was legendary (but not dead) Shawn Stussy. He reflected on the 1970’s counter culture era taking place in California when he first started. Like the others, he just did it – “you had to search out influences, you weren’t served it up on a platter”. He made a few mistakes throughout his career, but his view on creating a brand is that “the brand is the prize at the end of doing the right thing”.  A very chilled out guy who has gone back to his roots of the surf, and although he’s not involved in the Stussy brand we know today, his label S/Double has taken him back to his passion – giving us all hope that no matter what journey you go through, and wherever you end up, you will always have your roots to fall back on.

After each session, the speakers come together for a panel discussion. This particular discussion focused on collaboration, how “employable” they are to the mainstream world = not very / not at all, and reflected on the mistakes they all made on their journeys – and not to fear them.

With an hour intermission, the team headed to Touché Hombre, for some Mexican treats – it was a good break after a morning of brain feeding, and an opportune time to mind-prep for the next session. The hour went by fast and we headed back to RMIT Storey Hall for round 2 of Day 1 – Forum B: Contemporary Art and Design

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Fellow Sydneysider (now based in Tokyo), Mark Drew – hip hop aficionado, and China Heights owner, spoke about his decision to move to Japan and what life is like – showing a video of strobe lights and robot ladies – and how hip hop influences his work quoting, “MC’s should have other ways of making money”. He showed photos and shared his latest series Deez Nuts, a mash up of Schultz Peanuts series and rap lyrics. He showed us his silver tooth, and explained, “the artwork is less about me and more other people’s experiences with it”.

Abstract artist and Adidas Originals collaborator, Geoffrey Lillemon followed – sharing his love of the hyper real and abstraction. Showing a slide of a great white shark and white stallion mash up, he said “the creative process is a process of surrender, not control”.


The cutest couple on the planet, Dabs Myla made everyone all gushy as they spoke of their processes to creating art. Fellow speaker, Eddie Huang tweeted during their talk, “if any two people could give birth to a f***ing unicorn, it would be Dabs and Myla”, which summed up their presentation to a T.

We ended the day with Barry McGee – graffiti writer (going by multiple monikers – Twist – probably his most famous), artist and surfer. His slide presentation was casual, but his presence, enthusiasm and outspoken thoughts of each image were accompanied by fairly funny and sometimes vague commentary – I think Zaac walked out a little confuzzled.

Day 1 of the festival came to an end and the night followed with the Adidas Originals sponsored event Colliderscope. It was a banging party and a few people weren’t able to recover in time for Day 2. Upon arrival to RMIT on Sunday, there was a smaller turn out and you could spot a few rough heads.

With no time to waste, Day 2 kicked off with Forum C: New Media with Acclaim / Carbon head honcho Andrew Montell. He said it himself, but “what kinda prick speaks at their own festival?”. This guy did, taking us on a journey of bad business partnerships, making mistakes and trying not to do them again, the benefits of hiring interns who have the passion and genuinely want to be part of something, and how if it weren’t for the team that surrounds him everyday – Acclaim would not be the magazine that it is today, its readership has grown ten fold thanks to him taking a step back and letting the business grow.


Jeff Hamada was next up. Internet specialist and creator of booooooom.com, Hamada was one of the funniest speakers at CARBON. Initiating his talk with a story about the Sean Connery / Nicholas Cage movie, The Rock spoiler (lie) he was told, and how that messed with his life for 4 years – good ice breaker. He spoke about success on the internet, giving top notch advice such as, “if you are ugly, and unfriendly, the internet cannot help you. Give up”, and “don’t let your fear of doing something incorrectly stop you. Fall faster”. Having spoken at other conferences, he said it’s a goal in life to conquer his fear of public speaking, he thought he would get over this fear by talking at Carbon, but nope – he has to do another event.

If Jeff Hamada was the funniest, it was only a hint of the colourful language Lawrence Schlossman, creator of Four Pins and Fuck Yeah Menswear, used throughout his session. Analysing present day hobbies and the internet, he mentioned, “today, the hobby is undiagnosed narcissism”. Profound.

The morning ended with Eddie Huang – entrepreneur, Fresh Off the Boat creator, foodie, ex lawyer and so much more. Huang began his session by saying, “don’t let anyone ever shame you” … “your identity is your cultural currency”. However, in owning who you are and having the financial funds to support your identity, he ended his talk with verbal gold, “don’t be addicted to cheap money, you’re just shooting yourself in the d***”.

The panel session following Huang’s talk was quite a discussion – Eddie Huang was delightfully colourful (not only his jacket) and was a force with his opinions. The message I took away was that change is good – it’s how you change that’s the issue.

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During the hour long intermission, we gobbled down more Mexican treats and squeezed in a quick look at the Sneaker Freaker Swap Meet – gearing up for the last forum of the festival, that included 2 legends of the graff world and 1 rather dashing Englishman, Forum D: Film and Photography.

British photographer, Will Robson-Scott, took us on a journey of photographs (including dogs). He elaborated on the context of each image (my favourite was the pigeon story) and how the Justice System is unjust to graffiti offenders – the longest sentence given was 24 months for vandalising a wall of an abandoned building, the same (and sometimes much less) sentence is applied to rapists and serious criminals.

Following Robson-Scott with a massive clap in, Martha Cooper shared her 65 years of photography. An inspiration to all females and aspiring photographers, her eye and curiosity drew her career to some fascinating and off the beaten track places around the world. She’s most famous for her graffiti and street art photos and involvement in the New York culture. Embracing the digital world, she swore never to go back to film and is an active Instagram’er. Enjoying the instant nature of digital and Instagram, she’s adopted the ethos of her graffiti family and made it her focus, that it’s always about hitting that spot / getting that photo out there, first – follow her @marthacoopergram.


The festival came to an end with living legend, Henry Chalfant, creater of the documentary Style Wars and Subway Art collaborator. Chalfant went through his collection of New York subway graffiti photographs, the conservative and stereotypical views from his peers about the kids that would show up at this studio to create their art, and his introduction to the New York hip hop scene. Many graff writers and artists left CARBON with autographed prints and copies of Subway Art, massive smiles on their faces and the feeling of honour to be in the same room as the legends, Cooper and Chalfant.

It was a big 2 days, the mind-brains have been overfed with advice, stories, anecdotes, funnies, images and memorable moments – we’re impressed and proud of the CARBON crew for their efforts in creating a great forum on contemporary culture that all generations can relate to.

We’re looking forward to next year, and hope that these guests have had a great Melbourne experience. Acclaim magazine is already sharing CARBON recaps – I highly recommend that if you missed out, get amongst it!

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