The Shaming of Target

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I wanted to write an update about Target ripping off American made ModFire, but I’ve been stalled. I’ve had a bit of a hard time digesting it all. Before I get into the details of the outcome, I should start with saying this story has a happy ending. Yet, there were lots of highs and lows along the way.

My #ShameOnTarget post was read and shared more times than I could have imagined. I had more readers that one day, then my last 3 months combined. The story snowballed and I lost count how many times the hashtag ”#ShameOnTarget” was used on social media. People everywhere were telling Target how shameful it was. I was thrilled. People were actually doing what I asked them to do! It was becoming a grassroots movement. It was extremely empowering for me, but it was at the expense of a fellow designer. I was conflicted.

Designers everywhere came together and supported Brandon Williams of ModFire. They sent him encouraging messages and posted the story on their own Facebook pages. It was the utopia I envisioned when I started Modestics. A community of designers sharing and supporting, rather than stealing and competing.

It was more than I could imagine. Shoppers boycotted Target. Customers wrote bad reviews on their website, and commented on Target’s Facebook page. I had a glimmer of hope the day after my article posted; the Target Chiminea was “Unavailable Online.” Were we making progress? Was Target feeling the heat?

My glory moment was short-lived. Target censored the negative online reviews. They deleted Facebook posts that linked back to Modestics. It was back to being available for sale online and still up on their shelves in stores. They were exhibiting their strength and were waiting for the storm to pass. Hush the little guy. – Which I took great offense to. No one puts Linda in a corner!

I should mention all this was going on while Brandon was on a preplanned vacation with his wife. He was out of the country on a romantic excursion, trying not to think about Target and possible legal battles that awaited him on his return. There was nothing I wanted more than to have this settled by the time he got back. I took it on as my personal mission to not drop it, and keep pushing Target to pull it from their shelves. I became consumed.

It made me wonder; Why do I care so much? Why did everyone care so much? Because it happened to a nice guy like Brandon? Because it was another case of cheap imported knockoff of an American made independent designer? Because it’s Target? It’s like the commercial says; we really do expect more from Target.

Needless to say, Brandon returned from vacation having to deal with Target and legal battles. He contacted a lawyer. He contacted Target. He got a response from Target’s legal team and it hung in limbo for days. And then one day he gets this email…

Dear Mr Williams,

My name is Jay Catalina the founder and owner of Asia Direct Inc. Our company has been supplying The large retail stores various firebowls and firepits since the year 2000. Our focus has been a little different than yours in that we have strived to supply retailers with a look or image that is In and hopefully new. We do this knowing full well that every penny counts and that these units will be sold for an extremely low price affording the guest of the retailer a great buy. I was a little surprised to see your letter. When this unit was suggested by the design team as a possibility I said OK but research any patents and make sure that the production unit is different enough from the original that it is clearly different.

I can sense from your letter that you have great feelings for your designs and product offerings. As well you should. All of your work has a fabulous design element and the materials are 1st rate throughout. Your price points are such that only a small slice of America will be able to afford one. I would say more like buying a painting that buying a heater to burn wood in. I apologize for any inconvenience that you may have been caused.

This production run was a small run to see if the chiminea’s were a market to get into. This unit is up for review in the next several weeks. About the only concession I can see here is to not go forward with this unit in the future as a concession to the artist. Please let me know if that is agreeable to you.

Once again, I apologize for any ill feelings and hope that maybe in the future we might even become business partners on a project. You never know when you have designed a product and decide that it would be best served in mass production which is what I do. Please feel free to call me at any time on my cell phone.

Best Regards
Jay Catalina I CEO I Asia Direct Inc

Brandon was over the moon thrilled and posted on ModFire’s Facebook page, ”this usually only happen in movies.”

Here’s the deal, although Brandon is pleased, it’s not entirely resolved in my book. Call me a cynic if you want (I’ve been called worse), but I think Target could have stepped up more. The Chiminea is still currently available until they sell out. Target didn’t pay ModFire for the design. Target actually tried to pawn off the problem to Asia Direct. It was only because Jay Catalina actually had a conscious that he contacted Brandon and acknowledged the infraction.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many wins in this case. The whole ordeal lasted less than a month. The Chiminea will be discontinued and had poor sales because Brandon spoke up immediately and called attention to it. His courage to stand up against knock-offs empowered us as a community. We showed our power in numbers. We were vocal and demonstrated we aren’t going to be pushed around by the big guys. Social media was used for the power of good and no one had to take anyone to court. An added bonus; ModFire and Modestics both got many new followers and fans.

After the dust has settled, I’ve taken a breather. I’ll still fight for American designers and fight against knockoffs. I’ve learned through all of this, that for any action to happen it takes an army of supporters. We need to continue to look out for each other. Because sadly, we all know this isn’t going to be the last time an independent designer gets knocked off.

I still haven’t stepped foot in Target since this broke. The only way the big boxes take notice, is their bottom line. I’ve shopped at smaller independent stores. Not only show support for independent designers and makers, but also show your support for independent retailers. FYI, ModFire is available online as part of the Modestics Collection. You can also find it at JustModern in Palm Springs. (in addition to many other independent retailers)

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Meet the Maker: Damm Lighting

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Husband and wife team, Robert and Brenda Zurn of DAMM Lighting have an appreciation for original handmade objects. So much so, that all of the lighting they make is designed and made to order in their St Petersburg, FL studio. Robert and Brenda founded DAMM to explore their love of sculpture and design. Trained in furniture design, art, and education, they are now bringing their take on design to the world. Married for 18 years, the duo is engaged in a deep love affair with craft, material, history, nature, family, exploration, hard work, and of course, each other.

I asked the busy mom of 5 a few questions about why she and Robert are makers.

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Modestics: Tell us where the name came from.  

DAMM Lighting: We were having our daily branding session, knowing that we would have to name this ‘soon to be business’ at some point.  We had words that meant something to us all over a piece of paper that floated around the table during our sessions.  It was a frustrating moment, I’m not going to lie.  I looked at the paper and said “DAMM!” Four of our words became clear at the same time.  Design.  Art.  Means.  Motive.  We still deliberated over the course of several days.  We wanted to pick something and stand behind it. Shortly after, I remember someone asking me for the first time what the name of our company was, and saying “DAMM”  for the first time.  It was that moment that I believed it.

MO: What prompted you to want to start your own business?  

DL: After raising a large family, and figuring out that we actually work pretty well together, we were ready to try something different for a career path.  We wanted something for ourselves, and a legacy or opportunity for our children.  It took courage, and trust in each other.  We were already making custom furniture, but we needed to start fresh with something that was really “us”.  We chose lighting.

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MO: When did you feel like you were a “real company”? 

DL: Every time we sell something I feel happy that someone else sees value in our product.  We were real the day we sold our first light.  I’ve been thankful for every sale since then, large or small.

MO: What aspect of your job do you love? 

DL: I love that I get to spend time with my husband and my children, and we all get to be creative.  I love that there are opportunities in our business for us all to use our strengths.  I love that my children get to see good examples of how to work really hard for something that you want.

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MO: Do you, yourself make your products or do you have factories that you work with?  

DL: We make and build our products in our studio on our property.  My two oldest sons do the majority of the lathing work.  I enjoy waxing the wood and blackening the brass, so I always volunteer for that part.  Robert does the majority of the work. Some parts we have manufactured by small scale artisans. We also partner with local craftsmen who blow glass, paint metal, and pour concrete.

MO: Do you have a hidden talent or special interest? 

DL: Robert loves to cook.  The family prefers his cooking for sure!  He’s more experimental.  We love it when he makes Pho.  It’s excellent!  I’m a good sous chef, but I’d prefer reading ancient literature anyday.  I have a library of the classics that I have read.  I love Homer and Shakespeare, on up to Hawthorne and Melville.

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Meet the Maker: AT-95

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What first caught my attention with AT-95 was their love for their home state of Ohio and  love of bourbon. Any furniture maker that uses Bourbon White Oak Barrels as their inspiration for materials has got my attention. – But what is truly admirable is love of American Made. On their about us page, husband and wife duo Dennis and Denise Blankemeyer, founders and co-owners of AT-95 wrote; “This is Middle America; where generations before us lived, sweat and bled. Our grandfathers were a mechanic, a farmer, a truck driver and a well driller.”  Although Dennis and Denise don’t make the product themselves, they’ve enlisted a team of skilled craftsmen who carry on their vision. I asked AT-95′s Brand Manager, Dani Turkovich, more about what makes them a standout in Middle America.

Meet the makers of the New American Industrial Revolution; AT-95. Making tables, barstools, and chairs from Killbuck, Ohio.

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Modestics: Tell me a little bit more about AT-95?

AT-95: AT-95 is a brand that designs and manufactures premium made-to-order seating, tables and bases. Our products always evoke a distinct sense of place and a greater sense of meaning. We strive to carry on a legacy of American ingenuity and craftsmanship. We are heirs responsible for keeping the Middle American dream alive.

MO: Where did the name come from?

AT-95: The ‘AT’ in our name is short for American Tribute and 95 is short for the year the company was founded; 1995.  

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MO: What aspect of your job do you love?

AT-95: AT-95 is a collective team, all working toward the same goal (which we love!): helping our clients and customers create spaces that evoke a sense of place and meaning. It’s always a win when a customer sends a photo of our products in their space. It’s beautiful! 

MO: Who makes your products?

AT-95: We are a team comprised of many kinds of experts. Each team member brings a specific and very valuable expertise to the table. We also partner with local shops to help us source specific materials and services.  

MO: What is your favorite Made in USA product? 

AT-95: Bourbon! Specifically, Jefferson Presidential Select – 21 Years Old. Check out more about why we love Bourbon here: http://at-95.com/about/#bourbon

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Canadians Make Great Stuff Too

CAN+USA3 By Ben Biancini Principal of The Reliable Series

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If you haven’t already heard, we are in an era of resurging American made. This is a movement and economic battle to dominate manufacturing as we Americans once did. In any struggle regardless of context, allies are needed. Our story today focuses on Canada and why we should collaborate together in ramping up exportation.

Canada isn’t too far away, just look up. Our neighbor’s culture is similar in many ways, we are the progeny of European colonists, we’ve fought together in world wars and we’re both pretty good at hockey. Canada has grown with us through industrialization, shedding monarchical rule and contemporary battles against drug trafficking and corruption. Currently both of us are facing the loss of manufacturing gusto to Asia and we both want it back. As we speak there is a movement in Canada very similar to our made at home patriotism. In times of economical war we need allies, Canada is that ally that we should not turn our back to.

Some of Canada’s most renowned manufacturers have lost production ground to Asia in the past decades, let’s take a look at some of those that have fallen from glory:

Back in 2007 Hershey closed it’s chocolate factory in Smiths Falls ON, cutting 600 jobs. In 2008 only a year later the Cadbury-Schweppes factory shut down a plant that processed grape juice, eliminating 130 jobs.

Campbell Soup announced their doors would be shut in Listowel, ON in 2008, that decision ‘canned’ 500 jobs.

In 2014 Kellogg brand will shut down their London, Ontario location at cost of 550 jobs. Similar cuts in the United States are imminent.

In 2014 Novartis AG, a maker of contact lens solution will shut it’s doors at their location in Mississauga ON, cutting 300 jobs.

Some might find the following statistic shocking: In 2011 Canada closed 79 plants that cost 14,000 jobs, compared to the US closing 430 plants at a job cost of 63,000 also in 2011. What’s alarming is that Canada is a much smaller economy, this means they are losing manufacturing ground at a much higher rate.

“When the Heinz owners, for example, see a plant operating at 30 per cent of capacity, it’s an easy decision to absorb that production elsewhere, shutter a plant and save millions of dollars,” said Andreas Boecker as associate professor at the University of Guelph. “There’s a great deal of global competition in every marketplace and anytime there are dollars to be saved, those are relatively easy decisions.”

We must face the facts, if it can be made cheaper elsewhere the invisible hand of economics will surely guide it there. In order to protect and sustain our manufacturing economy we must focus on real reasons to make goods here. We are notoriously better at quality and durability. In fact Asian markets are beginning to recognize the durability goods here back at home. Carhartt sales in Japan have skyrocketed, strangely enough it’s considered a luxury brand and not the working man’s wear that it is used for here. Here are a few Canadian brands that have noticed this trend and decided to keep their manufacturing at home:

Raber Gloves – They’ve been making gloves for the RCMP, U.S. highway patrol, and various militaries since 1934.

Tilley Endurables – Headwear and clothing proudly made in Ontario.

Baffin – Shoes and footwear favored by outdoor laborers.

Canada Goose – Last but not least, this sub-zero clothing and gear giant has grown in markets as far as Tokyo. Strangely enough it never goes below zero there. Still made in Canada.

How do we leverage the fledgling appetite for sturdy, North American made? The following steps for success should be taken: manufacturers raise awareness of American & Canadian made products the same as any other brand would promote itself. Ad campaigns, niche retail stores, consumer engagement to name a few methods. We begin exporting our superior products and we do this to all continents. As reputation grows worldwide our factory output increases at home, we have more jobs and a larger export to import ratio. Maybe someday we can become the industrially strong continent that we once were in the 20th century. Regardless, this is how we can bring manufacturing back home, to Canada or the United States.

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>> About the author: Benjamin is an entrepreneur from St. Paul, Minnesota. His belief in durable products grew from excursions throughout the wilderness of Northwest Ontario. This, in combination with pride in local manufacturing led to the founding of The Reliable Series. He is proud to offer stylish, hand-made, superior products from both the United States and Canada.

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Meet the Maker; Hennepin Made

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Since I started Modestics I’ve discovered it’s a small world of makers. Every maker seems to know and admire someone else who makes something. And the paths are constantly overlapping. – Recently in the course of one week, I was introduced to Hennepin Made, by two makers who I admire. They both said to me, “Linda, do you know bout Hennepin Made?” – Once I looked in to Hennepin Made, I thought they were perfect! Now here’s a company that represents the good honest innovators of Minneapolis! They produce modern glass lighting and accessories. Each piece is handmade in their Minneapolis studio. – I’m delighted to introduce Jackson Schwartz and Joe Limpert of Hennepin Made to you!

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Modestics: Tell us where the name came from?
Hennepin Made: Our business grew out of an artistic practice of making unique works.  At that time we were working out of a community studio located on Hennepin Ave in Minneapolis.  We decided that to really make it work as a business we had to switch to a designer/maker model and create functional products. So we looked for a studio space and found a block away also on Hennepin Ave. At that point we had to come up with a name for the studio/business and we thought “we are on Hennepin Ave and we make things, so how about Hennepin Made?” It grew on us because Minneapolis is in Hennepin County and it is a name that is really connected to the city.

MO: When did you start Hennepin Made?
HM: In the Fall of 2011

MO: When did you feel like you were a “real company”?
HM: In 2012 we designed an exclusive collection for Room & Board.  We are continuing to design and produce more pieces for them.

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MO: What aspect of your job do you love?
HM: We both love our shop dog Stella (she’s a standard poodle)
Joe: Trying to problem solve designs into production to make them an accessible price. Working with my hands blowing glass and leading the production team.  
Jackson: Working with suppliers to innovate on the “non-glass components” such as the electrical lighting parts and aluminum spinnings to make them higher quality and more durable. I think we still get excited to think people want to live with our pieces in their home.

MO: What was the first thing you made?
Joe: A re-conditioned Zippo lighter.  I guess I was into fire at a pretty young age.
Jackson: My father is an electrical engineer and I was always making stuff with him. We made an ice rink and maple syrup boiler on the property we lived on. As for actual objects, I first started making fishing lures as a kid for my own use and would sell them at the local hardware store

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MO: Do you, yourself make your products or do you have factories that you work with?
HM: We produce all of the glass pieces and have been able to source most the other components locally. On our Parallel Series we collaborate with a company in Minneapolis to produce the aluminum spinnings which are hand made. We also have some chandeliers launching in a couple of weeks which we are working with a local machinist on the aluminum frame to hold the glass. Additionally we have an electrical supplier in the area that we have designed parts with.  At our scale, having local partners is very important because makes it much easier to improve quality and be able to customize.

MO: What is your favorite Made in USA designer?
HM: We saw Phloem Studio/Benjamin Klebba’s work last year at ICFF and the craftsmanship is amazing. Our other favorite American design brands are Heath Ceramics and Loll Designs. Both have amazing products and a commitment to the values we believe in.

MO. Do you have any hidden talents or special interest?
Joe: Building and riding bikes. I build a snow bar in my backyard each winter which for one night becomes a neighborhood phenomenon.  
Jackson: I love cooking and hosting dinners on a weekly basis. To get away I go on fishing excursions to remote parts of Canada.

MO: Any memorable on the job work injuries /close calls?
Joe: I’ve touched the hot glass a few times, which is never a good idea.  Other than that, just burning of some hair and eyelashes from the kilns.  
Jackson: When were building our studio we had to move some very heavy equipment a few times.  We had some close calls where we all look at each other and think “that would have been bad!”
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Don’t you agree? Hennepin Made are true Minneapolis Marvels. Want to win your own Hennepin Made light? Enter to win a pendant from their Parallel Collection and free shipping for a month, on their website: http://hennepinmade.com

Do you know a modern maker I should know about? Email me: linda@modestics.com

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5 Interesting Statistics About American Manufacturing

tom-bonine1  By Tom Bonine of National Metal Fabricators

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There is no shortage of self-appointed experts in the media who love to loudly proclaim that the U.S. manufacturing industry is dead. They gleefully point out the fact that America imports more finished goods than it exports, and list China as the global leader in manufacturing. While China does indeed lead the world in production volume, and while American manufacturing has had its missteps and is likely to face challenges in the future, this U.S. industry is far from dead.

Take a look at these statistics about the American manufacturing industry.

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1. In 2012, the Manufacturing Industry Contributed $2.03 Trillion to the U.S. Economy

This is up from $1.93 trillion in 2011, and made up 12.5 percent of America’s gross domestic product. In addition, every dollar spent in the manufacturing industry adds $1.32 to the U.S. economy. No other economic sector equals this multiplier effect. Without the manufacturing industry, the economy in the U.S. and many other countries would face hardship. One reason China is able to export such a large number of products is that the U.S. is a voracious importer of consumer goods. The government of China understands this, which is why the value of its currency is tied to the value of the American dollar, rather than being allowed to vary according to the international currency market conditions.

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2. One out of Six Private-Sector Jobs Are in the Manufacturing Industry

The manufacturing industry supports the employment of 17.4 million people in the United States. More than 12 million Americans have manufacturing jobs.
Without the manufacturing industry, many more people in the United States would be unemployed. The knee-jerk reaction to this statistic is to claim that manufacturing jobs are low-skill, low-paying positions that leave workers unable to support themselves, but this simply is not the case.

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3. Manufacturing Industry Wages Beat Average Wage for All Industries

The average worker in the United States’ manufacturing industry earned $77,505 in pay and benefits in 2012. This is nearly 25 percent higher than the all-time industry average of $62,063. Jobs in the United States manufacturing industry are not just menial jobs for workers who cannot find employment elsewhere. U.S. manufacturing workers are smart, educated and hard-working.

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4. United States Manufacturing Workers Set the Global Standard for Productivity

Worker productivity for U.S. manufacturing is far greater than the worker productivity in any other major manufacturing economy in the world. This leads to higher wages and higher living standards for all Americans. No other country has a more potent combination of opportunity, raw materials and skilled labor force; American manufacturing is still a force to be reckoned with.

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5. United States Manufacturing Industry Drives Innovation

Two-thirds of all private sector research and development dollars in the United States are spent by companies in the manufacturing industry. This means that the manufacturing industry is among the most innovative industries in the nation. This innovation often comes in the form of novel manufacturing methods and trends, such as 3-D printing and mass customization. As was the case more than 100 years ago with the rollout of the assembly line, the manufacturing industry innovations of American companies lead the world. The demands of the American consumer for high-quality products drive innovation in products and techniques, which then are set free to serve benefits worldwide.

Throughout history, there have been prophets of doom and gloom — those who have predicted the worst. Modern times are no different. Unfortunately, the more extreme the message, the more attention a pundit seems to attract. The best response to this trend is to research the facts for yourself. When you look beyond the media hype and paranoia surrounding the state of American manufacturing, you will see that this industry is strong, innovative and well prepared for whatever the future may hold.

In the early days of the Industrial Revolution, the American manufacturing industry fueled expansion by paying low wages and subjecting workers to poor working conditions. These conditions are not dissimilar to the current state in the Chinese manufacturing industry. These conditions did not endure in the United States, and they will not endure indefinitely anywhere in the world. Once Chinese manufacturers are forced to offer higher wages and better working conditions, the American manufacturing industry will likely prevail.

Note: Statistics are compiled from publicly available information from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Association of Manufacturers, United Nations, International Labour Organization, National Science Foundation and International Monetary Fund. See the full report here: http://www.themanufacturinginstitute.org/Research/Facts-About-Manufacturing/Facts.aspx

About the author: Tom Bonine is president of National Metal Fabricators. The Chicago area firm, established in 1944, offers custom fabrication, angle rings, welding, and bar milling services.

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#ShameOnTarget

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If you’re a regular reader, you know where I stand when it comes to knockoffs. I hate ‘em. Knockoffs seriously disgust me. So when I see an American brand I deeply respect and admire get knocked off, I go into hyper drive. That’s what happened last week when Arizona company, ModFire, published on their Facebook page that they spotted a knockoff of their award-winning design at Target. Another case of a Big Box Store making cheap imported knock offs that is sucking the life from American manufacturing.

This post pains me on so many levels. Weekly I would shop at Target for this and that. But after this latest infraction, I’ve seriously reconsidered where I spend my money.

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The knockoff made by Threshold (Target’s home decor brand) was brought to the attention of ModFire’s owner, Brandon Williams last week from a customer of his. At first Brandon posted on Facebook half jokingly,  “Well, we are officially “big time” after all! Our Iconic Modfire design has been ripped off by Target…Remember, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!”  The design community and ModFire’s customers didn’t see anything flattering about the copy.

After the shock wore off, and the rage set in, I asked Brandon what he thought about all of this. “As a small business owner, I’m stunned. Our ModFire is made in America, sourced locally and we handcraft each and every one. When I designed the ModFire I was charting new territory, crafting a design that was completely original and we have been rewarded with accolades and awards from the design community at large. We have worked tirelessly to build a wonderful brand around ModFire. To see Target simply steal my design instead of using their in-house talent to make a budget priced Chiminea, well that undermines the very foundation of the American Dream.  It’s the issue of simply stealing the design out of laziness or greed that has me appalled”

ModFire fans came together in their support on social media, and the backlash against Target began. Furniture designer, Matt Eastvold, posted on social media about the infringement, “This is a perfect example of a great American made company, who supports their families and hires good local employees, being walked on by a corporation. Target does not need to do this to make money, they should hire designers from their home city (Minneapolis) to come up with affordable and original designs if they want to stay relevant, this is only damaging their brand and cheapening their image.”

I can understand what Brandon was initially saying. As a designer it is somewhat of an ego stroke to have your designs be recognized as worthy of copying by a big company like Target. And there aren’t many designer that would turn down a licensing contract from Target. In fact, Target often does team up with designers like Nate Berkus, Missoni, and Peter Pilotto for exclusive designs.

Brandon Williams says, “I would have been elated if Target had reached out to me and asked me to design an affordable fireplace they could distribute to their customers.”

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So what happened with Target / Threshold ripping off ModFire? Did Target think it was going to go unnoticed? – You bet they did! They were banking on it not being noticed. They took one design, from one small designer, and were going to suck the life and dollars out of it, and then drop it within months. That’s their method of operation. That’s what they do. That’s what they all do!

Just like they did with another independent American made designer, Wolfum last year. Home accessory company, Wolfum, was also ripped off by Target’s Threshold brand. And although the infringement got some big press coverage by the LA Times, owner and designer Annabel Inganni had to just move on, and chalk it up as lesson learned. “I contacted lawyers but since my work was not copy written, and Target is such a large company, I didn’t have many options,” Annabel says. – Which is the sad case in so many instances.

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Unfortunately many small independent designers don’t have the financial means to hire a lawyer and fight the Big Boxes in court. And many small independents don’t copyright, or apply for design patents. Although the process is easy for trained lawyers, reading through the pages of The United States Patent and Trade Office website is complicated and timely to a designer that is anxious to bring a product to market. Time that most designers don’t have… which the Big Box Stores know, and count on.

I asked Sarah Burstein, Associate Professor of Copyright and Design Law at the University of Oklahoma, if there’s truth to a design has to be changed by 10% in order to be considered different enough to make a copy? “There are no firm rules about how similar or different two designs have to be in order to infringe.”

Not giving up hope, I learned that there is a potential silver lining with the circumstance of ModFire. Sarah told me “trade dress” can be applied for after discovery of the copy. “If they’re claiming trade dress, they don’t have to register before they can enforce their claim. But they do have to prove consumers recognize the shape of the product as an indicator of source.”

This is where you come in. You want these kind of infractions to stop? Say something! Speak up on social media! Use #shameontarget in your posts on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Not only for Target to see that we’re shaming them by the masses, but also for all the ModFires and Wolfums to see that we have their back!

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Brandon says, “We are making some impact with this! If you LIKE and SHARE this maybe we can get Target to stop this pathetic practice!” And Annabel says, “I found great strength in the community that supported me and tried to see it as a motivator to stay ahead of the curve. Sadly it happens over and over, and I doubt this will be the last time for me.”

True. This probably won’t be the last of it, but collectively we hold the most power – buying power. Hit ‘em where it hurts, support the original. #BeOriginal

*At the time of this post, I’ve contacted Target for a response via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and email, and have yet to receive a response.

**I should also mention that the top image is our photo-shopped rendering of the Target knock-off. (the background is photo-shopped, not the product) We wanted to place both within the same context to demonstrate that it’s practically identical in design, just a much crappier version.

***To read more about the maker that Target is stealing from read our Meet the Maker with Brandon. Also proudly part of the Modestics Collection. 

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Meet the Maker: Malvin + Joyce

M+J1There are many reasons why I love MALVIN + JOYCE. For starters, they were one of my first followers on Twitter. (You never forget your first.) And over the years of tweeting back and forth, I’ve learned that Malvin + Joyce’s owner, Octavia Dorsier, is genuinely passionate and supportive of all things American Made. She’s also extremely humble and modest in her accomplishments. – When I asked her for a profile pic for this article, she asked, “Is it possible to use a group photo instead of a single profile pic? We have a slew of interns and people that are really helping to bring this vision to life.” – I can really appreciate someone who gives credit where credit is due. That’s why I’m giving credit to Octavia as this week’s Maker. Maker of Men’s Boots and Footwear, made in Illinois and Wisconsin.

Modestics: Tell us about MALVIN + JOYCE.

Octavia Dosier for MALVIN + JOYCE: Malvin + Joyce is a footwear brand that’s been designing and crafting small batch runs of American Made & Inspired work boots since 2012. We use the very best American sourced materials for those who can appreciate a well crafted American Made boot.  We sell direct to the customer avoiding mark-ups and middleman costs.

MO: Where did the name come from?

M+J: The name is a combination of our parents names that represents where we came from and the life lessons we learned from grandparents, great grandparents.  The history and character of hard work those names represent.  Where we came from and how we grew up.

Our grandfathers worked in the shoe and candy factories in Chicago and we knew the quality of craftsmanship that could be achieved.  They helped build those industries and some even wore the same boots the MALVIN + JOYCE brand is inspired by.   We wanted to create a brand inspired by that heritage. All the styles in the collection are named for streets, people or neighborhoods in our hometown of Chicago.  A tribute to the strong, honest and hardworking folks of Chicago. American Inspired.  American Crafted. American Made.

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MO: How did you start Malvin + Joyce?

M+J: We actually started manufacturing shoes in 2009 when we became a footwear licensee for a popular brand at the time.  It was a very interesting endeavor and it was a trial by fire experience.  We learned a lot about what we did and didn’t want for our brand. We were manufacturing that brand in Brazil.  As we continued along, we learned a lot about ourselves and some very important lessons.  One, that we wanted to create our own independent brand.  So many things as a licensee has to be approved through a very tangled company system.  We couldn’t be as creative as we wanted.  Two, we decided there had to be a way to create the type of footwear we envisioned and do it in America.  In 2011, after several visits to Brazil, the distance, the increasing production quantities, the language barrier stress, the customs and import process all reached an all time stressful high, I knew I was done with the license.  I wanted a brand where I could work directly with the manufacturer that was close to home.  We spent an entire year researching vendors and visiting factories.  We found a factory that we wanted to work with and they wanted to work with us.  MALVIN + JOYCE was born and we did a small batch production run of 120 pair of boots, which we sold out of very quickly.

MO: Why was starting a American made company important to you?

M+J: With the USA economy taking such a hit and American’s losing jobs at an alarming rate, we were determined to do our part and manufacture and source our brand domestically.  We thought about the impact our purchasing dollars could make on the American economy and understood that every time we buy something Made in America, we put our friends and neighbors back to work. We started working to find vendors that were left hanging by huge companies for overseas manufacturing opportunities. They understood our vision.   We wanted to create a brand as resilient as those rebelling along with us. Over the next year we researched how we could craft our collection right here in the USA.

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MO: When did you feel like you were a “real company”?

M+J: When we realized we couldn’t do it all and hire a part-time production coordinator!  That meant we were growing and the thought of having an employee made us stop and say we’re creating jobs.  Even that small contribution.  We felt responsible and more dedicated to producing the brand in the USA.

MO: What aspect of your job do you love? 

M+J: I honestly love visiting the tannery, Horween, in Chicago and seeing the numerous leathers and watching the process!  I also like working in the sample development room at the factory.  Seeing the process from the paper come alive.

MO: What was the first thing you made?

M+J: A leather belt.  We had some scrap leather left over from a production and I took the leather scraps for reference samples.  I started playing around with the hardware and leather scraps and made a very cool belt. (at least in my mind)

MO: Do you, yourself make your products or do you have factories that you work with? 

M+J: We work with a factory in Wisconsin. The factory we’re working with is family owned/operated.  The factory is over 75 years old and as an employee-owned company, the craftsmen work hard to provide the absolute best, most comfortable and premium boots around.

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MO: What is your favorite Made in USA product?

M+J: We love Billy Reid and Imogene + Willie.  They are doing some amazing work and every season I can’t wait to see what they do next.  Also Kalamazoo Gourmet Grills…now that’s a thing of beauty!

MO: Do you have a special interests? 

M+J: Since we started the collection we’ve really gotten into ancestry research and the history of the city of Chicago. We’re spending a lot of time researching and going to the city archives.  We have some great ideas for the future.

MO: Any memorable on the job work injuries / close calls?

M+J: Because we have a factory partner we don’t really have anything to do with the actual production..but once when we were visiting the factory I was so engrossed in what the workers were doing, I walked into once of the machines and hit my head.  They make me wear protective gear now!Malvin + Joyce 16th Street

 

Want your very own American crafted work boots? Support MALVIN + JOYCE and American made and contribute to their current Kickstarter project. I backed them and look forward to the reward, of not only the boots, but also continue watching thier version of the American Dream.

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Stop Supporting Knockoffs – Be Original

BLOGGERS! Stop promoting knock-offs!

Once again, as I’m cruising on the internet my mood instantly sours. I see it; the dreaded “Cheaper Alternative /slash/ Get This Look For Less” article. And no, it wasn’t on a DIY blog – (which I could understand the ‘copy this look for less’ type of post) It was on a popular shelter blog that relies on paid advertisers of companies who make and sell the original items. (oh the irony!…) The writers usually say how much they *love* the original design but it’s too expensive, so just buy a knock-off instead. And the writer justifies the post, because after all, they are still giving credit and links to the original design… only to insult them in the same breath. I just want to cyber jump through the screen and shake em! “Don’t you get it?! Don’t you see how these type of posts hurt designers? This isn’t a way to promote an item you supposedly *love*!”

And then there’s all the reader comments! Oh why do I torture myself with the comments? – If I read “imitation is flattery” one more time! – That statement was made up by moms getting their kids not to fight. Little brothers imitate their big brothers. There’s no such thing as flattering imitation in design. To a designer, it’s a knock-off and it stings.

I like to think this blog is different from most shelter blogs. And I like to think my readers are smarter than most commenters. It’s gonna be hard work to counteract the stupidity on the internet but as a media ally with Be Original (http://www.beoriginalamericas.com), I’m ready to take on the battle.

As a supporter of original design I urge you to:

check1 Always check the label:  Authentic makers always identify themselves on their product. Generally by way of a firmly affixed label on the underside of the piece, often incorporating or accompanying a badge with the designer’s name and signature. If the piece has no label, or not the label of the known authentic source, you can be confident it is a knock-off.

check2Check the source: If the retailer / distributor does not proudly identify themselves as the distributor of ‘authentic,’ ‘authorized,’ or ‘original’ designs by the named designer and the authorized manufacturer, it is a knock-off.  Generally these knock-off sellers will attempt to trade on the designer’s name by using them in identifying the individual design, or in the descriptive copy of the piece and it’s ‘history,’ but they won’t use the authorized manufacturers’ names.  They may also use language such as ‘inspired by designer name’ or even an abbreviation of the designers’ names, in order to circumvent the trademark and rights of publicity associated with the designer.

check3Check your conscience: The buyer holds the power to end the knock-off industry by simply not supporting them, and in buying the authentic they assure themselves of quality and lasting value. Importantly, they also serve a larger social good, as they support the future of design by rewarding those who truly create. This encourages designers and their manufacturing partners to continue to innovate, by assuring them their work and investment will be rewarded.

I also encourage you speak up for original design. See a pro-fake post that insults original designers? Comment in support of the original! It’s time we stand up or we’ll all get knocked over and knocked off.

Have something to say about knock-offs? I encourage you to comment here!

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Meet the Maker: Mod Mom Furniture

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As a woman, it’s hard not to be inspired by Kiersten Hathcock of Mod Mom Furniture. Here’s a woman that in 2007 took an idea of starting a furniture company (of all things!) in her tiny garage without any wood working experience, to help support her family during tough financial times. Committed to her idea, and her family she has built Mod Mom to a modern day success story. Mod Mom Furniture has not only been featured in magazines, TV shows, and modern design books but is being purchased by families, celebrities, and interior designers from around the globe. Reality TV show fans might recognize Kiersten as tough enough swim with the sharks, but I want to introduce you to one of  the kindest makers I’ve met.

Modestics: Tell us about Mod Mom Furniture.

Kiersten Hathcock for Mod Mom Furniture: Mod Mom is a garage built company founded in 2007 by yours truly, an ex-marketing executive for A&E and The History Channel turned work-from-home mom.  I launched Mod Mom in an effort to help make ends meet for my family (after job loss and lay offs) and to fill a marketplace void. Without carpentry experience, design know-how or start-up money, I built went blindly into the night and miraculously built a following very organically by selling made-to-order eco-friendly, modern toy boxes I constructed at home in L.A.  For three and a half years, I built everything in my four hundred square foot garage until December of 2010 when I partnered with an Amish manufacturer, L&J Woodworking in Dundee, Ohio.  Roughly 350 pieces came out of that small Burbank garage! In 2011, I braved and survived the Sharks on national television on the popular ABC TV show, “Shark Tank” and recently signed on as spokesperson for Stanley Furniture’s Young America brand of kids furniture made right here in the US! Mod Mom continues to grow and evolve and I’m super excited to see what this next chapter brings. Heart, soul, intuition, sweat, authenticity and more sweat built this brand and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. 

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MO: Where did the name come from?

KH: Mod Mom Furniture literally came from my idea that I wanted to make sure folks knew I was a mom who cared about what kids are exposed to (i.e eco-friendly, non-toxic) and that the furniture was Mod in style.  I didn’t name it something “kid-like” because I always felt we would launch other off shoots like furniture for adults and pets.  It’s a nice umbrella name for whatever we want to pursue like our recent offshoots: a line of upholstered furniture called PureMod (a mompreneur collaboration with Samantha Cobos) and our new line of MOD PET products. 

MO: When did you feel like you were a real company?

KH: I felt like I was a real company when design blogs started talking about the design.  I wasn’t sure, at first, if people were interested in the story because I was a mom with tool belt or they really thought the designs were good.  Much to my surprise, international design books came calling and that right there made me feel like I broke into the design club and had a real company.  

MO: What aspect of your job do you love?

KH: The aspect of my job I love the most is two part:  the design aspect and the marketing.  While I’m not building the designs anymore, I still love the creative aspect of seeing something go from an idea in my head to a real product or a real campaign.  There are times I miss the smell of cut wood. I miss the solitude and peace of working in an old garage with the radio playing.  I do NOT miss the days where it was 100 degrees and I was swinging a hammer.  HA!  Happy those days are behind me. 

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MO:What was the first thing you made?

KH: The first thing I made was a storage bin that wasn’t the least bit modern!  It was horrible.  I didn’t even have a table saw at the time.  I used a circular saw to cut straight edges.  We used that toy bin for awhile in our house but to say it was a good piece of furniture is not even close to possible! 

MO: Do you yourself make your products or do you have factories you work with?

KH: Ever since late 2010, an amazing Amish furniture manufacturing company called L&J Woodworking out of Dundee, Ohio has been building my furniture.  I really couldn’t ask for a better partner.  I’m so blessed because from the very first day, we just hit it off.  They offered me a made-to-order manufacturing deal where they ship the items from their warehouse in Ohio.  We literally have a handshake deal where I want the best for them and they want the best for me.  Mod Mom makes up just a sliver of their overall multi-million dollar business so I’m not making them rich by any means but they care about Mod Mom and I care about them.  I mentioned that I just entered into a spokesperson deal with Stanley Furniture’s Young America brand of kids’ furniture and they, too, will be producing a line of Mod Mom Furniture by Young America.  I adore the team at Young America and am thankful for their forward thinking and appreciation for genuine, authentic stories about women who build furniture companies out of their garage.  Well, this woman who built a furniture company out of her garage!

MO: Have any special interests?

KH: Anyone who knows me knows I talk a lot about trusting intuition. Heck, just the sheer fact that Mod Mom worked at all is a testament to trusting intuition. So many people said what I was trying wasn’t going to work.  On paper, they were right.  Who starts a furniture company without any experience or money?  My Mod Mom experiences and my experiences growing up as a highly intuitive person with highly intuitive kids led me to found The Little Light Project, Inc., a non-profit helping highly intuitive/sensitive kids who are often times diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, etc.  Also, we help grieving parents and child sexual abuse survivors.  At first glance, it doesn’t sound like it ties together but after reading my founder’s message, it makes a lot more sense. We have partnered with mental health professionals, intuitive counselors, alternative healing specialists, and medical professionals to create support services that not only honor traditional medicine but also honor more alternative, spiritual methodologies.  

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MO: Any memorable on-the-job injuries?

KH: When I first bought a biscuit joiner, I stupidly didn’t brace it correctly and sliced my ring finger.  Off to urgent care I went with my three year old and my 7 year old in tow.  They learned from that experience that biscuit joiners are not toys and a tetanus shot made Mom really sore.  Also, I would sometimes try to cut ply that was too big for my 10-inch Craftsman saw and I’d have to kind of have to forcefully push it through by jumping up and down.  DO NOT TRY THAT AT HOME! I learned quickly to have the lumberyard cut the sheets down to manageable cut sizes for my tiny saw. I believe this change in thinking probably saved my life. Kick back hurts!! 

MO: What’s your favorite Made in USA designer?

KH: One of my favorite Made in the USA designers is actually one of our partners that I mentioned earlier; Samantha Cobos of  Pure Inspired Home.  She and I met online a few years back and struck up a friendship based on the fact we both loved each other’s design aesthetic.  Samantha designs beautiful upholstered furniture, bedding, rugs, and other types of soft goods.  She’s super talented and very down to earth and she’s a mom, like me.  I strongly believe in helping each other out and that’s exactly what we do. 

PureInspiredHome

 

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American Manufacturing Is on the Rise, and Here’s Why

tom-bonine1 By Tom Bonine of National Metal Fabricators

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August 2013 was a fantastic month for American factories. During this single month, the United States manufacturing sector expanded at a more rapid rate than any other time period during the previous two years. It is important to keep in mind that the U.S. economy still doesn’t have anywhere close to the number of manufacturing positions that it did 20 years ago.

Currently there are around 12 million Americans in manufacturing as opposed to the 17 million workers that the country had back in the early 1990s. However, the manufacturing sector is one of the few areas of the U.S. economy that is adding jobs right now. If demand continues to exceed production, as it did in August 2013, factories will need to take substantial measures to increase production in order to replace their dwindling inventories.

While this manufacturing boost has been very encouraging, it has left many people wondering what the reasons were for it and whether they mean long-term economic recovery for the United States. There are three primary reasons for the manufacturing increase.

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Heightened global demand: The Great Recession destroyed American-made product demand. As the global economy improves, so does the demand for the type of products that America is known for exporting around the world. A handful of other countries are experiencing similar demand as well. Right now manufacturing numbers are up in both China and the United Kingdom, while Italy and Spain have manufacturing activity growth for the first time since 2011. These figures indicate that some of the richest countries in the world are finally recovering from the effects of the financial crisis.

American Manufacturing Never Really Went Away

Despite what people might think, American manufacturing never really went away. Industrial production of durable goods, except during the time of the 2008-2011 recession, has been growing steadily since the early 1970s. According to this index, the United States is producing more durable goods today than it ever has. Each month of 2013 saw a record high for that month in the durable goods index.

There is also a positive story to tell in regards to capacity utilization, which is increasing. During 2008, capacity utilization fell to 60 percent. Now, this is building quickly toward 80 percent. And capacity utilization will continue to increase in 2014.

High levels of industrial production and strong and improving capacity utilization at various industrial facilities have translated into higher levels of investment in equipment and tooling. Other factors driving the purchase of machine tools numbers include reshoring and the lack of skilled labor. It’s all a very positive story to tell. One of the other keys has been increased labor costs in other parts of the world. These are the types of factors that many people forget about.

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Higher labor costs in China: Wages in China have increased so much that many Chinese business owners are turning to the undocumented worker populations in other countries, including Vietnam and Myanmar, for their factories. As a result, it is only slightly cheaper for U.S. organizations to manufacture their goods in China as opposed to America. With both energy and labor costs factored into the equation, it costs around five percent more to build an item in the United States than to have it shipped from a prominent Chinese industrial center. This reality has led many companies, including Apple, to move some of their manufacturing plants back to the United States.

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Foreign companies like the current U.S. labor prices: Many of the factory jobs in the United States are part time, non-union positions that require specialized technical skills. For some Japanese and European companies, it is more cost effective for them to manufacture products in the United States than in their own countries. A couple notable examples are Airbus, which is in the process of opening a new factory in Alabama, and IKEA, which recently opened a factory in Virginia. For the past four decades, many factory positions have moved from high-cost to low-cost countries. With the recent global manufacturing economics shift, it is likely that there will be even more companies moving their operations to the United States.

About the author: Tom Bonine is president of National Metal Fabricators. The Chicago area firm, established in 1944, offers custom metal fabrication, angle rings, welding, and bar milling services.

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