LOG: AOKU @LEARNED_LECTURES:2


PRIVIET! Please don’t get excited, unfortunately
I do not speak Russian, not that it matters as this presentation is re-recorded after the
MOCKBA one. First disclaimer: This presentation contains
flashing images and I really mean it, not like on TV when they say and there is nothing
flashing at all. Second Disclaimer, I tend to speak really
fast when I get excited about design stuff and I will get excited, so feel free to slow
me down. At least that’s what I said during the original
presentation. My name is Daniel and I am co-owner and the
designer behind AOKU brand. I am also the guy from all our social media
images. Our handle is @AOKUCO, follow us on your favourite
social media outlet, we are on almost every single one, even on VK, just please do not
message us in Russian as I won’t be able to answer you back. Chapter 1 In this chapter I am going to answer a really frequent question I get a lot. How did you get into techwear? My clothing style since teenage was based
on my activities, mostly based on the functionality. So I spent my free time aggressive inline
skating and night time city lurking, you will understand that later. For those activities I needed something I
can move freely, blend in shadows and carry stuff around. Also I was on budget as I was just an average student. So I was wearing white superstars, black military
surplus U.S. BDUs. Black hoodie and burgundy Eastpak to carry
the stuff. My techwear invention from those days was
wearing a light grey melange hoodie inside out under a black hoodie. This setup allowed me to change appearance
really quickly and look completely unsuspicious. They had no idea I was the guy in black they
were looking for. In the next century I got a graphic designer
job and decent salary and basically I kept wearing pretty much the same style just the
price per item increased. A lot. So to answer the question, I was not chasing
techwear as a style but based on the functionalities I needed my garments to fulfil I kinda naturally
grew into it. Chapter 2 This chapter is going to be about AOKU before AOKU as you know it now. I started AOKU as my nom de guerre for my
graphic design outputs, I was creating these, mostly vector graphics and illustrations for
various clients, chasing my graphic design/illustration career. My style was heavily influenced by graffiti,
rave culture and 80s and 90s cartoons. My most favourite one was M.A.S.K., make sure
to check that one out if you are into non anime cartoons. This style was not really popular, however
I managed to put some of my hyperoverkill graphics, kawaii characters and hard to read
typography looking like future visions from the Y2K era in a consistent portfolio. I also created first items that are more inline
with the stuff AOKU is producing now. So I made these patches to spice up my patch
rotation on my 3RDARM bag. One of the patches was a black on black reflective
one and the second one contained a NFC chip. I created these mostly to attract more clients
towards my graphic design outputs. Chapter number 3 Starting AOKU as a brand and first DIY efforts and products. It all started with me customising my ACRNM
3A-3TS bag. What I hated about the bag since day one was
the olive zipper. I personally find the olive as a natural colour
hard to match with pure whites, I know plenty of you will disagree, but I cannot get over it. So I wanted to customise my bag and I kinda
found it really hard to explain to anyone what I wanted to do with the bag, because
it was not only about the zipper at this point. I was unable to find anyone who was able to
do that, so I decided to take my sewing machine and do it on my own. I studied packaging and graphic design which
has nothing to do with anything tailor or sewing which I had zero experience with. But I decided to take apart my bag and make
it fit my needs. The most significant customisation, apart
from the zipper is the triforce strap system, that featured a 3D printed plastic buckle
to allow me to carry the bag as a backpack. I am EDC hoarder and I carry a lot of stuff
and this system allows me to carry way more. I also included the very first elevator pocket
system, these use the same tech that all our current bags use, just with a minor construction
difference. These changes were still a showcase of what
I can create, as I found most brands not inventing much in terms of bag design. I posted the bag and all the features on superfuture msgboard and people really liked and started to ask me to create a custom items
for them. So, “Hey when people like it, let’s create more!”
and I started the AOKU surplus output storefront. As the name suggests I was making extra items
that were not for my own use, put them online in my e-store. Stuff that I had back in the day was just
simple keychains, belts, cardholders, sleeves and even some more advanced bags. Actually a first version of the musette bag
was created back then. Plenty of people ask about the gym-bag, there
were only 5 of them ever made and I gave two away and 5th one is in my possession. At this time I was using my Janome 525S home
sewing machine, it’s actually this very machine including the stickers, just differently
placed. My free time grind was designing items, sewing
them, taking product photos, walking to the post office. I bought some envelopes, put the gear in and
send it to people who placed orders. Then again, weekdays in advertising agency,
weekends sewing gear, putting it online, walking to post office and again and again. Thanks to the consistent branding, people
started to recognise AOKU as a brand, which was not surprising for me as I was familiar
with this from my visual portfolio. I had my portfolio hosted on Behance and some
of my workmates had their portfolios there too, just they were using their real names. They were getting job offers, like come and
work for us in this fancy city. What I was getting were internship requests,
aspiring designers were thinking AOKU is some kind of a design studio and wanted to work
for me. We still go by this saying, write the book
you want to read This approach is not only about creating the
product I wanted to exist but even about creating the narrative for AOKU brand. If you check our feed, you should notice we
try to have it as consistent as possible, so every image matches the previous one and
will match the next one. I feel like this true approach is what brought the loyal customers/fans/friends towards AOKU. People can sense if you do something you believe
in. Chapter 4
called the outsourcing starts At this point AOKU is joined by my loved one,
Monika, she was the one who found our first contractor seamstress to create multiple units
based on my designs. So I had to change my modus operandi and create
manuals that someone else is capable of understanding. We prepared all the materials and delivered
it our first multiplier. At first I was a bit ashamed, that the legend
of one guy who is creating everything in his garage on his own is no longer true and that
there is this woman who is in fact making the final products. But later on I realised it was for better,
because if I kept creating everything on my own, I would have probably quit later. We created generation two products, including
scarves, harness, some more advanced pouches for our bags and even multiple musette bags. Our seamstress is having this little house
next to her garage, she is well equipped and skilled. Her seams were much better than mine and she
was able to create multiple items in shorter time. I could focus on developing new styles, which
is something I am more into then sewing the very same items on and on again. I leveled up my sewing machine into this 1970s
industrial pfaff machine, actually if you are looking for a machine yourself and you
have a space to fit an industrial one, have a look on second hand industrial machines,
they are way cheaper and they are huge improvement in the workflow. The second image in this slideshow is a reversed
kimono style dress that I designed as a final work on completely useless fashion crash course
I attended. Waste of time and resources. Another tip, if you are looking for education,
always try to speak to someone who has already passed the very same course, for example this
course was way less about scaled production and way more about creating single bespoke
fashion pieces. Few months later our seamstress went crazy. It was not our fault. Chapter zero
This was the time when I realised that customising gear and creating my own designs is something
I was into much earlier then my teenage skating days. The guy on the very left, that’s me in 1992
wearing my dark DPM camouflage set and something looking like 110619 keyfob super early prototype. As a member of boy scouts organisation I spent
lot of time in nature and I was really into camouflage and army stuff, but when you are 8, it’s impossible to buy any military gear to fit you. I forced my mother to sew the gear for me. What I did was I drew basic pocket layouts
and have my mother create the clothes for me. So the first seamstress is still crazy so
we need to find someone new. We found a new workshop, it’s way bigger
than someone just in a garage, or someone with a single sewing machine. So it’s a proper workshop however we need
to upscale everything, from 3 bags, to 10 bags to more bags in single batch or they are not working for us at all. Upscaling is like really beneficial, on the other
hand it’s really scary. It’s beneficial, we have new products, we
have the waist-bags, new keychains, we have the pods pocket system, we have new colour options, new messenger bag, actually plenty of stuff was created in this workshop as their production capacity is much bigger and if anyone gets crazy they are easier to replace. It’s scary, we have to upscale everything
and more material and therefore more money is involved. We decided to invest and order 500 yards of
fabric from our USA supplier, which is really huge order for us. We pay for the fabric, as the fabric is transported
to Europe, it got lost. I have no idea how one can loose box that
big, but it happened. We really needed the fabric so we decided
to order another 500 yards box and deal with the insurance later. As soon as the second box is paid for, the first box is found. So we have 1000 yards of fabric which will
last us next 3 years. Great! The fabric arrives, we inspect it and we realised
the fabric is bad. The ripstop pattern has something called skew
or bow, which is this not-vaporwave visual but how the ripstop actually looked. Not only it looked weird but also was really
hard to work with. So we contacted the manufacturer but they
did not find it faulty because it does not affect the functionality of the fabric. however we are welcome to return it on our
expense. So we did it. Money lost, lesson learned. As a part of this chapter I am going to take
you through the process of creating the 130402 messenger bag. Even when we are using these numbers for our
product names I am not really good with numbers and I do not expect most of you to be. This is the bag in question, It’s a side
specific messenger bag, featuring all design features and aesthetics for all our previous
products. It all starts with paper sketches these are the authentic sketches used for creating the messenger bag. I always work with a pen first, and as you
can see that the very first sketch is different compared to final product. For example, there was an extra row of tec-sys above the dump pocket, which was impossible to utilize because it will make the bag either
vertical or really huge. So once the initial sketches are done, I start
doing measurements and calculations. I sew the first prototype then, as you can
see there are some differences this time too. I take the bag for heavy test drive to test
all the functions. Based on the results I create a second sample
with a manual so the workshop can create their sample. I mentioned the manual, this is what the manual
looks like, it’s step-by-step guide on how to create the bag. It’s really time consuming and painful process
of taking photo after every single seam is done. However the physical sample and the first
page – the bill of materials, which contains all the measurements and parts list is the
most important for the workshop. The bag consists of around 120 pieces and
it’s better to show them more than less. When the final sample from the workshop is
approved, we go into production. I used these emojis there because that’s
what we do at this point, being nervous and hoping nothing will get screwed. The zippers can go wrong, the looping can
go wrong, And time to time we have exactly these issues, that the zippers open towards
the other side, that the webbing is looped in a wrong way and stuff like that I would
find impossible to mess up myself. That is probably caused by me not using the
standard procedures. After the bags are done, we use the final
ones and take and edit photos of them We do everything on our own, so far we have
not used any external photographers or retouchers, everything is done in house. Because it’s a complex bag we decided to
explain it better in a video. This is the final shot in the video and this
time you can see the behind the scenes. Fake it till you make is the name of the game. This shot was taken on DSLR placed on a skateboard
in our living room and carefully moved. At this point we are talking to another and
way bigger factory, we are working on our first garments made from our own patterns,
there is a lot of stuff in the making right now. I am not only excited with all the products,
but also a lot about all the new skills I learned along the AOKU journey. I learned how to sew, edit videos, I learned
more efficient retouching techniques and I learned how to animate and I made friend all
around the globe. Lastly and most importantly, I am in charge
of doing all the customer support, which is really important thing – to talk and answer
our customers/fans/friends. So if you have any questions, please place
a comment in the comment section and I will answer all of them. Thank you for your attention.

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12 thoughts on “LOG: AOKU @LEARNED_LECTURES:2

  1. This is amazing. Your life and everything pulled out on this presentation. I always wondered how you got where you are now. Don't ever stop making cool stuff Daniel. ❤️

  2. thank you for ding this lecture and posting it online! thanks for taking the time to talk a bit on the Outdoor by ISPO, too, was really great seeing you two physically. you are a great example of how you can just start something, learn and grow along the way. keep up you great work, and i look forward to the next adventures!

  3. Daniel, thank you for taking your time to rerecord it in such an entertaining way as well. Very enlightening, informative and classy 😉

  4. I saw a tigershard bag there are these going to be released? I’m always hunting for that king of pattern but can never quite find anything done that well. Awesome video too I’ve all your videos multiple times they are so fun to watch. But also they have made me buy more bags than I need ha ha (and probably buy all the same ones again if they are tigershard pattern)

  5. I love your graphic design style. Awesome vector art. Superb video editing too. Keep up the good work Daniel!

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