Pretty much since registration closed on the HWDC2 I have been inundated with requests, monthly, for people asking to either join late or “when will the next one begin”? I’m not going to lie, the HWDC2 was as much a pain in the ass as it was fun, and the whole experience had made me rethink my sideline career as a contest organiser. The problems with the HWDC2 stem from me basically not realising how popular it might be, I wasn’t prepared for the sheer amount of time and effort it would take to process so many people’s entries, requests and questions, at the time it really was quite stressful. So why the hell would anyone want to repeat it? Why do it again? Well, because I would challenge any denim head to open up the HWDC2 threads on Superfuture or the Iron Heart Forum and not be blown away by the stunning pictures of the heavily worn denim, sincerely and without an ounce of hubris, I believe that this contest is responsible for some of the most incredible images of worn denim ever created, and for that more than anything else I am proud.
So anyway, without actually deciding whether to subject myself to the whole thing again, I began the process of bouncing ideas around people in the denim and work wear scene who’s opinion I respect around 5 or 6 months ago. The HWDC2 was only half way through but experience had taught me that failure to prepare was not an option if this was ever to get past the pipe dream stage of planning. Over time the bouncing of ideas became serious conversations about implementation and how much of the pitfalls and stress of HWDC2 could be avoided, solutions were found, experts called in , quotes were given, potential sponsors were contacted and finally all the dominos were in place to make the next contest something really special. A much more immersive experience for the denim community in general whether you were to compete or not, and it would work with brands and retailers who could support a contest on a scale unattainable before. What could possibly go wrong?
An extremely popular part of the contest has always been the merchandising, especially the tee shirts which have an iconic association with the contest, as has the Popeye character, and as such we definitely wanted to be able to offer those again through our regular collaborator and partner DoubleXX. The design was fantastic, a play on the old with a nod to the new, the only unfortunate thing was that upon completion the design was prematurely placed in the DoubleXX store for order, not a problem really as it was on its own page, it had not been announced and there it could sit until we were ready to press the go button. Unfortunately trouble was about to find us in the form of a less than ethical retailer in Langkawi.
The retailer in question, and I don’t want to mention their name as I don’t want them to get any free press from this, had previously bought up the last remaining batches of HWDC1 and 2 shirts from DoubleXX and was making a very nice profit by selling them to anyone and everyone, mostly people who were not in the HWDC. I don’t mind that DoubleXX sold them the shirts, contestants had more than ample opportunity to buy them and it wasn’t a lot of shirts, but it did kind of get under my skin just how much this retailer was milking his association with the HWDC and gloating over social media about just how successful his shirt sales were. I saw more and more pictures on social media of people wearing these shirts who were definitely not in the contest, which honestly I found quite amusing and I often commented how much I liked their shirt (I genuinely do), but still the fact that this none associated store was apparently trying to build an association bothered me. The whole thing felt mercenary and cheap, not done with any love and understanding for the contest (the retailer did not once speak to me about the contest even to get an overview), and it occurred that if he treated all of his “brands” like this then any continual association could be damaging for peoples perception of the contest. So imagine just how pissed off I was when this charlatan took it upon himself to announce the HWDC3 over social media using a tee shirt image taken from the DoubleXX web store !
Once again, this shady back street denim pedlar was trying to build an association with something that he had no love for. The HWDC was created with the sole purpose of seeing some beautiful well worn denim, to give people a shared experience and make the denim community even stronger. As time has gone by the idea has evolved and been added to in many ways, but the core principles of fun, experience and community remain and I can honestly say that every brand and retailer who we have worked with through this has totally understood and supported that, but I highly doubt that was this guys guiding thought when hocking tee’s and using the HWDC hash tag on social media. To be clear, I don’t mind people making a profit, if you have invested in the contest and enabled it to happen then there perhaps even should be an expectation of return, no matter how slight it might prove to be, however I certainly do mind when, through a tenuous link of some tee shirts, a none associated retailer tries to build association and takes it upon themselves to announce something which they frankly have sod all to do with.
Many people have worked hard and long on building the next contest, it is going to be great, and to have some greedy merchant try to take some shine away from it to sell a few tee’s is more than irritating, it left us with a decision. All through the build up process to this I have always said that I didn’t want to do it unless it was perfect, zero margin for error and an experience totally unlike any of the previous contests, which I regard as a very fun training ground for what we have built this time, and now we had to decide whether this person had made the contest un-launchable. We have decided that it will go ahead, but there will be changes, chief of which will be availability of merchandise only through DoubleXX and authorised sponsors and retailers. We have to be careful here because for this contest I don’t want to be involved in discussing anything other than the denim, the contest, the format, the fun and the experience for all, in that sense we are very much going back to basics but in another sense we are cranking the whole thing up by several levels. The grand unveiling is a matter of weeks away, preparation will be key for everyone, and when it begins I believe that it will benefit the denim community as a whole.