Posts tagged Composure
Uncharted Territory

Today marks the launch of the first of a new series for our email subscribers. Each issue will feature a post from our photojournal series Patient Explorers. Which I'm really excited about, because this series will let Composure go in a direction that feels a lot more natural and focused for the kind of brand and lifestyle I want to build. And develop a more focused, findable and resonant audience finally as well. 

In a phrase, what I'm hoping to combine is the gritty exploration of Vice Travel with the emotional self-awareness of The School of Life. And from an aesthetic standpoint Composure has started to blossom among an audience that appreciates both the dark avant-guarde found in Rick Owens and the calm minimalism of Acne Studios.

Until these last couple of months I've never been able to concisely articulate those points, and my audience-building efforts have suffered accordingly. The reality is that in many ways, there's simply no way I could have realistically sat down 3 years ago and planed or strategized my way to the way I now think about these audiences; I simply didn't have the mental building blocks required to get there. In fact I feel like a lot of the world-building initiatives that have developed under the name of Composure (the Virtues and Artistry volumes of the newsletter, the various events & collaborations, etc) have been my way of digging around, slowly developing those mental building blocks. Or in other words, it's all been a way to sort of "fail faster" and "think by doing."  

 

Explorers

I also know that a big reason that it took me a long time to get to a "lifestyle brand" that feels truly personal and authentic is because I have such a negative gut reaction to many existing lifestyle brands out there; kinds that are built entirely around concepts I consider to be rather shallow and generic ("inspiration" or "travel" or "hustle" or "art"). 

As much as I found myself talking about things like beauty and art, I always intentionally kept a distance from anything that felt a little too much like an inspirational poster. I mean, I fundamentally believe everything in the images above, and I know / am friends with many great people who have built large, inspired audiences in these worlds. But this approach just always felt a lil' too direct for me; as someone who believes that the most important and rewarding challenges of life are complex, not simple, I've always had a gut reaction to anything that says the answers are easy.  

The same "complex not simple" concept applies to travel and exploration as well. Almost every travel lifestyle blog I know is focused on the playful, easygoing, relaxing, or carefree aspects of travel; for as much as I talk about things like "exploration" I couldn't ever see the things like sunny beaches and "whoooooo we're so high-on-life!" cliff-diving that makes up a lot of travel lifestyle blogs being imagery that's part of the Composure world. 

(Maybe I just don't like water? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

 

Self-awareness

Once I started thinking about the more gritty exploration of things like Vice Travel, I was finally able to imagine a kind of "travel" lifestyle that romanticizes finding complex & difficult places over carefree & easy ones. A lot of things started to fall into place. 

What's nice about "complex" exploration is that it naturally resonates with something that has always been / will always be at the core of the Composure thesis: self-awareness. Nuanced, enlightening, brilliant, painful and terrifying self-awareness. I have about a million things to say about how difficult it is to find genuine self-awareness, how difficult it is to even start in the first place. Things to say about how many people live entire lives either not even trying to find it, or never even coming across a set of thoughts that would lead them to start thinking about trying in the first place. If Composure is truly truly truly about one thing, I'd be comfortable saying it's about "self-awareness," and I suspect I'll spend a least a significant number of years using Composure to try and express that in a way words probably never can. 

Anyway. There's something excitingly unique and personal about the prospect talking about self-awareness through the lens of difficult self-exploration. That we're all travelers trying to find difficult places deep within. What I'm building with the Patient Explorers series is a collection of vingettes and reflections on ways to find inner vision. I'm collecting human moments of calm, exploration and self-awareness through editorial lifestyle photography. Peaceful and uncommon moments of reflection. Maybe people who are exploring uncommon places and uncharted territory. It's something that finally feels natural and unique to me, and the audiences I've been testing this angle with on Instagram have responded in a way that feels entirely validating. 

 

"Today, with the Earth mapped, imaged and charted down to the last square foot, the frontier is supposedly in outer space: Mars, the moons of Jupiter, and beyond. But humans’ power to transform themselves and their environment suggests that the most important contemporary frontiers lie in the realm of inner space, in the possibilities for conceptual and moral transformation. It is at these boundaries that our future will be decided."

—Caspar Henderson, Death And Life Of The Frontier

 

I can say I'm genuinely and patiently excited about becoming better aligned with a more well-defined audience. And I know that through this process of intentionally (and admittedly, rather clumsily) building Composure in public, some people who loved elements of the first couple of years may not love elements of the ones to come. If at any point you feel that what we're doing is no longer for you I completely understand. Thanks as always for continuing to follow along. 

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Preparations

Busy week. Jumped last minute into a holiday market. Always nice to hear the nuanced, in-person reactions people have to the scarves, their finishing details, pricing, etc. They're not always positive! Good to hear anyway. Overwhelming consensus: "beautiful."

Also been building up the studio arm of Composure, setting the stage for a more sophisticated approach to working with the fashion blogger friends I've been getting connected to. Much more on that later, I'm excited about the way it'll feed into the Composure brand & newsletter. Until then, you can check out the early basics here: composure.studio 🔮

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Market size
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The other day I ran into an artist whose work is basically the Composure moodboard come directly to life; it was this magical moment of surprising connection. The kind that reminds me just how big the internet is—big enough that no matter how specific or nuanced your vision is, there's enough like-minded people out there willing to build a market around it. 

Stay tuned—I'll be working there contents within into Composure photography soon 🔮💫✖️✖️✖️✖️

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Modeling, a 5-6 year plan
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Whenever I have complicated feelings about the world I find myself watching this talk Reality is Plenty, Thanks. I'm not exaggerating when I say it's genuinely like mental comfort food for me; I have watched it *so* many times. Recent complicated feelings inspired by Westworld, which to my mind a proper understanding of begins with (but doesn't end with!) Reality Is Plenty, Thanks; if RIP, T intelligently covers the "seeing and experiencing a world" parts of an important conversation to be had, there's another account to be articulated about a "modeling and building a world" part that I have yet to find and am nowhere near being able to articulate myself. Honestly the best idea I have thus far is something like "articulate it through Composure over the course of 5-6 years ¯\_(ツ)_/¯"

In the meantime: feelings.

Anyway. Sorry if this was only vaguely about scarves, thanks for bearing with me and my feelings. And go see Doctor Strange, it's surprisingly and remarkably clever.

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Community.is

Sarah is the smart woman behind Loyal, a unique consultancy focused on building community experience for brands of all sizes. I told her a few years ago that to mind my she's the only one talking about brand-building in such a unique & smart way; some context: for a long time "community" was just something most businesses bolted onto their existing operations. And honestly that's still the case today; I told her last week that I still think she's one of the only ones talking about community the way she does. She's long been making the case that's similar to what want to say about "world-building": the world you build and the community that it fosters is the business. 

Anyway, Loyal has an ongoing newsletter with some very smart readers, and I'm proud to have curated the most recent one.  It features Composure thoughts on world-building as well as the incredible people and business models that inspired them—Ghostly International, Method, and others. Take a look here, subscribe to the ongoing series if you too are hoping to build the sort of brand that thrives with a strong community of customers. 🔮

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Illusions
A layer behind the scenes

A layer behind the scenes

I reference magic a lot in the Composure world, and the 🔮💫 emoji are permanently in my Recently Used's. To be clear: I don't just love the idea of illusions and smoke & mirrors—I think almost everything we ever experience as life is actually illusions and smoke & mirrors. Magicians are fascinating simply because they own that fact while the rest of us consistently and predictably refuse to believe it. 

Making a better point of it is the page I've most frequently visited over all my years on the internet: Wikipedia's List of Cognitive Biases. Which to be fair is rather dull and clinical, so I'm happy to discover that someone has now organized it all into a nice little Cognitive Bias Cheat Sheet

Composure is basically an exploration of the idea that we can all be magicians: if we accept that cognitive biases are just another useful design constraint, we can combine the principles above with the tools of world-building to make beautiful things that people want to be a part of. That we can all romanticize something from our unique experience of the world, edit it for effect (after all, aren't all biases just edits for effect?), and create beautiful, meaningful illusions. Scarves just happen to be beautiful stage props.

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