I’ve written before about my inglorious career as an electrician. While I absolutely appreciate the practical and life skills that completing an apprenticeship gave me, it’s fair to say that electrician-ing wasn’t my sweet spot. I simply didn’t enjoy it and I have vivid memories of the downcast feelings I experienced on a Sunday afternoon as I realised I had to go to work the next day.

So it’s no surprise that I spent much of my time during my apprenticeship engaged in anything other than work. Much of this engagement (and, it must be stated, also shared by a couple of my work buddies) involved hanging out at what was an absolute institution in the Wellington cycling scene, Cycle Services. Cycle Services (CS for those in the know) was a small bicycle shop started by a couple of guys who had a deep passion for cycling and the bicycle industry. For nine years before the new millennium, Cycle Services was the hangout spot for the non-mainstream of Wellignton’s cycling community – it was a shop built upon anti-establishment and anti-commercial precepts.

And then in the year 2000 the team at Cycle Services decided their time was done. They’d achieved what they wanted to, it wasn’t getting any easier making a living in the bicycle industry and the sector was increasingly being dominated by faceless corporates with their nationwide chain of large-format retailing. The CS team decided that, since their raison d’etre was a passion for the industry, once that passion was gone they were better to up sticks and move on.

I’ve been thinking about the Cycle Service team this week since I saw the news that New Zealand fashion icon (both individually and from a brand perspective) Kate Sylvester was shutting down. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about the quiet satisfaction that must come from deciding that the time is right to call it quits and call curtains. I don’t have any information about the reason for the Sylvester shutdown, but having been involved in the apparel industry for almost exactly the same amount of time as Kate Sylvester’s 31-year history, I think I can figure it out.

As I’ve opined about so many times before, making stuff is really hard. Making stuff in a sector that essentially doesn’t exist domestically anymore is even harder. Add to that the fact that the current trend is to obsess about the latest tech startup and it’s “zero to a billion in five years” story. More pedestrian business examples just don’t garner as much attention and hence are unlikely to attract the investment, the high-calibre staff, and the attention that validates the principals’ time and effort. And then there is the absolute travesty that is fast fashion – obviously Shien and its container ships full of rubbish just waiting to be deposited in landfill is the poset child, but it started long before Shein was even conceived of.

We live in a world where consumers are interested in the hit of instant gratification and, much like the crystal meth epidemic we’re facing, once people get hooked on that particular high, they need to keep getting their fix. Ergo more and more SHien container ships spewing their horrendous cargo onto the dedicated populace.

Anyway, enough about Shein. Back to the Kate Sylvester story. What normally happens in these situations is that businesses go to the wall and the business press runs wall-to-wall stories about their demise. The uninformed experts out there all write LinkedIn and Twitter posts opining about what went wrong and how [insert “the board” or “the CEO”] did a terrible job and clearly all blame can be attributed to them.

Actually, it’s a far more complex, nuanced story and sometimes the time has just come to bid adieu. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. There is a poetic counterpoint that comes from seeing your vision made real and simply sitting back and enjoying the memories without a pressing need to continue the journey.

And so, while it is in some ways sad to see Kate Sylvester come to an end, instead of bemoaning the fact, we should celebrate 31 years of apparel success and the countless amazing memories that have been had by individuals while dressed by Kate. That’s something to be applauded.

Cycle Services was an institution and I miss all those hours spent skiving in its workshop. But sometimes it’s just nice to enjoy the memories as distinct from the present. Here’s one to the teams from Cycle Services and Kate Sylvester for saying “it’s time!”

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.


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