On 10 October a small group of patrons, long-time supporters, friends of 20th Century REMO, advisors and journos gathered at Ariel Books to launch the new REMORANDOM book series and toast the 35th birthday of REMO. Here is a video of the speeches.
On this day (and in fact on this street) 35 years ago, the doors to the REMO General Store opened for the first time. So, Happy Birthday to the brand and the idea that just won’t go away [Fun Fact: I’ve gone broke four times with this brand]. Despite those 30+ years, and due to the fact that the brand and I share the same name, 3 or 4 times a week I’m reminded in conversations with relative strangers about how remarkable that store was, and the fact that it touched so many people. It was indeed of its time and a phenomenon … and for me it begs the question: what makes something remarkable? And what does it take to cut through all of the noise?
I tell the REMORANDOM back story in the introduction to this book. It involves a series of connected dots spanning just about all of those 35 years. Over that period, I’ve been curating: THINGS for the REMO General Store, PEOPLE for the General Thinking Network, IDEAS for TEDxSydney, and so on … and I realise now that, at a molecular level, it’s all about the STORIES underlying those things, or people, or ideas, or whatever …
This revelation wasn’t actually mine. New York designer Tibor Kalman (the founder of Colors Magazine) was an admirer of the REMO printed catalogues, and said to me on more than one occasion: “Remo, when are you going to realise that your sizzle is your steak?” … and by that he was suggesting that the narrative promoting the merchandise was a valuable “product” in and of itself. The seed of the idea for REMO as a media brand was planted.
So, like many tasty things, this idea has been marinating for a very long time.
With everyone else ZAGGING to digital, optimising RR for print is a BIG ZIG. Another friend of mine in New York, Kim Hastreiter, is the founder of PAPER Magazine. When I shared this idea with her, and as advice born of her experience, she quoted Glennon Doyle, the author of Untamed, and told me something I think I already knew. She said:
“Don't explain the thing. Just do the thing, and then they'll be able to see the thing ... making explaining anything unnecessary."
So, REMORANDOM is me just doing the thing, in the same way actually that the original REMO store was just me doing a thing that, on the face of it, didn’t sound all that remarkable: opening a gift shop in Darlinghurst; and the punt here (and it is a punt) is that REMORANDOM is “just another book” to the same extent that REMO in Darlinghurst was “just another store”.
And indeed there are a lot of parallels between the original idea for the General Store and this new idea for the book series … and some of them are personal.
When I opened the Store in 1988 (famously confusing my mother: “Darling, you’ve got 3 degrees and you’re opening a shop. Please help me understand.”) it was more about creating a career and life of passion for myself away from the corporate mainstream, than it was about meeting any great untapped need and creating something culturally significant.
Similarly, the original driver for REMORANDOM was a personal desire to move my work life on to a place where it was less about managing budgets, events and people (but I still love you anyway TEDxSydney), and more about writing and designing and creating as an ARTIST. My happiest place is that place where I’m in that dance to’ing and fro’ing over a shared inDesign document with Aivi my designer of 35 yrs … tweaking the words and the images for maximum appeal and impact.
For REMORANDOM I’m inspired by printed things that have historically been cherished and collected (not discarded): Coles Funny Picture Books, National Geographic, Schott’s Miscellany, Sears Catalogs, the Whole Earth Catalog … even the Readers Digest. My unrealistic entrepreneurial HOPE would be that, over time, REMORANDOM could end up taking its place within that lofty company … and the most fun thing about that will be the engagement of the community of subscribers and readers in that journey. Although most of the chapter ideas for this one, and maybe the next 1 or 2 will be mine, I fully expect that by #3 or #4 the scales will have tipped in favour of the community. That’s what happened 30 years ago with the merchandise for the store. The same thing will happen here. I’m sure of it.
Having said all this, I’m not necessarily looking to create a new global boutique media brand, but rather to build a sustainable and, by definition, “interesting” art practice for myself. HOWEVER, if the idea captures the marketplace imagination and the thing cuts through and takes off like the original REMO took off, then this time I’ll be better prepared to wrestle that beast.
Thank you … and stay curious.
10 October 2023