The Sizzle is the Steak
REMO (a storied retail venture that was born as a General Store in Sydney in 1988) traded physically (and famously) from the corner of Oxford and Crown Streets in Darlinghurst, serving and delighting a global network of CustOMERs in 104 countries; celebrating quality & passion in people and products. REMO catalogues won many awards and were known and revered all over the world.
The decision to launch REMO was a lifestyle one for its founder Remo Giuffré, triggered by an aversion to corporate life and a desire to live a more independent and entrepreneurial “life of passion”. Some friends and family were initially somewhat confused. Said his Mum at the time: “Darling, you’ve got three degrees, and you’re opening a shop. Please help me understand.”
In pursuit of a REMO mission to serve and delight, merchandise for the General Store was sourced and developed that represented a set of shared values that included a focus on quality, functionality, intelligence, innovation, creativity, aesthetic simplicity, humour, wit, and so on … a tasty “brand soup” made up from many ingredients.
REMO was/is indeed in the communications business, and in order to articulate that dynamic it used the visual metaphor of an iceberg, where there is a lot more going on beneath the surface than above it. REMO always regarded the things being sold under the imprimatur of its curation and brand as just the tip of a large and very interesting contextual iceberg: How did the thing come into being? Who was responsible? What’s their story? How have people responded to the thing over time?
Traditional merchants sell things, but REMO told stories about products and the people/passion behind them, selling souvenirs of those stories. So, the REMO idea was never just to sell per se, but rather to tell the STORIES that communicated the passion.
This gives rise to an ongoing paradox. The raison d’être of REMO is not to sell stuff but rather to tell stories, but it needs to sell stuff in order to exist to tell those stories.
Remo (the person) was close to legendary New York designer Tibor Kalman (1949 to 1999), representing his M&Co. Labs in Australia. Tibor was a fan of the REMO printed catalogues, and said to Remo on more than one occasion: “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.
This represents a focal shift from merchandise to media, for which there’s actually a precedent.
In Melbourne in the 1800’s there was a gifted merchant named E.W. Cole who turned a “bookshop” into the cultural centre of the City of Melbourne; and subsequently published Cole’s Funny Picture Books, as compilations of words and pictures designed to inform, amuse and inspire. The books were a breakout success, and were kept continuously in print for almost a century. They were much loved.
Inspired by all of the above … and in pursuit of the same life of passion that had motivated him all those years before, Remo decided in 2021 to further explore the idea for REMORANDOM as a spinoff from REMO, with the focus being the STORIES themselves and not the merchandise above the surface.
And so was born REMORANDOM … a community sourced curation of REMO Stories: Everything Interesting; a selection of ideas, stories and observations designed to inform and entertain. An accumulating and multi channel celebration of “interestingness”.
You are here!
1. REMO(RANDOM) Iceberg. Focal Shift from Merchandise to Media. Thanks Tucker Viemeister for help with the doodle.
2. REMO People 1988. Annual Family Photo.
3. General Store version of REMO Head Logo. Design Collaboration with Douglas Riccardi.
4. REMO General Store. Crown & Oxford Street, Christmas 1995.
5. REMO Catalogues
6. HQ Magazine, 1991. Feature by Patty Huntington.
7. PAPER Magazine, July 2005. "General Ideas" by Tucker Viemeister.
8. Remo with his Mum Marie
9. Brand Soup, 1990
10. Merchandise Iceberg, 1990
11. Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist by Peter Hall (Editor), Michael Bierut (Editor), Chee Pearlman (Editor)
12. Cole's Funny Picture Book
13. Early REMORANDOM Doodle, 2017
14. Original REMORANDOM Platform by Squarespace
15. Coming Soon :)
As a fan since 1989 – the ‘sizzle is the steak’ works for me. The narrative is what drives everything else. I still have t-shirts from decades ago now and can only wear one or two at the same time. Eventually they wear out but it takes a long time. In between times less is always more and so it is stories are the are the oil that makes everything work. I have been waiting 20 years for this virtual world and to get more currency and while there is no substitute for the actual “on location” experience this comes closer every year. Thanks agin for a work of passion and insight.
Plenty of excellent REMO memories, congrats on this new chapter of interestingness!
Being the ADD/horder i still have some of those genius catalogues tucked away…love revisiting the Oxford/Crown St store when ever i need distraction from sorting my collection of ephemera.
The main regret i had back then was that Remo Store didn’t launch til 1988
(i went to uni, just up the road from 85-87!)
However trips from country nsw were a fix & included other Oxford St institutions including Oxford Art, Academy Twin, Ariel & Berkelouw, Mambo….
is there an abridged version? the crib sheet for the new normal?