Unions

Supposedly, only 25% of adults say their workplace promotes a supportive environment. Some other supposed stats are that almost 50% of adults say their job is fulfilling, 20% are overwhelmed, and 30% are stressful.

I can understand the 50/20/30 information. Yet, I wonder how each generation feels about their workplace compared to all adults. Millennials and Gen Z have different expectations or perhaps desires from the workplace.

Unions were formed to stop exploitation and protect employees’ rights. They have been ensconced in the car industry since 1935. Last week, the UAW lost unionization in a Mercedes factory in Alabama. Company unionization has gone from 20% in 1983 to 10% in 2023. That speaks volumes.

I can think of multiple reasons why unionization has ebbed, although the power it holds in certain states is mind-blowing based on these statistics.

We have read and witnessed that unions are always knocking on opportunity doors. They are currently infiltrating the cannabis industry when the size of each store is not that big. Someone needs to keep the Union brass making the big bucks. I think employers should be held accountable for how they treat their employees, and if the fear of unionization is the catalyst, so be it.

Treating your employees right will make them happier, and happier companies make for better business. It isn’t that hard.

Finally, Celebrating Female Athletes

Say what you will about the Kardashians, and I could say a lot, but Skim’s new ad campaign highlighting badass female athletes feels good. The first thing that popped into my head when the campaign popped up in my Instagram feed was, “damn, it’s about time.”

It has taken 50 years since Title IX was enacted into law to see women’s basketball have the crowds it deserves. These women are playing at an exciting level. The NCAA championships this year took on another level of excitement with star athletes who have been drafted to play in the WNBA.

These women are not being paid the same amount as their male counterparts. Let’s not forget that the NBA is a serious business. The athletes get paid based on salary caps, which affect the amount of capital being made in the entire NBA business machine.

Everything else these athletes do, such as sponsors, is their own personal added bonus, and finally, women are getting their due here, too. Athletes seem to be the latest actors in all the advertising during the games.

Now that the WNBA has packed stadiums and owners who are focused on building a female powerhouse sports arm of the NBA, we will start to see higher salary caps. Stephen Curry has a salary cap of $135M for 2023/2024, whereas Jackie Young, who signed with the Las Vegas Acers a few days ago, makes $252,450 a year. These two make the most money playing ball.

I hope it doesn’t take another 50 years for WNBA players to make the type of cash Curry is raking in.

The Flower Is Female

 Buy Weekly: The Flower is Female

I rarely post another post, but I love this one so much. I proudly wore my Future is Female t-shirt, and I still do. Read the piece. You can follow Gotham’s blog here.

Buy Weekly: The Flower is Female, from the one and only Rachel Berks, Founder of Otherwild and VP of Creative and Merchandising @ Gotham.

Back in 2015, our VP of Creative + Merchandising, Rachel Berks, remade “The Future is Female” t-shirt, based on a design from the 70s for Labyris Books, the first women’s bookstore in New York City. When she learned that the cannabis plant is most prized in its female form, she had a new idea…

In 2015, I was scrolling Instagram and found myself captivated by a 1970s-era photograph of a woman wearing a t-shirt with the slogan “The Future is Female”. It was posted on Herstory’s instagram account, which was run by a friend, and celebrated herstorical imagery of lesbian, queer + GNC folks. I reposted this photo, and that the shirt had been created for the first women’s bookstore in NYC called Labyris Books. People loved this photo immediately – the slogan clearly resonated widely, and many commenters begged me to remake the tee.

Photo by Liza Cowan

Due to the overwhelming response to my post, I redesigned the shirt and offered them for sale through my store Otherwild. I made an initial run of 24 tees which sold out overnight, and thanks to a perfect storm of concurrent event — defunding Planned Parenthood, the relentless attack on a woman’s right to choose, and a woman running for president — a viral cultural phenomenon was born.

Since I had borrowed the slogan myself, I never considered trademarking it. Before I launched the tee, my internet research yielded literally nothing with or referencing “The Future is Female” on it. The original photo didn’t even surface because of its near total obscurity. Once I launched and found tremendous success with my own version of the t-shirt, the slogan became ubiquitous. During a pop-up during the fall of 2016, I sold two sweatshirts to Annie Clark aka St. Vincent for herself and her then girlfriend, Cara Delevigne. Shortly afterwards, both celebs were photographed wearing the sweatshirt, and The New York Times published an article titled, “A Feminist T-Shirt Resurfaces From the ‘70s” in which I was quoted saying:

“It’s thrilling to see people embrace something that came out of the ’70s lesbian separatist moment,” Ms. Berks said. “The shirt is about a reaction to a misogynist and patriarchal culture that affects a lot of people. People are recontextualizing it: trans women, men, moms who have sons.”

The Future is Female Shirt

In the weeks after the article was published, a couple very non-feminist things occurred. First, a woman named Suzanne Sizer filed a trademark application for “The Future is Female” one week after the NY Times article came out. Second, Cara Delevigne posted an identical knockoff of my sweatshirt on her Instagram to her many millions of followers. Luckily, Otherwild had an army of feminist supporters who would not stand for a celebrity capitalizing off of a queer woman-owned small business, and my following and business skyrocketed after the scandal.

Cara Delevigne The Future is Female

Since I released the tee, I’ve seen countless renditions worldwide in the forms of apparel, jewelry, baby items, book titles, magazine covers, political slogans, print and broadcast headlines, beer, phone cases, fundraisers, nail polish, protest signs, other endless merch, and so on and so forth. The words were uttered by Hillary Clinton post-election, there was an SNL skit about the shirt, and musician Kiran Gandhi wrote a song, called “The Future is Female” in which she calls out her ‘black, Otherwild Future is Female t-shirt’.

The Future is Female

It’s a very strange and somewhat unsettling experience to have a hand in resurrecting what became such an important slogan in feminist herstory, and then to simultaneously lose control of the narrative of that slogan. Regardless, the shirt gave me the opportunity to grow my business and support artists and designers within my community, which had always been the most meaningful and significant purpose of Otherwild.

Almost ten years have passed since I first saw and remade the t-shirt, and when I learned that the cannabis plant is most prized in its female form, because that is when the psychotropic compounds are most potent, I had a new idea…

The Flower is Female

“The Flower is Female” T-shirt by Gotham, $38

The Future is Female

“The Flower is Female” T-shirt by Gotham, $38

“Female cannabis is what consumers know as ‘cannabis’ in that we consume the female flower and the respective cannabinoids that the female flower produces..”

  • Ian Dyshe, Head Of Operations at MFNY

“In a literal sense, the cannabis flowers we know and love are female, as they tend to produce more trichomes rich in the active cannabinoids and terpenes.”

  • Miri Gregor, VP Cannabis at Gotham

As a celebration of this plant we love, on the first birthday of our female-founded company, we are thrilled to offer a limited edition drop of “The Flower is Female”.

Shop “The Flower is Female” limited edition t-shirt now at Gotham!

Are Weight Loss Drugs the New Opioid?

I have been on countless diets my entire life. What goes into my mouth is never cavalier. I do not have an unhealthy relationship with food; I love food. I have worked hard not to have an unhealthy relationship with my body. They are very different things. Unsurprisingly, I am fascinated with the new weight loss drugs.

The family was at the Knicks playoffs this week, and I watched at home on the couch. Next year, Knicks! This ad came on the television. It is gorgeous, well done, and captured my attention immediately. As the ad played, I knew it was a pharma company, and it was Eli Lily.

There is much to unpack about these drugs. First of all, it appears to work. People lose weight rapidly, their hunger changes, and I would gather that if they have diabetes, the sugar levels in their blood drop. That is a good thing as diabetes is a silent killer, the eight leading killer in the US having multiplied in the past thirty years. It was inevitable that a drug would eventually be found in pharma land.

What are the long-term effects of taking this drug for those who are in real need, such as obese people with diabetes? Do you have to stay on it forever? What is the correct dosage? Do they know enough about this drug and how it affects one’s organs?

The price of this drug is not cheap. The pharmaceutical companies have not been forthcoming with how much they are actually selling. I read that 25,000 people signed up for this revolutionary weight loss tool from one pharmaceutical company in the first three months of the year, and that is only one company. Many companies are providing this drug under different names. Supposedly, there are 500,000 weekly prescriptions for ozempic.

The prices are high, and many pay for it out of pocket. There is a shortage, and pharmaceutical companies are boosting production with new facilities. Does this sound familiar to the opioid crisis? I hope this is not the case, but I admit it happened quickly, and I do not fully trust pharma, although I want to. I believe in vaccines and Western medicine for many reasons, but they are publicly traded businesses that spend billions on lobbying the government; enough said.

The long tail of this is how this changes the food industry. What will happen to all those lo-fat products? Will people consume and buy less food? Will food waste go down? Will people eat healthier? Will there be a push to produce products here, similar to Europe, where they do not allow many manufactured products to go into their food? Maybe all of this could be a good thing and positively impact our environment. Perhaps this is a reach, but I’m just saying.

I have watched the ad a few times. I am obsessed with these drugs, and for some, I am all for it. But my friends who told me a few years back about the drug and began taking it when I never even once considered them overweight concerns me. The media has wanted us all to be thin for a long time, yet were these drugs meant for the slightly chubby or the person who always wants to lose the last 5 lbs. and wants to look like Kate Moss? I am not so sure, but it appears we will find out.

An American Endless Cycle

My Mom was really into the health food store when we were kids. They had the best oatmeal raisin cookies. I’m not sure why she got on this kick, but it was the 1970s, and she believed in healthy eating. We took cod liver oil pills every day!

When I grew up, nobody was obese and not overweight either. Now, over 42% of Americans are obese. Maybe it was because we had more freedom to run around, but more than likely, this generation was the first generation to grow up on significant amounts of processed food. I remember coming to school with my lunch and high-end deli meats, and my friends would have processed meat in a package. It is unclear which was worse, but I am pretty sure it wasn’t the deli meats.

When we look at other countries also beginning to put on poundage and get sick, it is from their intake of Doritos, not Udon noodles. The other day, I saw the ingredients in Heinz ketchup for France vs. the US. That was eye-opening. In France, the ingredients are tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, salt, onion powder, and natural flavor. In the US, we eliminate sugar and add high-fructose corn syrup and regular corn syrup. Fructose can elevate diabetes, cholesterol, and heart disease.

Somehow, it is okay in the States to have products that are killing us on the shelves even though we have an obesity issue, which leads to illness that the insurance companies would prefer not to pay for, so instead, we came up with Ozempic to fix that problem, less eating. Hmmm. There seems to be a problem here.

My Mom decided to frequent the health food store and put us on cod liver oil pills from wherever she got her information. She taught us to eat healthily. She would make comments about chips or fake foods that we were eating shit, and she was right. Today, information is everywhere. People can see what I am writing about in black and white, but somehow, we build new products to combat products that have made us unhealthy instead of fixing the core issue. I assume this is lobbying 101 to keep the large companies producing these products and churning them into our daily diet.

The food companies are killing us. When I return to Paris, I may bring an entire suitcase just for savory condiments.

How Communication Works Today

I am old enough to have witnessed and experienced massive changes in technology.   

The tech moguls of today secured capital to build their ideas. They wanted the world to be more efficient. They were entrepreneurs and engineers: Bezos, Page and, Brin, and, of course, Zuckerberg. I might be going out on a limb here, but I do not think they realized that making things more efficient would change how we shop, how we market to people, how we communicate, how we discover, how we work, and how these platforms would change society. 

The other night I was DMd on Instagram from someone saying he loved the brand (Gotham) and we should collab.  I checked his profile; he had many followers and was a Knicks fan. I texted him back that I would send his info to the team. It ended up he went to camp with someone on our team. Crazy. Within seconds, I am texting him, and so is the team. 

This exchange took place over text and Instagram. Incredibly, anyone can reach out to someone they have never met, get a response, and start to think about ways to work together. That feedback from a business perspective is key.

Twenty years ago, if you had moved to a different city, the chances of staying in touch would have been slim. Perhaps the first year or so, there would be phone calls and then, over time, an annual card, but unless that connection were so intense with a continuation of spending vacations together, it would be lost. That is not the case anymore. Staying in touch is not hard, and people seem to work harder to keep up those connections.

Technology will continue to evolve. Ignoring it is not advised, but figuring out how to use it in the best way possible can be good for business or who knows what else.

Raspberry Eton Mess

This might be the dessert for the summer. You can make this with any berry. It is beyond easy and delicious. I never heard of Raspberry Mess until we ordered it for dessert at Commerce Inn. Fred and I battled spoons for the last bite.

You could buy almond meringue cookies, but I chose to make them.

Almond Meringue Cookies

  • 2 1/2 cups almond flour (I ground up sliced almonds in the Cuisinart)
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • Three egg whites (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. almond extract

Preheat oven to 300. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Beat the egg whites for 7 minutes, so they are hard. Add the almond flour, 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar, vanilla, and almond extract. Softly fold until completely incorporated.

Scoop the mixture into balls, place on the parchment paper, sift the remaining 1/4 cup powdered sugar over the top, and bake for 25 minutes or until browned. Let cool.

RASPBERRY ETON MESS (such a good name) – feeds four and can easily be doubled

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup raspberries (set aside a few to set on top)
  • mint for garnish

Add cream, sugar, and vanilla to a bowl and beat until soft peaks.

Place the raspberries in a blender and puree.

Crush four almond meringue cookies and mix them into the whipped cream. Slowly add the raspberry puree (leaving a little aside) and fold it in, making streaks of raspberry.

Divide into four cups of your choice, wine glasses work, and dribble the remaining puree over the tops. Add a raspberry or two and a sprig of mint. Voila. Absurdly good.

Gotham Turns One

Gotham

This past Saturday, Gotham turned one. It has been an incredible year. Gotham started during the lockdown days of COVID-19 as an idea for a retail store that blossomed into a cannabis concept store. A friend asked me if I knew about the cannabis roll-out that was beginning to come to light. I knew nothing except it was imminent.

I took a deep dive, starting with connecting to the space’s top lawyers. I am sure I emailed them several times and resorted to calling over four days. I moved quickly, and after spending decades in the tech community and being able to get responses in real time, I couldn’t help myself.

I spoke to the legal duo, who answered all my questions. I was intrigued by the industry’s nascency. True start-up mode from every part of the business: farms, brands, software, dispensaries, rules and regulations, and being a partaker of the plant, I was all in when I exited our Zoom.

They invited me to a 4/20 party; we had spoken a few days before that, and I went. By the time I left the party, I had a vision and a legal team and was ready to hit the gas….not so quick says the Office of Cannabis Management…this is going to take some time. It was April 2021.

Spending capital when you can’t control if you will be able to open, aka get a license, is not easy. Trying to execute a vision without truly being in control of your destiny because of the licensing process is a juggling act. And so we began.

The first thing was the name Gotham. Staying on brand seemed to make sense. The second was a brand guide. What does the logo look like? What are the colors? What are the fonts? We (my sidekick, who has been with me for almost 13 years!) began to delve in. The year before we opened might have been the craziest. Our office began to resemble a store basement, complete with a photo area.

In classic start-up mode, we do not have the same team we started with. I have learned so much. My superpower is that I jump in without much thought and am good at making multiple turns and exits. The turns and exits can be challenging on a team, but it is part of the DNA in a fast-moving environment. Our team is A+, and everyone brings their A game every day. There are always issues, but most are not business-related but human resource-oriented. Start-ups are not for the demur, and it is a group growth.

The day came when we got our license and hit the gas. I had hired a few people to prepare, but now Gotham would become a reality. I did not take the advice that I have given over the years, which is to do one thing well before adding to the business. It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t help myself, but being the first to do business in this arena was number one. We would have a store where we would pay our employees good wages and complete healthcare (aka not having to pay into the system) with the ability to grow internally, delivery, private label (retail/wholesale), DTC, and events as a foundation and build off those verticals.

Everyone who works for Gotham’s in-store line is a fantastic group with different backgrounds and experiences. Ten of them have been with us for over a year. The execs love being in the store and working with the team, which shows as our customers tell us how much they love the staff every day.

Our celebration of being open for a year in a company operating for three years in my favorite city is an incredible high (no pun intended). As we grow in each foundation set from the start, there is much to come. It is unbelievable how much we have accomplished in one year, never letting the foot off the gas while zigging and zagging through growth. The second year will have new challenges, but we can now execute more easily, I hope.

Happy Birthday, Gotham.

Paul Auster, RIP

I am an avid reader, and Paul Auster was one of my favorite novelists during the 1980s and 1990s. He was a true New Yorker who lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with his wife, an author. From everything I have read about Auster, he appears to be a complicated man.

His character development was always good, and I read many of these books with my siblings to discuss them. He wrote 34 books, and I read easily 10 of them. They sit on my bookshelf. Mr. Vertigo, The New York Trilogy, Baumgartner, The Brooklyn Follies, Vertigo, The Book of Illusions, Leviathan, The Invention of Solitude, The Music of Chance, and others. He might have been the Woody Allen of novels; he kept putting them out, and France loved him.

One of my favorites is his longest book, 4 3 2 1, which, at 866 pages, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. The book follows the life of a Jewish immigrant to his grandchild through four alternative lives, as you never know what life gives you. I might have to read this book again.

The Art Shows

This past week, NYC was filled with art shows. Restaurants were packed, people from around the globe were here, galleries had new installations, and art was being shown. I went to the Frieze and the Future Art Fair, which was enough.

We have attended these shows for over a decade; Frieze launched in 2012. There was a lot to like. We saw artists’ work worldwide, and I was always left inspired. I began to tire of them around 2018. No matter where you see the show, be it in New York, Miami, London, or Paris, they all look the same.

The cost of these shows for the galleries is enormous. From the booth to shipping the work to the show and setting it up and having to be there for days on end, hotels, and food, the few days can cost a gallerist hundreds of thousands of dollars. They need to sell double the cost to break even.

For the gallerist to survive, the price of art is being pushed up, and young artists are not being shown. Finding anything not in the $100K range at Frieze was difficult. Are galleries pushing up prices that will eventually fall, or will the artists hit the ceiling on the value of their work? How many contemporary artists’ works can be worth $100K or more? Even work at the Future was higher than it should be.

The art world has become dominated by mega-art galleries, mega-prices, and mega-collectors; what happens to the up-and-coming artists? There is nothing like seeing art in person, but perhaps it is time to rethink how often these shows appear. I have talked to more than a handful of galleries who are passing on shows. The cost is killing them.

How the art world operates is changing, and speaking to a young gallerist and how she is thinking about how she will manage her gallery made me hopeful. To me, there is an opportunity to come up with a new paradigm to the art shows, they really aren’t doing it for me.