Harriet Gausman: So, Chez, have you been a member of Second Life for long? What made you venture into this fab, multi-coloured world?
Chez Nabob: I’ve been here since late 2005. I decided to check it out because I was fascinated by what I was reading about virtual worlds. Julian Dibbell, a Wired magazine reporter/author, was writing a lot of stuff about MMOs and it sounded incredibly interesting from a social and creative aspect. SL appealed to me most of all because of how easy it was to develop content and because of the built-in economy. When I started talking to friends about it they were like, “Wait, people pay money for stuff that doesn’t exist? Really?”
Harriet Gausman: Were you very productive in your first few months? (Harriet gives a wry smile).
Chez Nabob: It took me a while to figure things out and get to a point where I felt comfortable that I had a complete enough understanding of SL before I started making anything. Before I go to that point I shopped a lot… heh.
Harriet Gausman: What do you feel about the lack of good clothing stores for men in Second Life, excluding your own of course? Why do you think there are so few?
Chez Nabob: I’m not sure I’d put my store in the “good” category. In fact I probably lower the bar overall… heh. I think that the idea that there aren’t a lot of good, quality men’s clothing designers out there isn’t true anymore. There aren’t nearly as many options for men as there are for women, but the landscape of options has definitely changed for the guys, and it’s WAY better than when I started out in SL. Back then there were just under 100k residents, an almost NO ONE was making clothes for guys, and fewer still were doing it well. That’s not just not true anymore. There are many, many talented designers doing men’s clothing today.
Harriet Gausman: Where do you gain your inspiration?
Chez Nabob: Well I actually do like to dress nicely in RL. I believe the old adage about “clothes make the man.” There’s something to be said for how clothes make you feel about yourself and how others see you, so for me SL is sort of an extension of that RL philosophy. I keep an eye on trends, colors and styles and I sort of draw inspiration from how I see those developing in RL.
Harriet Gausman: Who do you make your clothes for? In other words, who do you think buys them?
Chez Nabob: I’ve been told my clothes are nerdy… heh… so I dunno… maybe I’m big with geeks. I actually set out to make things that I like, things that I would wear. As I said, I’m generally dressed nicely, so much of what you see in my store is… I dunno… less casual than what might be available somewhere else. I do have some casuals, and I’m looking to expand that part of my collection. When I started out I kind of thought of the brand I wanted to establish as sort of a Brooks Brothers or a Ralph Lauren… something with more of a discerning customer in mind… someone who likes the finer things. I don’t know if those are actually the people who buy my clothes, but that’s how I like to picture my regular customers at any rate.
Harriet Gausman: Did you have any design skills before you came to SL or have you learned them along the way?
Chez Nabob: Oh yeah, I’m a graphic artist/3D modeler in RL so the transition to making things in SL was pretty painless for me, although SL can be a little more finicky with how it maps textures than I would prefer, so I guess that part of it has been a little bit of a learning experience for me.
Harriet Gausman: OK, so down to the nitty gritty. You are the organizer of an intellectual property rights campaign in Second Life. Can you tell us a bit about this and why you think it is so important for others to be aware of it.
Chez Nabob: Well intellectual property rights and copyright issues are things I deal with on a daily basis in RL. It’s how I make my living when you get down to it, so it’s an issue that I have strong feelings about. I think it’s important for people in SL to understand that IP rights violations are rapidly getting out of control here. Some content creators make their living in SL, and I just got tired of hearing friends’ stories about their content being ripped off. I wanted content creators to stop playing what had been a largely defensive strategy of waiting for something of theirs to be stolen and then reacting to that situation. I thought developing an offensive strategy where creators could be more proactive would be more effective, and the IP rights campaign we launched is part of that strategy. We want to try to make the residents of SL aware of the issue and enlist their help and support as we try to secure greater protections for intellectual property in SL.
Harriet Gausman: Your stores are all so beautifully kitted out, both in terms of quality of clothing as well as décor. Who designed your flagship store? The dark wood furniture really adds an air of sophistication.
Chez Nabob: Well TYVM. I got lucky actually with the flagship store. While I do a lot of 3D work in RL, I just don’t have the patience for using SL’s native build tools (apart from the relatively recent addition of sculpties). They don’t function as much like RL 3D apps as I’d like so I lose interest pretty quickly when I’m building something here. So I started looking for a builder, and decided I had to get Barnesworth Anubis to do the build for me. I was just amazed by his work, and fortunately he agreed to do it. Of course that was two years ago before he got to be the GINORMOUS SLebrity he is today. He was big back then, but not like he is now. He was great to work with, and he became a pretty good friend as well. He’s been a tremendous resource for me over the years and has really helped opened some doors for me that he didn’t have to.
As for the furniture that I use to display my clothes, I actually made that. I have a store in the Fashion Ave. sim just down from Zyrra Falcone’s store and she had this wonderfully low-prim display furniture, but it didn’t look low-prim. I asked her if she minded if I took her basic concept and added my own twists to it and she told me to go for it.
Harriet Gausman: How long does it take you to design an outfit; from thought to display?
Chez Nabob: The hard part for me is time. My RL work keeps me pretty busy, so finding time to make anything in SL is difficult. I have a shirt I have literally been tinkering with for two years… ugh… it kills me to admit that. I’ve introduced many new things over those two years, but this shirt just keeps hanging around… heh. Hopefully though my schedule will be opening up quite a bit very soon, and I’m hoping to have more freedom to commit to doing more in SL. When I do get a stretch of time I can devote to SL, I’d say I can usually produce a couple of items a week. I have a running list of ideas in my head and in sketchbooks for new products and so I usually know pretty much what I want to do when I sit down at the computer. The problem, as I said is finding the time to sit down at the computer.
Harriet Gausman: In terms of design, which piece has been the most difficult for you?
Chez Nabob: It was actually the very first thing I made in SL. I did pinstripe shirts and suits right out of the gate, and they were a royal pain in the @$$… Getting those pinstripes to line up… omg… I thought I was going to go insane. So that part of the learning curve of seeing how SL mapped textures on the wireframe was a nightmare. I should have done something a little easier for my first project, but I’m actually glad I did it now… I learned a lot… heh.
Harriet Gausman: Have you ever thought about expanding your empire and branching out into women’s fashion or are you happy working with men’s wear?
Chez Nabob: I have actually considered dipping my toe into women’s clothing, but the problem for me is, again, time, and I have so many ideas on the drawing board for my men’s collection and I want to get those done before I take a leap like that. As I mentioned I’m hoping to have more freedom soon as far as my schedule goes, so we’ll see what shakes out when that happens.
Harriet Gausman: Where do you foresee your business headed?
Chez Nabob: Well I’m looking to do more with sculpties. I’ve got a real base in 3D in my RL projects, and I’m seeing so many talented designers really changing the male silhouette with some fantastic prim work. So I want to experiment with that in my own work in SL, and I do have some ideas for a women’s line, so I might just introduce some things for the ladies… who knows?
Harriet Gausman: Do you have tips for would—be fashion designers out there; there’s bound to be a few young entrepreneurs out there?
Chez Nabob: I’d say that running a successful business in SL is really a lot of work. So many people heard stories in the media about being able to make money here, but the thing of it is is that it takes real effort to do that. It’s like anything else, you get out of it what you put into it, and being able to make textures for clothes is just a small part of what it takes to get a product ready to sell. So if you really want to make a go of it, try to join a creator-focused group and ask questions, get advice, etc. People are generally willing to help you when you’ve got questions, so don’t be afraid to ask. I think finding a few trusted mentors is key to anyone starting out.
Harriet Gausman: Ok, so you’re lost on a desert island, name five items you would not be without. And you can’t take a computer or anything electrical…no power supply, d’uh.
Chez Nabob: Hmmm that’s a tough one because my idea of roughing it is having to watch cable TV instead of satellite. Wow… I don’t know if I could survive without my laptop, ipod, cell phone, and other gadgets. Ok… definitely a sketchbook and a pencil. I’d need some entertainment so I’ll choose my favorite book, “The Hobbit.” Then I’d go with a lighter I guess to make a fire, and finally a freakin’ boat so I could get back to my satellite TV, computer and other gadgets.
Harriet Gausman: Finally, just tell me that the man behind Chez isn’t a woman. If you really are a man (Harriet crosses her fingers behind her back), just tell us where we women can find more like you. Not that I’m looking or anything; I’m happily married but I know there will be a whole shopful of women out there desperate to get their hands on a man like you.
Chez Nabob: I definitely have the Y chromosome. As for where women can find someone like me, well I like to tell my wife that they broke the mold with me and she’s so lucky to have gotten such a great deal. Yup I’m hitched, and no my wife doesn’t believe my mold-breaking story, but she lets me tell it over and over again and she just nods and smiles at me. The actual truth is that I’m a complete dork, but she never actually comes out and says it, so I still have the illusion that my broken mold story is true.