The tagline on nvohk.com (pronounced invoke) says it’s “an eco-clothing company managed by the people who wear it.” Having officially launched at the end of June, the company already has over 300 activated members and thousands queued up in what is one of the latest and maybe one of the more innovate examples of crowdsourcing.
Crowdsourcing was first made popular in 2006 by Wired Magazine, and some well-known examples of such are Wikipedia, MoveOn.org, and Threadless.com. It is a very 2.0, user generated approach to running a business, referring to the act of taking tasks traditionally performed by employees or contractors and outsourcing them to a larger collective or the public.
nvohk is a company that is attempting to crowdsource nearly everything. “At the end of the day, brands are truly owned by customers,” said co-founder Brendan Lynch over the phone, pausing to plug in his hands-free headset as he drove. “And we wanted to put the decision-making in their hands.”
With a one-time buy-in of $50, nearly anyone can become a member and participate in designing logos, advertising collateral, choose t-shirt design, and many other operational decisions in the company. The entire process – closely monitored by Lynch and co-founder Sergio Salas – will take place on the company’s website forums, and takes a very democratic approach. A 60% majority vote will elect one t-shirt design over another, for example. As of Tuesday, July 8th, the company had already activated ¬æ of their initial launch member goal, and according to Lynch, has received nothing but enthusiastic and positive feedback from members on the forums.
Inspired by surf culture and catering to a “green-light” crowd, nvohk is a lifestyle brand that looks to compete with the likes of traditional surf companies like Quicksilver or Volcom, who have recently launched eco-friendly apparel lines, to PlanetEarth to even popular t-shirt website Threadless.com. The difference, says Lynch, is that nvohk will unite people under one brand, a brand that stands for something. The shirts will be produced on organic cotton and 10% of profits will be donated to sustainability-focused charities that – as you guessed – will be chosen by the member base.
Lynch admits that at the heart of what they’re doing with an apparel company is creating more consumption, which is inherently unsustainable. Regardless, nvohk wants to do it in the most “ecologically-advanced” way possible. “We want this to be a funding platform for environmental charities,” Lynch went on to say. “For the cost of a high-end t-shirt, we can raise awareness and do good.”
And the company hopes to make their effort a global phenomenon. So far, over 50% of their membership activation has come from abroad, boasting members from 18 countries, including the UK, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Israel, South Africa, and Australia, to name a few.