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Prepared for the September 13, 2000 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper.
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Roland Pott: In Style
Eat Wheaties and be an Olympian. Buy a truck and get
a girl. But the newest branding strategy — for the Slates and
Dockers clothing brands of Levi/Strauss — glorifies not athletes
or sex objects but entrepreneurs. And that’s how Roland Pott, the
27-year-old founder of the Urban Word Cafe in Trenton, suddenly turned
up in full page ads in such magazines as GQ, Rolling Stone, Men’s
Health, Fast Company, Business 2.0, and Wired.
"I tend to be the person who is active, not the person who is
objectified," says Pott, "but the whole idea of the Slates
campaign is that it represents entrepreneurial style — modern
and intelligent. They chose entrepreneurs with a strong presence in
the community, people walking their own path. What I am doing is
Pott’s dream started with Trenton Makes, a for-profit real estate
development company (inadvertently listed in the Slates ad as being
a non-profit). His first project is the Urban Word Cafe, a restaurant,
bar, and nightspot across from the Sovereign Bank Arena
Opened just last year, it is doing well and features jazz, poetry,
and open mike nights. An alumnus of Reed College in Oregon, Pott lives
in the Mill Hill section of Trenton in a converted garage. He manages
the restaurant and plans to open an upscale nightclub next year.
"Out of nothing, we are creating a permanent fixture in peoples’
lives," he says. "At the beginning there was an empty
Now it is filled with people eating and drinking and expressing
and talking and laughing. It is a point of reference that lasts, like
a line of clothing is a factor in how people want to present
Also featured in the campaign are three college buddies who started
a juice bar company, a team of scientists and programmers who design
for the needs of girls, three sisters with a line of fashion
and a community of ethnically diverse websites.
How did Pott get involved? An talent agent noticed Pott in a New
Magazine article on "40 people under 40." Pott did not have
photos of himself, so a friend shot two rolls of film on a disposable
camera. Then he got "the call:"
"Be in New York on Thursday to be photographed by Richard Avedon
for an ad campaign for Slates." Avedon is arguably the best known
lens artist in the United States and is known for defining American
fashion photography as well as for his legendary portraits.
That the photo happened so quickly surprised everyone concerned,
Avedon. "He asked me to do a pose with the coat over my head and
pretend I was scared of the camera. He had me holding my coat all
the way up as if it was raining, then bring it down slowly. He was
frustrated with the camera crew because they weren’t shooting fast
enough. `All right, we’re done,’ he said, and the people from Slates
said `Are you sure?’"
"`Listen,’ said somebody, `If Avedon says we’re done, we’re done.’
It was 2 p.m. on Friday, and we all went home."
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