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The Life-Saving Car Technology No One Wants

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The Life-Saving Car Technology No One Wants

Early in the morning of August 10, 2019, a man in a Dodge Charger drove along Miami’s MacArthur Causeway. Encountering traffic, he swerved onto the shoulder and accelerated to 100 miles per hour — more than double the speed limit. That’s when he slammed into a man riding his bicycle. The force of the impact was so powerful that the rider was decapitated. The driver had been inebriated at the time of the crash, according to police who spent five months investigating the hit-and-run. 

The cyclist’s death that night was one of an estimated 38,800 that occurred on American streets last year. Pedestrians and cyclists accounted for 8,800 of those fatalities — 23% of the total, up from 6,300 in 2010, when they comprised just 17%. During that period, fatalities for automobile occupants fell. 

In other words, America’s roads are getting safer if you’re inside an automobile, and more deadly if you’re outside of one. 

The number of traffic deaths in the United States is particularly striking given how it departs from global trends: While fatalities have fallen in most other industrialized nations, the increasingly deadly streets of U.S. cities are an outlier. And not all pedestrians are equally vulnerable. U.S. drivers disproportionately kill people of color, people in low-income communities, and the elderly. 

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The risk to cyclists and pedestrians has been a growing concern to urban transportation officials. More than 40 American cities have committed to Vision Zero, a global traffic safety movement that emphasizes redesigning streets to reduce the likelihood of fatal crashes. But Vision Zero recommendations assume that drivers are playing by society’s rules; they offer scant protection if someone chooses to use their vehicle recklessly. 

Resulting crashes can easily turn deadly — especially for a person outside the automobile. “When two tons of plastic, glass and metal meet 150 pounds of flesh and bone, the person is going to lose,” says David Friedman, vice president of advocacy for Consumer Reports and the former acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Technology would seem capable of helping to curb driving behavior too dangerous for street design to contain. This is, after all, supposed to be a golden age of mobility, with small armies of engineers steadily improving vehicle sensors and autonomous-driving algorithms. Could existing technology prevent crashes like the one on the MacArthur Causeway? 

The answer is yes. Technology can already block inebriated drivers from starting their vehicles and prevent them from accelerating well in excess of the speed limit. Under certain conditions, there are also systems capable of slamming on the brakes when cars are on a collision course for bicycles or pedestrians.

Some of these systems have existed for a while. But none were installed on that Dodge Charger. The government doesn’t require Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), owner of the Dodge brand, or other carmakers to make them standard features. 

It turns out that reckless driving presents more of a political challenge than a technical one. After spending more than a century successfully linking their products to the American ideals of individualism and freedom, automakers have created a formidable obstacle to interventions that stand between drivers’ desires and their machines’ capabilities. Like gun owners opposing smart-trigger innovations that would dramatically reduce accidental shootings, Americans have been reluctant to mandate technologies that could prevent even the most flagrantly dangerous driving behaviors.

“Everyone wants these safety features on the other guy’s cars,” says Greg Winfree, the director of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and the former assistant secretary for research and technology in the U.S. Department of Transportation. “But not theirs.”

Hitting the Brakes on Safety Innovation 

Automobiles have always been dangerous — in the early years, remarkably so. In his book Fighting Traffic, University of Virginia historian Peter Norton notes that more Americans died in car crashes during the four years following World War I than were killed in combat in France, a fact that was widely publicized at the time. In 1935, a much-discussed Reader’s Digest article titled “—And Sudden Death” compared riding in an auto of that era to “going over Niagara Falls in a steel barrel full of rail­ road spikes.”

In time, carmakers responded to the lethality of their products with an array of increasingly advanced technologies — laminated “safety glass” windshields, collapsible steering columns, crumple zones, seat belts, airbags — that gave automobile occupants a much better chance of surviving a collision. (Counterintuitively, some speculate that safer cars make streets more hazardous for pedestrians and cyclists, because drivers — secure in their increasingly impregnable machines — are more likely to take risks.) Since 1979, NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) has standardized the safety testing and rating of cars sold in the U.S., handing out stars to the best-performing vehicles.

Today, much of the action in automotive safety technology involves advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), such as lane-keep assistance and blind spot warnings. Widely available across 2020 models, ADAS uses information collected through sensors and cameras to alert the driver to approaching danger and, if necessary, take control of the vehicle. Automatic emergency braking systems, for example, can apply brakes if a possible collision in detected. Some only operate at highway speeds; others at city speeds. Those designed specifically to detect pedestrians are less widely used. Some brands, including BMW and Volkswagen, have installed pedestrian detection across their entire 2020 fleets; others, such as Dodge, don’t even offer it to buyers willing to pay extra. (In a statement, an FCA spokesperson said, “Every FCA vehicle meets or exceeds all applicable safety standards.”) 

Honda recently promoted its pedestrian detection system in an emotional video advertisement featuring various people praising a man named Mark, who is then shown in the path of an oncoming vehicle that suddenly halts when its brakes are automatically activated. Both Mark and the driver breathe a sigh of relief, along with the viewer. 

Unfortunately, in the real world pedestrian detection doesn’t always work. A study by AAA in 2019 found it to be “completely ineffective” at night, when the majority of pedestrian deaths occur, and of limited use if a driver encounters a pedestrian while making a right turn. The systems also require the vehicle to move below a maximum speed; otherwise there isn’t enough time to come to a halt before hitting the pedestrian. And not all pedestrian detection systems are created equal. Some companies, like Subaru and Volvo, have systems that have been rated as far more effective than others.

A much simpler safety technology is the speed governor, which prevents a driver from accelerating above a specified threshold. Also known as speed limiters, these devices could dramatically improve street safety, especially in urban areas. A recent survey of academic studies concluded that a pedestrian has a 95% likelihood of surviving a collision with a vehicle traveling at 19 mph, but only a 10% chance if the vehicle is traveling at 50 mph. While posted speed limits can be easily violated, properly installed speed governors cannot. 

Speed governor technology is not new; it has been available for more than a century. In 1923, a regulatory battle erupted in Cincinnati, where residents voted whether to require any vehicle within the city to have a speed governor set at 25 mph. After a massive lobbying effort from auto interests, the referendum was defeated.

Today speed governors are sometimes placed on commercial fleet vehicles like delivery trucks and tractor-trailers in order to maximize fuel efficiency and limit insurance costs. But they are typically set at very high speeds on cars and trucks. Several German automakers use a 155 mph benchmark, while the 710-horsepower Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat SUV hits its limiter at 180 mph. Volvo, which has built its brand around safety, made a splash last year by announcing that its automobiles will have speed governors installed at “just” 112 mph. But so far no other manufacturer seems to be interested in following Volvo’s lead. 

There is, however, one kind of vehicle that is almost always equipped with speed limiters: the tiny shared e-scooters offered by companies like Bird and Lime. Miami, for example, is one of many cities that require shared e-scooters to travel no faster than 15 mph. Such limits are a key part of municipal efforts to regulate these devices. 

Today’s local leaders retain the right to regulate e-scooter design, but the federal government has long overseen automobile safety through the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). Only Congress and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can make changes to the FMVSS. So even if Cincinnatians wanted to revisit their 1923 automobile speed governor referendum, they couldn’t.

That makes some sense — you’re more likely to drive your car than ride your scooter across city or state boundaries. But it also means that while local leaders are able to limit the functionality of e-scooters, they must rely on federal officials to regulate the cars and trucks that cause the vast majority of street deaths. “We know these [automotive] safety technologies exist,” says Jeff Marootian, the director of Washington, D.C.’s Department of Transportation (and a former official at the U.S. Department of Transportation). “But there is much more coordination needed on the federal level to realize their potential.”

Indeed, federal officials have shown minimal interest in mandating speed governors. The closest they have come recently is the Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act, a Senate bill proposing that 65 mph speed governors be installed on heavy trucks like tractor-trailers. The bill has stalled in Congress, and even if it passed it would have no bearing on privately owned cars and trucks.

You might think that speed governors would be more acceptable in Europe, with its dense cities full of pedestrians and cyclists. In a sense you’d be right: The European Union has declared that all new passenger vehicles must be equipped with speed governors by 2022, and the United Kingdom has followed suit. Inputs like GPS data and traffic sign imagery will allow the governors to automatically adjust as the surrounding speed limit changes, so drivers entering low-speed urban areas will be automatically nudged to slow down. However, the driver will still be able to override the governor by depressing the accelerator. That may prove useful in specific situations (like a driver needing to pass a tractor-trailer before her highway lane ends), but it risks undermining the protection speed governors offer pedestrians and cyclists from a driver who actively chooses to drive recklessly.

Who’s Behind the Wheel?

There is an entirely different approach that could save pedestrian and cyclist lives: Instead of curtailing automotive functionality, safety technology could focus on the dangerous driver and prevent him from turning his car into a death machine. Such solutions would only be activated when a driver shows signs of being drunk, drugged, sleep-deprived or otherwise impaired; in all other instances they wouldn’t restrict the vehicle’s functionality at all.

You are probably familiar with one version of this technology: the breathalyzers often installed in the cars of those convicted of drunk driving. With a so-called ignition interlock, a driver breathes into a mouthpiece, and the vehicle will not start if alcohol is detected.

Drivers balk at the idea of installing breathalyzers unless they are forced to. “It’s a punitive device, meant to ensure compliance,” says Texas A&M’s Winfree. “Would I want to voluntarily put something in my vehicle that’s normally used post-conviction?”

Seeking a less intrusive testing method, automakers and NHTSA jointly created a program called the Driver Alcohol Protection System for Safety (DADSS), which is developing passive ways to analyze a driver’s breath or blood flow when grasping the steering wheel. “Both technologies use infrared methods to measure alcohol concentration,” says DADSS director Robert Strassburger. He expects the technology will be available for widespread deployment this decade. But there is a catch: He expects it to be optional for new automobiles, not required. “If you mandate the technology, you politicize it, you draw battle lines,” he says. “Ultimately the introduction of the tech is delayed rather than hastened.” 

He has a point, given the pushback that met federal proposals for mandated airbags. Carmakers fought that effort for decades, including a campaign to shift blame to drivers and their passengers by passing state laws requiring seat belt usage. And many regulators know the story of a popular backlash 45 years ago that forced the rapid repeal of another safety technology. In 1974 NHTSA mandated that new cars be built with seatbelt interlocks that prevent a car from starting unless the driver was strapped in. It lasted just a year before irate car owners pushed Congress to rescind it. 

Would habitual drunk drivers install alcohol detection systems voluntarily? Consumer Reports’ Friedman doubts it. “My fear is that if it’s made optional, the technology’s potential will be wasted. If we’ve got a technology that can stop drunk driving, we’ve got to put it on everybody’s car.” 

That’s the idea behind the HALT Drunk Driving Act, introduced in 2019 by U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan. The proposed legislation would direct the Department of Transportation to create standards for passive alcohol detection systems in all new cars. “The HALT Act … would direct NHTSA to take stock of all possible solutions to this problem, DADSS being one of them, and begin the rulemaking process so we can start saving lives,” Dingell said in a statement to CityLab. 

Of course, drivers can be compromised in many ways, either by drugs, fatigue or electronic distractions. Such conditions manifest themselves in wandering eyes, a lack of grip on the steering wheel, or a drooping head — behaviors that can be detected by driver monitoring systems (DMS). “I’ve seen prototypes of DMS that have levels of accuracy measuring cognition that are better than any breathalyzer,” says Alex Roy, an executive at Argo.ai and a cohost of the Autonocast podcast.

Only a small fraction of high-end automobiles produced today include DMS. Cadillac’s Super Cruise, for example, can measure the driver’s head angle and monitor eye tracking, to ensure that drivers who engage this sort-of-self-driving option don’t completely stop paying attention to the road. “It doesn’t tell you if the driver is drunk,” Roy says. “But it does tell you if they are capable of observing what’s on the road, tracking it with their eyes and facing forward.” 

Theoretically, DMS could prevent crashes by recognizing a driver is compromised and then bringing the vehicle to a halt. But the technology would first need to evolve. “We’re just now getting a lasso around the problem,” Winfree says. “Before we didn’t even know what the questions were.”

Once driver monitoring advances, Roy thinks it will become widespread — but not because of actions taken by regulators or automakers. Rather, he envisions insurance companies catalyzing their adoption by offering cheaper policies for those who use it. But that would require a level of engagement on safety technology that has been lacking from insurance companies, says Seleta Reynolds, director of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. “The biggest curiosity to me in doing Vision Zero for the last 20 years is the real absence of the insurance industry as a whole.” 

Winfree questions whether the insurance industry could impose extra fees on those refusing to use DMS, even if it wanted to. “Insurance programs are successful because they offer discounts. They don’t have flexibility to do add-on charges.” In other words, don’t hold your breath for insurance systems to become Vision Zero’s savior. 

The same goes for autonomous vehicles, another technology often lauded for its potential safety benefits. After all, autonomous cars should be programmed to obey posted speed limits and avoid veering onto a sidewalk (although one from Uber already killed a pedestrian in Arizona). But timelines for fully autonomous passenger vehicles keep being extended, and even then, it would take decades (at least) before all human-operated automobiles could be retired. It’s safe to say that human drivers — including reckless ones — will be on our streets for a long time to come.

A Safer Way Forward

In Fighting Traffic, Norton unearths a 1928 speech by Miller McClintock, a leading traffic expert in the early days of automobiles. McClintock expounds on the emerging role of the car in American life: “This country was founded on the principle of freedom,” he said. “Now the automobile has brought something which is an integral part of the American spirit — freedom of movement.”

Some 90 years later, McClintock’s words continue to resonate, and they reveal why it’s so hard to mandate automobile safety technology, especially when its beneficiaries are not car buyers. 

Automobiles have long been marketed and purchased as reflections of the driver’s identity. If you want to cover your car with doodles, or swap out the engine, or add a pair of truck nuts, no one can stop you. Auto companies have nurtured powerful associations between their products and individualism with television advertisements featuring drivers storming through empty cities or barreling through the great outdoors. “Cars aren’t sold on what’s under the hood,” says Friedman. “They’re sold on what’s in your heart.”

Having bought into this automotive narrative of individualism, many drivers recoil against anything perceived as a threat to freedom of movement — regardless of the lives that could be saved. Safety technology like speed cameras, which have repeatedly been shown to dramatically reduce collisions and fatalities, face bitter resistance from drivers and lawmakers. “They violate our constitutional rights; we don’t have due process,” says Shelia Dunn, a spokeswoman for the National Motorists Association, an advocacy organization that vows to “fight for the driving freedoms of motorists.” The cameras are so despised by drivers that officials in states like Texas have successfully blocked cities from deploying them.

In this environment, Winfree sees little likelihood that auto companies will broadly adopt safety technologies without being forced by regulators. “They have got to generate profits for their shareholders. If safety is not something that consumers request, they don’t see an upside in trying to force it. They can’t push a rock uphill.” 

Freed to approach pedestrian and cyclist safety as they like, many auto companies have sought to shift blame away from drivers — see, for example, Ford’s 2016 media campaign against “petextrians” distracted by their cell phones (a “problem” that is vastly overblown). Meanwhile, they’ve equipped modern vehicles with increasingly complex dashboard controls whose large touchscreens risk distracting even unimpaired drivers. 

Carmakers have little to say publicly about their how pedestrian and cyclist safety affects their development of auto safety tech. Multiple company representatives approached for this story declined to answer questions. One instead pointed to a study questioning the general effectiveness of ADAS solutions. Another carmaker referred questions to the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a Washington association representing automakers. The Alliance declined repeated requests for comment. 

Asked about new E.U.’s safety regulations, Ford spokesperson Mike Levine said, “We appreciate the EU’s efforts and support further research to determine how best to combat excessive speeding.” On the prospect of speed limiter mandates coming to the U.S., he said, “We always follow what the regulatory requirements are, so if there is a regulation we will meet that requirement.”

Michigan’s Dingell argues that it’s ultimately in automakers’ interests to embrace, rather than resist, the adoption of new safety regulations. “When you look at the type of new technology expected to be deployed in cars, a lot of it is also wrapped up in AV research and development, an area where almost every automaker is looking to compete,” she said. “I think there is potential synergy in AV technology and pedestrian safety measures.”

But so far, U.S. regulators have shown little desire to stiffen pedestrian safety rules. A recent report from the federal Government Accountability Office concluded that “the public lacks clarity on NHTSA’s efforts to address [pedestrian] safety risks.” In 2019, NHTSA announced an upgrade to NCAP that would “consider” new technologies that protect other vulnerable road users, as U.K. and European safety standards do. But right now, Friedman says, “there are no federal standards for cars and trucks that address pedestrian or cyclist safety,” which is a growing problem as personal vehicles become bigger, heavier and more dangerous. (A record 69% of vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2019 were trucks and SUVs, whose higher front surface areas are deadlier to pedestrians. ) 

Using his historian lens, Norton recommends that pedestrians and cyclists not wait for the government to step in. Instead, he suggests safety advocates focus on organizing those angry and worried about the danger automobiles pose to other street users. “A hundred years ago, safety councils across the United States were able to personalize and humanize the horrors [of automobiles],” he says. He cites the modern ghost bike movement as a savvy move to foster comparable sentiments today. “The technique that may be the most poignant was holding memorial services with victims’ names. The message was more implicit than explicit: These are not private tragedies. These are a public loss.” 

LADOT’s Reynolds sounds a similar note: “Most of the safety advances we’ve made in the USA have been because of grassroots activism, with bottom-up campaigns like Mothers Against Drunk Driving.”

One side effect of pandemic-era lockdowns — the expanding popularity of so-called complete streets, which offer more room for walkers and cyclists — might give hope to traffic safety advocates. More people appear to be recognizing how automobiles make streets more unpleasant and hazardous to those who are not inside one. If that awareness grows. it might be enough to mount a challenge to narratives of automotive freedom and compel the federal government to mandate safety technology that protects other road users.

In fact, that may be the only realistic path forward; car companies are unlikely to do it on their own. “It takes either regulation or the threat of regulation,” Friedman says. “That’s what the history of automobile technology tells us.”

David Zipper is a Visiting Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government,where he examines the interplay between urban policy and new mobility technologies. 

 

Fashion

Fashion Briefing: Fashion’s emerging founder-investors are mega-influencers – Glossy

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Fashion Briefing: Fashion’s emerging founder-investors are mega-influencers – Glossy

Fashion’s OG Instagrammers are building empires and, at the same time, growing their influence beyond the industry.

After being schooled for years on the workings of the fashion industry, mega-influencers including Danielle Bernstein (2.7 million Instagram followers) and Rocky Barnes (2.5 million Instagram followers) are graduating to careers less reliant on brands. To take it to the next level, they’re leveraging their prowess and communities, driving deals with effective business partners, and evolving their focus, based on the industry’s direction and their own passions. The emerging results, for both Bernstein and Barnes, are personally-backed brands and investment portfolios set to expand based on early successes.

“The plan is to grow, in a big way,” said Bernstein. “I’m a serial entrepreneur, so I’ll always want to introduce new businesses and categories to my brand. And I’m angel investing and joining the board of advisors for so many companies. That’s the future of the creator economy: harnessing and creating community around your existing followers and then figuring out how to monetize that.”

In 2019, upon inking a licensing deal with New York-based clothing company Onia, Bernstein launched the Shop We Wore What e-commerce site, populated with her expanding We Wore What fashion collection. The collection has been at the center of much recent controversy, due to allegedly including copycat designs. According to Bernstein, she turns to vintage pieces, editorials and travel for inspiration. Bernstein’s also become an investor and advisor for hair supplement company Wellbel and CBD brand Highline Wellness. In May, she became active on Patreon, offering exclusive video content to paying members of her community.

In addition, Bernstein heads up We Gave What, a charitable arm of her company. In 2019, she launched tech company Moe Assist with a project management tool for influencers, though its social accounts have been inactive for two-plus months. When asked for comment, a spokesperson said Moe Assist is in a new fundraising stage and “should have news to share shortly.”

Barnes, meanwhile, partnered with Reunited Clothing to come out with her apparel company, The Bright Side, in December. And she recently became a first-time investor-advisor, for 6-month-old SMS shopping platform Qatch. She announced the partnership in an Instagram post on Monday.

“I feel like a grown-up,” she told me, before confirming that she’s interested in investing in more companies. “Diversifying my business has been a really big [focus] for me. I interact with so many different brands and companies on a daily basis. Using my market knowledge in ways that can help other people is fulfilling and exciting for me. And I especially love when I can be involved with a company from the beginning.”

Building on their content creator role in fashion is a natural progression, both said. And it plays into many industry shifts: On its way out is fashion’s DTC era, largely fueled by Harvard Business School and Wharton graduates using a plug-and-play, marketing-heavy business model to launch brands. More consumers are prioritizing quality, differentiated products, making industry experience and style expertise greater virtues among insiders. At the same time, consumers are increasingly taking shopping cues from relatable, platform-native celebrities, moving on from authoritative editors and more closed-off celebrities.

The school of collaborations
The collaborator-to-founder shift isn’t the newest thing. Other longtime influencers that have made the pivot include Arielle Charnas, with Something Navy; Aimee Song, with Song of Style; Rumi Neely, with Are You Am I; the list goes on. Most often, the names behind these brands don’t have formal design and business training — for her part, Bernstein said she “went to FIT for two years, but didn’t study design and production.” But, for years, they’ve worked hand-in-hand with companies to bring their visions to life. And along the way, they’ve come to know what resonates best with their vast communities, from marketing to merchandising to product.

“My most successful collaborations have led to the largest share of my business,” said Bernstein.

Bernstein’s partnership with Onia came out of her swimwear collaboration with its Onia brand, in May 2019. On the collab’s launch day, it drove $2 million in sales, and an included style was the brand’s best-selling swimsuit of the summer. Also in 2019, Bernstein collaborated with Joe’s Jeans on multiple denim collections. The launch day of the first, in March 2019, marked Joe Jeans’ best sales day to date, said Jennifer Hawkins, the brand’s svp of marketing and innovation on a Glossy Podcast in October.

Both served as learning opportunities for Bernstein, who said — as with all of her collaborations — she took full advantage: “It was never just [uploading] a post, and then I went away,” she said. “I always wanted to know how the performance was, in terms of sales, and asked questions: ‘Can you share the analytics?’ ‘What did you see on your end?’ ‘What worked and what didn’t work?’”

She added, “They provided a ton of data, in terms of what I could sell and what the market was missing.”

Likewise, she said, she always followed and shared with partner brands the Instagram Insights and Google Analytics numbers around her corresponding posts. Doing so gave all parties a 360-degree view of a collaboration’s success.

“I’ve learned what works for brands so they get the largest return on their investment,” she said.

For example, she’s learned to lean on her audience’s tastes, versus rely on her own, by allowing them to offer feedback throughout the design process through Instagram. That’s included the selection of fabrics and colors and the fit sessions with models. She only spotlights her favorite styles and what she wears in her own social posts, as a play for authenticity.

According to Bernstein, the collaborations with brands allowing her to play an advisor role — by guiding them on influencer partnerships, marketing and messaging — are always more successful. And they often turn into longer-term investment or advising partnerships.

Bernstein chose to work with Onia on the We Wore What collection based on its prioritization of quality and fit, and ability to keep to affordable retail prices. Currently, prices on the We Wore What site range from $20, for a scrunchie, to $228, for a vegan leather jumpsuit.

Barnes was also ready to go out on her own after finding the right partners. Her Reunited Clothing partnership came after working with the company to create her Express product collaboration, in early 2019. On its first-quarter 2019 earnings call, interim CEO Matthew C. Moullering said the company had seen “a strong start to [the] collection both in-stores and online and [believed] it [was] helping to introduce the brand to a new audience.”

“Having your own brand is terrifying,” Barnes said. “But I like that I’m in control and not so dependent on doing the day-to-day posts promoting other companies.”

But, she added, “One of the huge benefits of working with all these different brands on all these different projects is that we’re constantly getting introduced to new people and seeing who we like working with.”

Barnes’ internal team consists of her husband, who’s the “business brains” of the company, she said, and an assistant.

Like Bernstein, Barnes stressed the need for outside support in the production process: “I love such quirky, crazy things, but I also understand what is realistic for a buyer and a normal girl buying clothes,” she said. “The experience of taking ideas and making them work for a bigger group of people was my learning curve going into a business. It’s important to have a good, diverse team around you who can make your idea something that’s marketable.”

For its part, We Wore What has seen “200x growth in the last year,” as it’s expanded to new categories, Bernstein said. Its ready-to-wear, swimwear, resort wear, and activewear are now sold in “dozens and dozens of retailers around the world,” many of which offer style exclusives; they include Revolve, Bloomingdale’s and Intermix.

“Launching my own brand was putting the proof in the pudding for the power of influencers, when it comes to selling product,” she said.

As with her Joe’s and Onia collaborations, Bernstein sees a rush-to-buy with We Wore What product drops. “The first 10 minutes is when we see the biggest portion of our sales for the entire collection,” she said.

To build buzz, Shop We Wore What’s Instagram account (213,000 followers) features in its Stories the line sheets of the soon-to-launch styles, allowing customers to thoughtfully plan their buy. Doing so has led to lower return rates, Bernstein said. The company’s marketing mix also includes text messages and emails, VIP discounts and user-generated content.

Bernstein has a staff of four people, which include a chief operating officer and a brand coordinator. She said she prioritizes establishing partners with skills and expertise she doesn’t have, so she can learn from them along the way. Ideally, she’d have learned about tech packs, fittings and production logistics in school, but she’s training as she goes.

Moving forward, Bernstein said she plans to extend the size range of We What What styles, which are currently available in sizes XS-XXL, and launch collections with collaborators to sell exclusively on her brand’s DTC site. In addition, she aims to eventually open “experimental” physical retail, starting with pop-ups.

As for her investment-advisor portfolio, she’s currently in talks with companies centered on the concepts of “being able to sell your closet and even rent your closet.”

As for Barnes’ Bright Side, she said it will hit “a bunch of new retailers this year.”

Moving beyond fashion
Up next for Shop We Wore What is a new product category that will hit before the holiday season. Considering her passion for home furnishings and decor — based on her @homeworewhat Instagram account (7,500 followers) and recent press coverage of her new SoHo loft — it’s a safe bet that a home-related category is in the cards.

Likewise, Barnes hinted at a future Bright Side home collection, following her recent, two-year home remodel, which she’s getting set to debut on social media.

Lifestyle brands are the clear goal.

“I would love to be a combination of Rachel Zoe and Martha Stewart, just having my hands in everything and creating this really beautiful lifestyle where you can entertain and be fashionable,” Barnes said. “That’s kind of the dream.”

She added, “Fashion is where my heart has always been, but I’m growing as a person and there’s so much more in my life right now: my family, my home — and I’m getting older, so beauty [and skin care] makes sense now. Sharing all of that with everyone seems so natural; it would be weird if I only did fashion.”

As for future investments, though Quatch fits perfectly into Barnes’ world, with its fashion-tech focus, she said she’s open to investing in any company where she sees opportunity.

What’s more, she has no plans to retire from social media, though she has yet to tackle TikTok.

“People’s need for content has only increased, so I’m posting and creating content more than ever,” Barnes said. “But I’ve learned to become more of a hard-ass with brands. The companies that are willing to work with me and [facilitate] the most like authentic relationship possible are the ones I move forward with.” Reunited can attest.

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South African bowler Tabraiz Shamsi: Amateur magician; professional tweaker-trickster

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Harry Potter fans would know this as the Room of Requirement; muggle cricketers dub it backend operations. Tabraiz Shamsi is an amateur magician. He is also a professional worrier of why some googlies don’t turn as much as he’d want, in cricket.

For the Proteas chinaman bowler, the room of requirement from where he could pull out any game data, used to be the dependable ‘P Dawgg’, former South Africa analyst Prasanna Agoram combining his ken and nous and fast processing laptop. Prasanna enviably would be privy to the trial (and error) runs of Magician Shamsi’s classical Tourniquet coin-drops with the cricket ball. Which was the unglamorous, quirk-in-progress of his left-arm leg spin.

At the stroke of 1 a.m, oftener than not, Shamsi would come looking for what he called ‘shit balls’, in what Prasanna reckoned were otherwise impressive, less-than-run-a-ball bowling spells. This was that one specific delivery that went for a six to sully Shamsi’s 4-0-22-3 T20 match figures. It was the bugs, not the features, that the 29-year-old would cussedly fixate on.

“I’d never point out that he’s missing his length or the back foot was collapsing, at 12.30 in the night. Because Shamo, you see, would then take me to the nets at 1 a.m! He’s capable of calling the manager and telling him at that hour that I have to practice NOW. You had to be careful about what you told him at 1 a.m,” Prasanna laughs, underlining ungrudging admiration for the Proteas spinner’s dedication.

A series of self-recriminations in staccato would follow the ‘Bhai, can you please put on the shit-ball that went for a six.’ “He’d curse himself watching replays: ‘no good, not international class, garbage ball.’ If you try telling him it is ‘well-played’ from Jos Butler and not exactly a poor ball, he’d be hard on himself and say, ‘This is nonsense from Shamo’,” Prasanna recalls of his exacting standards.

For, the South African World No 1 spinner – who lends mystery to the Saffer bowling attack if not entirely upstaging their thunderbolt battery of pacers – knows that all sleights of hand, can come with uncontrollable twists of fate. Both in magic, and cricket.

A young boy of 15 at Paarl who tried to bowl quick like Wasim Akram and Chaminda Vaas, had wound up as a left arm leg spin all-sorts, after years of compulsive fine-tuning. And taken failures and omissions into his run-up’s five-strides.

***
Born in Johannesburg, Shamsi wanted to be a super quick in the land of bolting pacers. His progress though didn’t follow the regular route of being identified early for First teams at schools and playing age-groups. Also, he was told he wasn’t quick enough.

Speaking to the podcast ‘Pavilion conversations with C.S’ recently, Shamsi recalls his earliest break at age 15, bowling alone in the school nets, with the cricket coach’s office nearby. The coach would stop by and ask him what he was upto. “I said, ‘Sir, the U15 trials are coming up. I want to make the Paarl team wanna progress’. He told me – you are not gonna make it. But even there I thought he realised the type of character I am. That was just his way to push me even harder. He said ‘Don’t waste your time practicing coz you won’t get selected. And i was even more driven,” he told the host Mr. Chiwanza.

Shamsi would end up with most wickets that tournament, make the B team (“Still not A”), followed by U17 and U19s for the local side. “I didn’t get selected for SA U19s or invited to camps. My past was little different. In fact I got my opportunity at semi-pro cricket because one player got selected for U19s and went to the World Cup. A spot opened up because of him. I just knew that was my chance I had to make it work. And fortunately I performed. When he came back from the World Cup, he couldn’t get into the team,” Shamsi recalled.

It was around 2015-6 after he had zeroed in on Chinaman as his chosen bag of assorted tricks in franchise, provincial cricket, that he first sought out Prasanna, while closely following senior leggie and his ‘bruv’ Imran Tahir. Prasanna promised to compile a list of outstanding T20 spinners of that year for comparison, when Shamsi asked him: ‘Why just T20? I want to play all formats.’

Prasanna promised to revert after two days on Friday, and on Monday, he had a message from the hotel lobby at 10.30 am that Shamsi was waiting. “Normally, cricketers will turn up at 11.30, if the analyst time is 10.30. This guy made me abandon my breakfast and was ready with a list of questions. I’d prepared a presentation earlier on bowlers like Warne, Ajmal and Herath and how they bowled on unhelpful tracks, what lengths to bowl at what stage, and offered to email it to him. He tells me: “No. I’ll write it down in my own words. I don’t want shortcuts.”

Shamsi would sit and plan for every batsman – his notes diary in tow, even on matchdays when he wasn’t in Playing XI. And once he would spill the beans on why brainwaves struck him at 1 a.m – his preferred time to brainstorm with the analyst. “He once told me he eats my brain at that hour, so that he gets dreams of how to get a Kohli or Sharma out, so he can wake up next day he can execute the training plans.”

Once he came angsty about his googlies not spinning as much as Kuldeep Yadav or Brad Hogg. “When he said it’s not spinning, I told him Shamo’ you didn’t bowl any googly. That’s it. He hit the nets and bowled 1000 googlies non-stop and then said, he’s now hitting the groove.”

But nothing had prepared Prasanna for Shamsi’s mic-drop in the pink ball Test against Australia where the Chinaman was fancied as it’s tougher to spot the wrist in the Adelaidian twilight. Shamsi was instructed to block for 20 balls and support Faf as Proteas were hanging on at 210-9. Shamsi would announce he would score a 50 – against Pat Cummins, Hazlewood and Starc. Finally he was unbeaten on 18. “He came back and blustered ‘If someone had suported me, I’d have hit that 50’.”

***

This constant state of ‘upbeat’ – talking up his own abilities to score a 50 coming at No 11 against Cummins & Starc – might well be the sort of swag and sizzle that the staid South African teams need at ICC tournaments. For a large part of the last 30 years, the Proteas have entered tournaments with burdensome tags of ‘talented’ and ‘favourites’ and come up short. The tasteless mocking glee of choke-jokes has run its course, and being light-weights might well prove liberating.

For all their botched run chases in 50 overs, South Africa can stake claim to the historic highest run-rally to 438. And the innings-interval remark of Jacques Kallis, the most expensive bowler in Australia’s 434, who had quipped “Guys, I think we’ve done a good job. They’re 15 runs short.”

Shamsi likes his boisterous one-liners too. And his showboating and noisy over-the-top pantomime aggression.

After starring in a T20 win against Ireland earlier, he would tell South African journalist Telford Vice, “In my young age, I started as a seamer but was told I’m not quick enough to be a fast bowler so became a spinner. Grew up watching Andre Nel, Dayle Steyn, Allan Donald, that’s where aggression comes from.”

He knows it’s a double-edged sword and a bowler can be packed off, but it can disrupt batters too. “Whatever it takes to win. I’m in charge of making our presence felt on the ground and ensure the team never backs down from opponents,” he added.

Shamsi recently responded to Darren Sammy’s tweet on who would win the T20 World: “Come on skipper, you know the answer to this already…. South Africa of course.” Scroll down the thread, and some mocker mangles his grammar: “are you comedy me”. A good laugh was had by all. Pressure punctured.

“He’ll say things like ‘I’ll single-handedly win this,” Prasanna says, “Whether it happens or not, it gives confidence to people close to you – your team.”

***

Shamsi’s made it to the top of rankings, taking 49 wickets from 42 T20Is, at a strike-rate of 14.8 and averaging 6.6. There’s been a bucketful of wickets in franchise cricket and The Hundred. He’s 31 and has bidden his time to make it to the national team, and another 4 years into the Playing XI. The Wicket then, is an ocassion to celebrate, he reckons.

“I’m a human being and not a robot and want to make long-lasting happy memories that will live with me forever long after my career is done and that is the reason behind my celebrations,” he wrote in a social media post once. “My celebrations mean no disrespect to the opponents. They help me enjoy myself, switch on and off during the game to release some pressure, and put some smiles on people’s faces too.”

There’s the “Shoe” that got going in the West Indies, where within seconds of a wicket, he’d shrug his ankle open from the left shoe and pretend to speak on a landline receiver. Then there’s the bus driver-celebration with Carlos Braithwaite and something about a birdie’s chirp. A flying kiss to the wife and a mock punch to a fielder like a streets hip hopper. Though the untold back-stories raise anticipation of what he’ll whip up next.

Prasanna says there can be new hairdos before every game, sometimes “thrice a week”, and that magic tricks and celebrations are practiced as diligently as the googlies and top-spinners. “Not only will he say, ‘Tomorrow I’ll get Ben Stokes out.’ He’ll also ask you to watch the celebration.”

Amongst his most famous on-field triumph-trumpetings after snaring a batter is pulling a wand out of a hankey – a magician’s staple. But never in cricket, where magic’s glossary is slathered on the slow bowlers and their guiles.

T20 commentators love his name, lending it a South American football match caller’s vroom: “Shaaa-mzzziii”. But it’s the celebrations that can befuddle the most trained of raconteurs. When Shamsi got Wihan Lubbe in the Mzansi Super League, the commentator would build up to the expected celebration. “Is the shoe coming off? No. Look at that…it’s magic,” he would chortle. Cricket was momentarily put to the side, before he resumed confused: “That was a legspinner…… Beg your pardon… Offspinner… That did the trick..” Shamsi’s delivery had jagged away from the leftie and the post-celebration left the commentator’s mind in knots.

Appearing on the Dan Nicholl Show in SA, Shamsi had pulled one of those ‘I can guess the card pulled out of the deck after being shuffled’ tricks. It was ace of spades.

Magic had been his fallback option till age 16, he’d say. “So if cricket doesn’t work out… I ll practice magic for 10 years… But naa… It’s gonna work out.. I’ll bamboozle you all,” he would say, charming the audience.

At the start of the magic gig, Shamsi had handed a sealed envelope to the host. “Sealed with Proteas saliva” Nicholl had joked with whispered reverence. The distracting envelope had briefly become the centrepiece, and Shamsi would explain later:
“You satisfied you made me stop shuffling when u wanted me to? Funny thing is…You thought you were in charge of the trick… Telling me when to stop. Even though it’s your show, I’m running this party… I was controlling you and I actually made you stop at a specific point. …And to prove that I had written down something in this envelope before starting the trick..” It read Ace of Spades.

Shamsi’s assortment of Chinaman, is a bit like that: planned spontaneity. Allan Donald in a video while introducing him to RCB few seasons ago, said: “Left arm, tweaks it this way, tweaks it that way, then tweaks it the other way.” Offering attacking options in the middle overs, with his ability to turn ball both ways, and variations of top spinner, the side spinner and googly, makes him effective against both lefties and righties. The constant explosion of activity – before, right after when appealing (he once did a spot of bhangra jumps, then sat down altogether while pleading a decision) and when celebrating, is in fact the sealed envelope distraction.

Yet, bad days are not unfamiliar to Shamsi, and his role can be flexible like the magician’s wand, like in the West Indies, to keep things quiet, contain against the big power hitters. “There’s two ways to skin a cat… Not really fussed about not getting wickets in WI. That was a different role,” he told the media later.

Sometimes the magic is in not believing the flimflam and sleight. Like rankings. “I don’t lose sleep over being No 1. Obviously it’s a nice feeling to be on top. But I’ve said it before and I truly mean it. I don’t even think I’m the best bowler in our team. We have some great bowlers in the unit. Rankings don’t mean anything if a batsman gets hold of you. I don’t even know how those rankings work honestly.”

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Five great Twenty20 World Cup upsets

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