September 7, 2020

Making It Up 135: Fashion graduates and creative peers

On Making It Up 135, Charis and Eugene talk about the challenges facing fashion design graduates due to the pandemic. They also discuss how creative peers can accelerate personal growth.


00:01:44 Fashion grads
00:23:57 Creative peers


September 26, 2019

How Luxury Fashion Was Reduced to Mediocre Logos


Luxury brands used to be held in high regard as much for their craftsmanship as their lofty price points. But now we’re awash in comparatively average products with questionable price tags. How did luxury brands get to this point where their extensive history has been reduced to a big logo on a pool slide and will they take a step back?

The Timeline in Decades

Throughout the past 40 years, luxury brands have experienced cycles where they dilute and re-strengthen their brands under different models.

’80s: Luxury brands went crazy on licensing under the notion that every time they licensed their brand to a different company, they’d create a different product category. This meant they could collect royalties on the licenses without having to deal with the manufacturing and distribution processes.

’90s: With that stint of brand dilution (and the loss of luxury brands’ wealthy customer base), licensing was dialed down and brands shifted to diffusion brands such as Versus by Versace, D&G by Dolce & Gabbana, and Moschino Cheap & Chic. The idea here was brands could retain the prestige of and minimize the risk to their main high-end label but differentiate just enough to attract middle-class wealth.

’00s: As expected, brands started to fear brand dilution after more people started to access their products, so they cut down on licenses yet again. Building on their experiences in the past two decades, many luxury brands followed a similar strategy of maintaining just a few very tightly-controlled licenses across different regions (most notably, Japan) and product categories such Burberry and Armani’s partnerships with Fossil for watches. Some newer brands at the time like Tom Ford, were also able to leverage strong licenses to grow quickly, showing they were still a highly relevant part of the strategy.

’10s: By this point, brands are risking it all with their main labels: Dolce & Gabbana re-absorbed D&G in 2011, while Marc Jacobs followed suit with Marc by Marc Jacobs in 2015. Their strategy since has been to tap into new millennial and Gen-Z markets by offering luxury goods at lower, more accessible price points: Gucci pool slides, anyone? Either that or they’ve fully embraced collaborations with sports or streetwear brands they wouldn’t have designed to be in the same room with last generation.

Brand Dilution

Compared with the previous decades, luxury brands have gone through a fundamental shift in direction: No one seems to care about how watered down brand image is now — especially where there’s profit to be had. There are many possible factors that intersect to produce the current trend in increased “premium mediocrity”:

  • Loss of traditional market: luxury brands lost the traditional wealthy customer they used to cater to, both in the literal sense and in terms of support as brands shift direction.
  • Real wealth goes “stealth”: This generation hasn’t necessarily filled the loss of the previous market. Millennials, even the wealthy ones, are emphasizing other signifiers of affluence and they don’t include logos, experience and travel being the big ones.
  • But some are eager to flex: Millennials and Gen Z represent a profitable market that now has the spending power to access the lower limits of the brand — and wants to show that off.
  • Money needs to be made: Main luxury players like LVMH and Kering are now publicly listed conglomerates, which means they have to keep driving profits up in order to lift the price of their stock. Diluting some of the brand to achieve this is straightforward.
  • Money needs to be protected: Especially to prepare for the sudden loss of other lucrative if fickle markets (such as in China).
  • The “drop” model plays nicely: Drops, as in non-seasonal and limited-edition releases that were popularized by streetwear brands like Supreme, help generate attention and shuttle customers into stores. It goes without saying the rarity factor works very well for both streetwear and luxury brands when they collaborate.

Friction and Meaning

From the very beginning of MAEKAN we’ve always maintained that there has to be a need for even a small degree of friction to access a brand (and continue to do so). This is because we saw first-hand what happens culturally to a brand and the meaning behind what we do if it becomes as simple as “paying to play.”

We’re certainly not a luxury brand, but we recognize the reason why such brands gained the respect they did in the past was because of the high level of friction people needed to overcome to access them.

The friction is still there for luxury brands, albeit a bit less of it thanks to lower price points, but what has changed fundamentally is the meaning behind the labels. For one, priorities have done a 180 from exclusivity to inclusivity, but the verbiage needs to be nuanced. The introduction of new modern luxury brands that operate first has opened up the field to new options that are giving luxury a run for its money. Quality (in its nuanced definition) need not be expensive anymore.

Eugene Rabkin, in his op-ed for Highsnob, summarizes it best: “The conundrum that luxury brands face today is that democratization is automatically considered ‘good,’ and elitism is automatically considered ‘bad.’ For luxury this is a paradox, but for streetwear it’s not, and that’s one of the reasons why streetwear has been so successful. Arguably, Supreme is the most elitist brand out there, because its releases are so limited, but who would ever even consider calling it elitist? Meanwhile, in some circles, luxury is still a dirty word because of its connotations with exclusivity and classism.”

As we saw in the past, luxury brands are very robust and adaptable to keep themselves afloat and are masters of controlling both accessibility and scarcity: their latest moves are just part of those necessary adaptations to changing times. But now that they’ve snagged some new customers (whose long-term loyalty remains to be seen) it remains to be seen what they’ll do this time, if anything, once their brand names become even more widespread.

September 19, 2019

How Econyl became fashion’s favorite eco-friendly material

When it comes to fashion’s impact on the planet, it’s easy to forget that nylon, one of our most prized fabrics of convenience is in-fact a synthetic material made of petroleum that ends up in the ocean as microplastic. Can Econyl, an endlessly recylable material increasingly favored by fashion brands be the temporary answer we’re looking for?

What is Econyl?

Econyl is a nylon fabric made from discarded fishing nets, fabric scraps, and other waste. It functions like traditional nylon in terms of manufacturing and wear. The difference is that it’s produced by a chemical recycling process that breaks it down into its core polymers (long repeating chains of molecules) that can then be reassembled into new material. This means Econyl has more than a few promising benefits:

  • Continuously Recyclable: It doesn’t degrade the material with each cycle until it eventually needs to be discarded, which happens in the more commonplace method where plastic is melted down to reform into new material.
  • Sustainable: It both eliminates a large amount of oil normally used to make nylon (by using existing material) and reduces CO2-equivalent emissions in its manufacture by 50%.
  • Traceable: Econyl’s sourcing and production processes are publicly available, meaning it has a high level of traceability. This also helps distinguish it from materials claiming to be recycled nylon
  • Economically Feasible: An exact price comparison isn’t available, but it’s fair to assume as a direct replacement for virgin nylon, it needs to keep its costs down to stay competitive until it’s more widely adopted

Aquafil currently produces two types of Econyl fibers: Its carpet fibers that are quickly replacing nylon as the material of choice for many major companies and our subject of focus, its textile fibers.

Brands catch on

The textile version is of course, softer and like nylon, is compatible with the same dyes, flame retardants and other treatments. When Aquafil launched Econyl in 2011, it was used primarily in swimsuits, which makes sense given its combination of softness and durability.

However, it was its high quality that won designers and fashion brands over who previously avoided nylon replacements because they didn’t fit the bill. Here are some using the material:

  • Kering: the first luxury group to integrate Econyl into its product lines
  • Prada: replaced some of its most iconic nylon products with Econyl (as Re-Nylon) and plans to substitute all its nylon with recycled material by late 2021.
  • Malaika New York: Self-described “zero waste” techwear brand that uses the material in most of its items
  • Burberry: Launched a capsule collection in August 2019 using Econyl, which included a reinvention of some of its iconic items
  • SAINTAIA: Montréal-based swimwear company that uses it in its collections

What remains to be seen

It’s important to note that even as a product that is in theory infinitely recyclable, Econyl is not perfect. One issue facing the fabric as with most synthetics is the threat of microplastics that shed off from its fibers during washing. It’s not yet clear how much of an impact Econyl has, which is of concern given that it’s meant to ultimately reduce waste by retrieving discarded fishing nets from the oceans, not returning it to oceans in an even more harmful state.

Yet, humans show no sign of abandoning plastics because they’re frankly, just too convenient. In their clothing form as synthetic fibers, they provide the breathability, structure, heat retention and other properties we’ve come to prize in our wearable tech that helps support our modern lifestyles. Plastics are unfortunately here to stay for now.

But as Econyl becomes more popular and widely adopted in fashion, especially as luxury brands make large-sweeping ethical moves to keep them tuned in with this generation, we could see the emergence of similar closed-loop systems as the new standard. Once the highest standards of sustainability become “sexy,” there might be hope for changing both our demands and our consumption habits.

June 13, 2019

Do we really need any more "sustainable" fashion brands?

As the discussion around the climate crisis continues to gain attention and with it, serious consideration on how to actually solve it, multiple industries will have to face the question of whether more consumerism is the answer.

Movers in the space

  • Maxine Bédat: Founded the widely anticipated ethical fashion brand Zady before ending it to launch the New Standard Institute, a non-profit data hub that supports research and publishes findings on best practices to “right misinformation wrongs” in the ethical fashion space.
  • Orsola de Castro: started her own upcycle label before co-founding ethical fashion advocacy group Fashion Revolution.
  • Céline Semaan: used to ethically manufacture accessories and garments before starting Study Hall, a UN-backed series of sustainability-centric conferences.
  • Rachel Kibbe: ran a multi-brand ethical fashion e-tailer before turning her company Helpsy into the largest used clothing collector in the Northeast.
  • Shannon Lohr: Founded Factory45, an ethical brand accelerator program.

Of all the above interviewed, not a single one answered that the key to advancing the sustainable fashion movement was more brands, which suggests an uncomfortable cultural truth we will have to face: more is still more.

Vicious cycles

Current culture reveres if not deifies entrepreneurship to the point that it is now a social marker to be a founder of something, including brands that innovate to produce something new. Even within entrepreneur culture, a business is framed as the ultimate means of “doing good,” which attracts even more people to the space to fulfill that ideal.

And that space is already saturated and still dominated by big companies. Sustainability conference Copenhagen Fashion Summit is partly funded by H&M, Nike, Kering, and Target, showing that top players are clinging to a leading role in driving sustainability—even if they’re ill-equipped to do so as brands. This could be compared to the coal industry’s fight to remain in business and relevant to the clean energy movement even though its ideals are incompatible with the goals.

“Humanitarianism and entrepreneurship are actually distinct things.”

In his book Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, reporter Anand Giridharadas writes: “Often, when people set out to do the thing they are already doing and love to do … and they promise grand civilizational benefits as a spillover effect, the solution is oriented around the solver’s needs more than the world’s — the win-wins, purporting to be about others, are really about you.”

The unfortunate reality we are in now is one where we’re actually forced to evaluate and weigh our tangible individual freedom against an abstract greater good far off elsewhere in the world and in the future. Concerns about the environment have lead to people giving up plastic straws, later meat and eventually fossil fuels. These are all in line with how much of our comforts we are willing to give up for the planet.

But comforts are not life purposes, and things are getting to the point where we might have to consider changing those too. With overpopulation a concern, people are considering not having children, not only a traditionally major part of our life cycles but also a source of meaning in a conflicted world. This is not meant to equate having children with founding a fashion label, but because both are sources of meanings and well within the vast realm of possibilities we enjoy in the first world, should we change our life goals to suit the planet or exercise our freedom to stay the course—accomplish what we want, how we want it and when we want it?

June 6, 2019

Yasunori Fujikawa discusses ONFAdd's approach to product design for an evolving world

At first glance, ONFadd appears as a product brand focused on technical function. The predominately black tones give off a utilitarian angle. But beneath the surface is a much larger play at hand.

ONFAdd is part of a larger agency, known as NEWPEACE, which at its core tackles cultural pillars in flux including politics, gender, travel, and more. Each product exists as a potential solution to a challenge identified by the ONFAdd team including storage, clothing, and accessory lines. We connected with ONFAdd’s Yasunori Fujikawa for insight into the brand, its structure and how they view their contribution to the changing world and traveling lifestyle many are adopting.

See ONFAdd’s whole product line over at their site.

How did the idea for ONFAdd begin?

The catalyst was one of our team members who hates carrying bags around took it on himself to prototype a “bag that can only hold a MacBook Air.”

It was conceptualized as “hands-free, light-weight,” but this was also reinforced with elements of traditional Japanese considerations towards mobility, which helped us to realize our first collection “Inspired by Japanese culture.”

Since then, we’ve taken the theme of “mobility” beyond just Japan. It wasn’t meant as some lofty abstract concept, but rather starting from your immediate needs and making your own product to fit those needs.

What are your thoughts on the future of work and travel?

Aside from technological progress (especially mobile cloud-based AI), there’s going to be a few important changes to the context of work headed our way:

  • Diminished need for a “dedicated workspace”
  • Diminished need for people who can only judge in a “yes/no” logical framework
  • Greater need for people who can work creatively within different paradigms

Travel will be a key means of achieving that. People come up with new things by going to different places, walking through them and intermingling with communities and knowledge that’s accumulated through history. I think this is how we go about “making the world a better place” in that work starts to resemble travel for leisure and travel for leisure starts to resemble work. Eventually, the two will merge to the point they’re like any other “human activity.”

Can you tell me a bit about the sister agency? How does ONFAdd interact with that?

ONFAdd is a division of a company called NEWPEACE and its mission is to update an outdated society.

NEWPEACE is a made up of a group of small teams tasked with accomplishing that through a different theme including love, gender, politics, ideology, housing, food, education, sports, etc. Within the scope of these themes, team members conduct both client work and their own businesses.

ONFAdd is actually positioned as a company within a team whose theme is “dwelling.” One of the conditions for each theme, essentially each team, is that there has to be more than one business in it. For people trying to update the world, I think it’s important both internally and externally to commit to risk-taking using your own company. Externally it shows to a client that you’re responsible and prepared, while internally, you learn more and accumulate more knowledge about the client you can share, which makes things more efficient.

How do you come up with products? What is your process?

A vision of the world you want to create, a certain function, material, social trend, traditions from around the world and things like that can all be starting points. Oftentimes, it starts with whatever inspirations the members in charge of product design have, but sometimes it stems from something an external partner brings up. Beyond that, the general product development workflow stays basically the same: you source materials, make the first prototype, and then balance function, meaning, and economics through three rounds of prototyping.

How many of your solutions are based on traditional problems (i.e. traveling or carrying heavy items vs. digital problems)?

Our team members all have a strong interest in solving “universal” problems. Because we’re also a product-based brand, for the time being, most of our approaches are naturally geared toward realizing physical goals. So building on those two points, we’ll be looking to solve a lot of traditional problems regardless of if that problem is an old one with a long history. Rain Socks, which emerged with yesterday’s rare sneaker boom comes to mind, That concept ended up solving the fairly traditional problem of shoes getting wet in the rain, but the catalyst of the idea is quite modern.

Do you think there’s a Japanese approach to how ONFAdd solves problems? What is that process like?

We think of things subtractively. When you have a lot of problems you want to solve at the same time, you don’t achieve that by increasing the number of functions, but instead keeping its physical nature and shape as abstract and simple as possible so it can be used in more ways. That would be the most Japanese approach, I think. During product development, the design gets simpler and simpler and we rarely add features after the first sample.

What has been the most interesting product you’ve designed so far?

We emphasize the following factors with our items:

  • Hackable: It can be used to “hack” existing systems in a way that makes it more convenient for you as opposed to the original intended usage.
  • Adaptable: It’s open to change and flexibly adapts to us and our environments and situations without assuming a single correct answer.
  • Scaled Back: It distances itself from the value system of “more is more and bigger is better” and focuses on capturing the richness you find at the edge of one’s imagination.

Of the items that fit the above that many of our members like, it would probably be the Rain Socks. What started as conveniently-sized foot covers for chemical plants that also increased the durability of the soles effectively became an essential item for sneakerheads. I would say that makes it a perfect case that fulfills those requirements. At the very least, it’s an interesting product even if you just look at the sales and market response.

Do you think about some product’s lifelines? For example, the rain socks only last for 10 km which some have said isn’t very sustainable.

The team definitely recognizes that sustainability is a premise that can’t be ignored. I think brands that don’t care about that now will eventually be seen as uncool from an ethics standpoint. Most of our items are about as robust as other brands, so I don’t think the life cycle is necessarily short. However, for products that touch the ground and where the primary goal is to keep shoes clean, it’s hard to match the durability of other items, but we’d definitely like to keep improving in terms of durability and adopting environmentally friendly materials.

What types of products do you want to explore in the future?

We’re currently developing a line of super basic bags catered to a lifestyle in motion that isn’t fixed in place. The plan is to make this line the go-to for the pioneers of the segment. We hope to create the durability and timelessness that will keep it at the forefront of culture even 100 years from now, much like Louis Vuitton was when travel for leisure evolved to become part of our culture.

What’s been the most challenging part about ONFAdd?

I would say creating a culture and a brand that can carry that culture far enough to become a world-view. While I’m satisfied with the system we created and all the cool things we were able to create from it in such a short period, I feel that unless we don’t continue to strengthen the link between our product development philosophy and the target market, it’ll be hard to create the big shift in society we want. As we look to become the first choice of the people pushing society forward and create a new future with them, we need to become the brand that can communicate what that’s going to look like.

Do you think that ONFAdd only creates solutions for bigger problems in society like capitalism, unaffordable homes, or a lack of permanent jobs?

Strictly speaking, it’s not that we’re not concerned with how “big” the problem is so much as we’re a lot more interested in how great the benefit to society will be if we come up with solutions.

April 29, 2019

Artefact team-up with Material for the Arts to release a classic 1969-inspired sneaker

Artefact out of New York City looks to iconic footwear design as the foundation of their brand. Their latest release, the N°11 connects with the perfect partner in Material for the Arts to celebrate accessibility in art.

The MFTA resides within the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and since the ’70s has provided reusable art supplies and resources to public schools and non-profits alike. The art-driven angle results in a sneaker release inspired by a classic tennis silhouette from 1969. The design features navy and powder blue acrylic paint drips across a clean white Nappa leather upper and white rubber sole.

To mark the partnership, a portion of sales will be donated to Material for the Arts. The N°11 is available now through with a retail price of USD 195.

April 23, 2019

No Diploma is about finding your path with or without that piece of paper

No Diploma is a Canadian brand looking to contest and re-write the mainstream narrative around the expectations of the diploma, whether you have it or not. It’s a celebration of the outliers and those setting off on their own journey in accordance with a different set of rules they write. We spoke to Ben of No Diploma for his modern thoughts on what it means to choose your own path. Follow No Diploma on Instagram for more updates.

1. What is No Diploma? Why does it need to exist?

No Diploma serves as a community & education platform. From the dropouts, unemployed graduates, self-employed entrepreneurs, to those with several degrees but use none of them in their field, we are here to spark a conversation: Is a Diploma necessary in this day and age? How can we improve the teaching and learning experience? What are some alternative sources of education?

Our clothing line is a way to support this movement, we create clothes and school supplies that tell stories. Our inspiration hails from university apparel but repurposed for students who follow the new curriculum.

Our existence stems from the understanding that other forms of knowledge can be acquired outside of a school setting. Not everyone will find their purpose in life from school, yet No Diploma is not opposing the educational system, but rather taking a critical look while providing an alternative attitude to the mainstream conception that an individual is defined and limited to their diploma. The brand needs to exist because it gives people a sense of belonging, a community where people can learn from each other and provide resources to support ongoing education & personal growth.

2. What’s the intersection of community and education?

I feel like community is what allows education to become a stronger force. Connecting with like-minded individuals who share a close set of values only enriches the experience of education. This virtuous cycle is what No Diploma aims to create, an unspoken means of support with the responsibility to share knowledge and information to better oneself.


3. Do you think friendships introduced during your educational years are necessarily real friendships? Or friendships out of convenience?

Friendships during educational years are and sometimes aren’t real friendships. However, real friendships can be built everywhere. In a school setting, you might meet your best friends or meet people who will only use you for your help on school-related work, but that’s just like any real-world situation. Just have to find the real ones who you resonate with and build from there.

4. What is the most important thing you’ve learned in the last year?

To trust my own voice.

Building myself for that last 4-5 years through life experiences allowed me to grow in ways that I can finally start trusting myself. Once you can listen to your own voice, your life will become much more fulfilling, because you are doing it for yourself and not for anybody else. All the pressure is gone, because you don’t need to meet any more expectations, you’re not allowing others to dictate your path or make decisions for you.

5. What’s the thread that connects all the people you’ve chosen to feature in the lookbook?

The people who believe in the ethos of the brand, we’ve built a web-based classroom in the last year which allowed us to connect with an audience of people who shared some amazing stories and love for the brand. We wanted to give that love back to the community by having them be part of our project, so we decided to do an open casting call and invited a group of 20 Classmates to be featured in our lookbook who had a story to share about their experience in school whether they were positive or negative. Each of their stories serves to unveil the conversation people have regarding the educational system and even sometimes the conversations created by wearing No Diploma. We want to continue to create these projects and experiences in the hopes to empower and inspire more people.

Creative Direction: The Dean – @benoit.brule
Photography: Aldo Ramirez – @1994_rt
Stylist: Alissa Calderone – @alissacalderone
Videographer: Nik Nitro – @Yes_loitering
Video Editor: Nick Berry – @hkgovernment
Music By: Phay – @Phayweather

April 19, 2019

BYBORRE & GORE-TEX launch The Hybrid Edition™ collection


BYBORRE and GORE-TEX can both be seen as pioneers in their respective fields. BYBORRE has continued to push the boundaries of knitwear each season while GORE-TEX remains a cornerstone in the world of technical, breathable fabrics.

Who is The Hybrid Edition™ for?

The line aims to solve the modern-day challenges of the city dweller. BYBORRE’s focus on comfort, protection, and aesthetics combine with the breathability of GORE-TEX for a collection ready for anything the elements may throw at you.

Key details this season

  • Breathability through unique constructions. BYBORRE reduced the number of closed seams for a series of flowing panels
  • GORE-TEX Hybrids using GORE-TEX INFINIUM™ introduces functional laminate finishes (from GORE-TEX) with BYBORRE’s boundary-bending knits.
  • Graphic 8-Bit is an architecturally-inspired knit featuring strong graphic lines, colors, and contrast.

The collection is available now on BYBORRE’s online store as well as through select retailers.

Also, check our partnered series with BYBORRE and GORE-TEX last year titled “The Meaning of Hybrid.”

April 19, 2019

adidas' FUTURECRAFT.LOOP is a big step in sustainable footwear


adidas’ FUTURECRAFT.LOOP is a further commitment to innovation and environmental sustainability in the footwear space. The efforts build off of an initial project with Parley for the Oceans which used reclaimed and recycled plastic taken from the ocean.



  • It’s a 100% recyclable performance running shoe
  • At the end of its life cycle, it can be sent back to adidas and fully recycled
  • The release is adidas’ largest global beta program with a full launch set for Spring/Summer 2021

Digging deep into the technology

Unlike traditional footwear, the FUTURECRAFT.LOOP uses a singular material without the use of glue. Each component is made with 100% reusable TPU. After the shoe is returned to adidas, it is washed and grounded into pellets. These pellets can be melted and reused into a new pair of shoes, thus closing the loop.

Plastic in our lives is a big problem

Plastic has a massive if not at times invisible problem. It’s contributed to the deaths of marine animals, found its way into our water supply, and to now infiltrating the air. On the flipside, we’ve seen an increase in initiatives that aim to tackle the problem. Technology combined with changes on a societal level with bag bans could effectively mitigate and control the problem of plastic in the developed world.

Why this is important to the overall sneaker and fashion landscape

adidas has many key distribution points in its arsenal to help push and promote the idea of circular products. As the second largest sportswear company with a strong hand in street culture and entertainment projects like Parleys and FUTURECRAFT.LOOP can latch onto these messaging opportunities. Interestingly enough, you could say that adidas has overlooked huge opportunities to apply this technology selectively into some of its lifestyle offerings such as the Yeezy Boost. In our eyes, adidas would continue to apply the recycled plastic/circular concept to hero releases that can justify higher price points.

April 15, 2019

Nike ACG in a post-Errolon Hugh world returns to the great outdoors


Nike ACG and Acronym Co-Founder Errolson Hugh played an influential role over the past few seasons in creating a mainstream movement and aesthetic.

For those unfamiliar with Acronym, the brand played a pivotal role in combining innovative and thought-provoking design and the latest in fabric developments.

The involvement of Hugh together with a more accessible platform such as Nike ACG allowed greater access to technical pieces through lower price points.

Following the announcement of his departure, the label returns back to its original roots. This means the outdoors in a less regimented approach. According to designer Rebecca Aleman, the perspective for this upcoming season of ACG pales in contrast to past collections: “We want you to go hiking. We want you to go camping.”

Those deeply entrenched in the world of #techwear have lost access to the works of Hugh at cheaper price points in favor of softer palettes, handmade prints, and a less serious take on technical fashion. It’s not all bad.

The collection releases April 20 at select retailers globally.

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