What Can You Learn from Danny Seo?

14 Jan 2005|Leah Hunter

While researching my last blog on organic fashion, I came across one name a lot: Danny Seo. Sometimes called the Martha Stewart of green style, this 27-year-old environmentalist is a master at promotion. He’s created significant buzz for both himself and his causes, making eco-safe living the chic choice for the Hollywood stars with whom he rubs elbows. That’s pretty good for a kid from rural Pennsylvania. I wanted to know: Who is this guy? How did he get so popular? How has he made green cool and what can I learn from that?

Talk to Tastemakers – He is spreading the gospel of green living to the most cool, connected audiences who will listen. Seo is a big believer in Tipping Point philosophy—that if the right 100 hipsters forego fur, the trend will spread like chevre. To that end, he’s in with Sundance crowd. He has partnered with Tara Subkoff, and he’s even done green styling for O.C. stars. He’s made his message cool among the cool people…

For fashion-focused research, I often recommend a similar approach. If you want to know what your brand is today, talk to Mary McMainstream. If you want to know what it could become tomorrow, find an audience that’s more aware, creative, and connected. In Seo’s words, “A lot of trends start at the upper income level. What I don’t want to do is start mainstream and have to work my way up.”

If You Talk It, Walk It – Danny puts his green ideals into practice. He grows trees and lives in a 172-year-old farmhouse. He reworks old flea market finds into vases and wall art. He wears faux-leather shoes. He doesn’t just preach the message, he lives it. That said, he doesn’t go overboard with the crunch. He advocates that people reuse, recycle, and buy green whenever possible – but not at the expense of style. He thinks that green living is important, but recognizes that people will choose enviro-conscious clothes/cars/couches only if they are as comfortable and cute as their toxic counterparts. People really respect his deep personal commitment, and the fact that it’s tempered with realism and tolerance. It makes his message stick.

Tell A Good Story (i.e. Walk Softly But Carry a Big Shtick) – Danny is a pro at PR, and he has garnered as much attention for himself as for his causes. He has spun his life into a neat set of sound bytes and stories. He was born on Earth Day; his role as an environmental evangelist must be kismet. He had a meat-is-cruel epiphany on his 12th birthday and converted his friends into baby earth crusaders. He transformed his childhood home into a green-house. Importantly, his anecdotes all relate to and reinforce his brand image. He isn’t talking about the time he fell off a horse when he was eight or his driving passion for ABBA songs. He’s talking about how he installs his sustainable bamboo floors, and his published works are peppered with publicity shots that drive home the eco-dude message: Danny on his recycled couch. Danny in his energy-efficient living room. Danny wearing a golden crown, sitting astride the invisible jet he whipped up out of just old chewing gum, reclaimed rubber, and a string of paperclips he rescued from the dump. Sometimes the compost is laid on a little thick, but has earned him steady stream of profile-raising press in publications from Variety to People and a reported $30,000-an-hour lecture fee. The lesson: Find an angle and work it.

Get Published! – Danny gets his ideas in print. He has written four books, and he is editor-at-large of Organic Style. He is former columnist for the Vegetarian Times, and he is in the process of creating his own magalog. He has made authorship a part of his personal and business strategy, recognizing that credibility is built by publishing… Maybe even by publishing blogs?

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