Interview with Maddox DuPont by Ivy Maverick (MENStuff blog/group)
Ivy (intro): Being a Shape Maker myself this interview is very special to me. I met Maddox in Oct of 2007 and I have a fond memory of him taking me around his newly build sim dedicated to men and showing me and even teaching me about new designers. I am not sure if he remembers but he also taught me how to adjust prim lashes!
Ivy: Hi Maddox, thank you for taking the time to let me Interview you! I am always curious how a person finds SL and what the beginning was like for them. What were your beginnings like in Second Life?
Maddox: No, thank you Ivy.
I found out about SL through television program and it was about furniture maker who was living solely from their work in SL. I never joined with an intention to become creator and soon when I joined I realised it was not going to be an easy thing to do. Learning curve was enormous and I was overwhelmed by the talent I found in SL.
My first experience of SL was magical! No, actually it was rather painful. I was one of those people who skipped Orientation Island completely then struggled for months on end to learn how to use the damn interface. Luckily, I met this cool English chick who thought me everything from editing prim attachments to adjusting hair to how to dress. We had lots of fun together me and Sky and I almost went broke from shopping so much with her.
This eventually forced me to create.
Ivy: Was your first job in SL making shapes and were you the first creator making the “style card” to go with your shapes?
Maddox: No, my first job was as a photographer. I had a small photography studio (MAD Studio) at Glenboon on main land, which was laggy as hell and was set in location that looked very trashy. It was on free piece of land which Linden Lab was giving to all new residents from memory so I could not complain.
When you start out as photographer your clients are never SLebrities but dancers, escorts and walk-ins. Most of my clients did not look so good so to cut my time in Photoshop processing and touching up images I spent time styling them, even went shopping with them. Soon people came to me for advice on improving their look and not just photos.
I started to make custom shapes and took people shopping. One day one of my returning clients suggested I start selling shapes with style cards, so idea is not mine as it was the case with many improvements I made in my store over time. It is important to listen to your customers and deliver on what they want, it has certainly been key to our relative “success”.
So, I am not sure if I was the one to pioneer style cards as I did not really check the competition before I started, but I definitely was responsible for the way shapes are displayed today. Our rectangular displays, showing shape in 3 poses (face, waist up and full body) in surroundings that perfectly matched their character\ and brought them to life – you can say this was KMADD’s “invention” and soon become standard for many shape stores. Nothing is new in SL, as it often comes from the need or is inspired by RL. As long as you put your spin on it and are not obviously copying someone you can claim it as your own.
Ivy: How have things changed in SL as far as shape business goes. How have you adjusted?
Maddox: A lot of things have changed not just in the “shape market” but in SL and RL as well. Economy has been major factor in changes to people’s buying habits, which made us reconsider our pricing structure and product range.
MADesigns shapes, as you know have never always been priced on the higher end of the scale. Although they do not take long to complete in comparison to hair or skin, people do not buy them as often so price we selected was based on frequency by which people would buy them, their quality and time invested. It is true that people value things more that they have to earn or make substantial investment into. Because not everyone can afford MADesigns shapes they guarantee exclusivity and certain level of uniqueness than let’s say cheaper brands and that was something everyone wants in SL, to be unique.
Although our pricing has not changed since the early beginning with an introduction of new MADesigns products (eg. hair and eyes) we have been able to add value to our shape packages by including them with each PREMIUM shape purchase. Our premium collection which is called now is original shape product we sold from the beginning.
We also added another collection which we called SHAPE ONLY collection as it contains only a shape and avatar skin, hair, eyes info and as it is less time consuming to make we were able to offer this product at lower price than premium shapes.
Once started to collaborate with skin makers which we always wanted to do, we were are able to offer COMPLETE AVATARS which is great for new residents in need of affordable and quick transformation as it provides total package which include shape, skin, hair and eyes. I think we will continue to collaborate even when we release our own skin as it is important to provide variety and support quality brands.
We also got LIMITED Collection which takes care of customers who do not want to have same shape as everyone else but do not want to spend as much as the custom shape would cost. We only sell 20 of these and adjust them to 4 different skins – hair and eyes are also included with style info.
All these changes were made in response to customer feedback, changes to the market and economy and natural growth of our business.
Maddox: I decided to start making hair because I could not find many short men’s styles that I liked. They were either overused, outdated or all medium length or anime/asian looking. I really just wanted conservative short everyday styles that suited number of occasions and did not conform to any particular style or race. So I decided to make them.
I must give credit to Ice from Muism for spending time with me when I first started making hair as I really did not know what I was doing until I saw him do it in front of me. Ice has been a great friend, inspiration and amazingly generous creator I ever came across in SL.
It is worth mentioning that most creators avoid making men’s hair as it is harder to make and sells poorly. We all know men do not shop as much and tend to stick to one style once they find it, so I saw this as an opportunity when I first started as market was small and men were starved for new styles.
I am inspired by need (what can not be found in SL), current fashion trends and often what I personally like and see on the street. It has to be something that excites me and I can successfully make in SL.
Ivy: What is your favourite thing to design these days
Maddox: I actually enjoy building the most. I always enjoyed making sets for KMADD events and MAD Agency fashion shows. It is really creative release for me and I love seeing people being immersed in it once it’s done. I just finished TRON build for the fashion/dance event that is happening on weekend February 26th and was responsible for the build for GLANCE Awards, also on this Sunday.
I choose my projects wisely but if you hire me you better have whole sim ready for me as I am a prim whore. < Laughs >
Ivy: What kind of work do you do in RL and how does it help you in Second life?
Maddox: I have worked in people management and customer service for most of my life. I also have fine art degree, with major in Multi-media and performance. I have done everything from writing, performing, video and art installations. My favourite thing was painting and multi media but most of my time is spent on creating in SL these days.
As you can imagine all these came handy in SL, as each business is part creation, part business/marketing and looking after your customers. All 3 are every important and to succeed they all need to be done right.
We certainly would not be here today if it was not for marketing expertise of my partner Kirk Claymore, our strong focus on customer service and customers who loved our products and spread the word about it. I am very thankful for that.
Ivy: I know you have this amazing relationship in SL with Kirk. How have you been able to stay together so long in here, with all the temptations? You have been together forever by SL time!
Maddox: Indeed, it’s now coming to almost 4 years. Amazing ha? As I was saying to my friend 1 year is like 7 years in RL. You are born, you shop, work, party, you fall in love, get married and leave SL all within 12 months usually. My friend insisted she did not want to be a dog, but said it was so true.
Look, joke on side I think the most important thing for any long distance relationship is communication and trust. Kirk and I are are very good friends to start with and having common interest and goals in SL that we can share and focus on has helped us stay together this long and kept our passion for each other alive.
Although, Kirk has been busy in RL for the past year or so, he comes in from time to time to our events and we speak to each other every day on Skype. We were meant to meet in in RL in January but due to floods in Australia this trip had to be postponed. I can not wait to finally meet him though so we can take this relationship further hopefully. If not, we will always stay friends and I thank SL for that.
Ivy: What is your most proud moment in SL?
Maddox: Oh I have so many great moments in SL that it is hard to choose.
Marrying Kirk in SL was a loving memory I will always treasure, getting our own sim was a big moment in KMADD’s history as well as creation of KMADD City which for a number of years was the only sim focused solely on male fashion.
The rest is not always the big things but small moments when customers/friends have showed their appreciation for support, advice/help or event we did – things like that. Both Kirk and I enjoy sharing our experience, expertise and success with others and we find it very satisfying helping young talented brands succeed and gain exposure. Some of the best moments in SL come from these experiences.
Ivy: Where do you see your SL business in two years?
Maddox: I do not have a plan to be honest. I did not even plan what has occurred so far so not having plan seems to work for me. Although we are business, we were rarely motivated by money but what we love doing and what SL needs at the time. I would like to make men’s shoes for example and possibly take on the skin as new product. I am slow with this and rather master one product before moving onto next. I also think that if you do everything too quickly you are in danger of loosing interest and leaving SL which has happened to many.
Ivy: You have been very supportive of the MENstuff hunt- how is it going for you and what do you think of hunts in general for your business?
Maddox: We have been proud supporters of Make Him Over Hunt since it’s inception and it was only natural for us to land equal support to MENstuff hunt when it officially replaced it. We think that men need to be exposed to more quality stores than ever before as there are so many popping our all over SL each year, which is great to see and much better than when I first started SL.
Everyone loves free stuff and it is a great way to reward your loyal customers, gain new ones and expose your brand.
Ivy: What new things are going on in your store?
Maddox: We recently renovated our store, updated hair vendors and made small changes that will make a big difference on the long run in terms of usability and customer being able to find things easily without needing assistance. As far as the new releases are concerned, we will begin on new collection of hair, eyes and poses in March and we are also bringing new skin designers to the store who we will be collaborating with on complete avatars.
Designers like Cheerno is our most recent release and BAD@ZZ who has recently released new skin that has already proved popular with guys looking for muscular look will be coming out by the end of February. If you would like to have a look at our COMPLETE AVATARS collection they can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kmadd/sets/72157620503669973/show/
Ivy: I remember when I first met you I was pretty new to SL and I was TPed into one of your parties…there were so many hot avatars there my friend and I were just drooling. You do great work and women all over the grid thank you!
Maddox: Haha yes! My manager keeps catching ladies in men’s section, as you say “drooling” over our displays. It is a great feeling to know that people like your work and find avatars we do attractive. Our whole focus on men from the start was designed to improve their appearance, fashion sense and style – for whomever they are trying to attract they would need all of these. We just wish more guys take better care of their appearance to please their partners in SL. Personality goes a long way but when you are dating someone who is on the other side of the ocean and live in world where you can create your ideal self at affordable price, why not do it?
Ivy: Thank you for your time Maddox!
Maddox: Thanks Ivy! I am truly humbled and both Kirk and I thank you for this opportunity to talk about work. All the best with MENStuff hunts in the future, we think that you guys have done an amazing job!