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The Chalkboard Tee

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Consider Class Attire partners JinYen Huynh and Chris Carew's are the ultimate forgivers. The Chalkboard Tee they designed in Brooklyn is made to be written, scrawled, and drawn on before being erased. Baby "chalkboard underoos" may be unveiled soon (and before you ask, the LA-sewn Ts and Florida-created chalk pockets on the sides of the shirts are made for kids as well as adults). What more would you expect from a company that promises "we make people popular"? It's the ultimate grade school throwback.

Mustache Bandana

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Bay Area creative type Cindy Liu was feeling frustrated by a lack of likeable masks in preparing for a friend's masquerade birthday party last year when she decided to create her own. When asked to describe the lovingly humorous (and androgynous) hand embroidered face scarves she now markets as Archicraft at craft fairs and on Etsy , Liu says simply: "I love moustaches and wearing bandanas…it all naturally came together." At less than $20 a pop, they make a good gift for facial hair-challenged and good humored friends looking for moustaches in black, brown and blonde against colorful bandanas.

Do You Viv?

viv.jpgGet stickers, green businesses: the idea behind sustainability and consumer-focused company Viv is a simple and free one that could also be the best way to make your credit card look better (short of getting a black AMEX). After customers place a small sticker on the front of their debit or credit cards and show it at the time of purchase, participating retailers pledge to make energy efficiency and other green improvements to their businesses if enough stickers come through their doors and patronize. Grocery stores, bars, "eco-gourmet restaurants," and liquor and convenience stores are all taking part, and their progress on their commitments to make their businesses more eco-friendly can be tracked by the community. San Francisco-based founder Arul Velan started the company after Stanford Business School and a stint at Facebook with the help of Dinesh Thirupuvanam, and the pair and their team have been seen recently at street fests and athletic events distributing their green stickers. A little good, a lil' green.

HiMyTribe app

Accessing your favorite social nets on iPhone is currently a less than amazing experience, mainly because of the need to switch between networks, mapping, and contact information (it's enough to make a person frantic). But if the Paris company Never Alone Anymore has its way, the new HiMyTribe app will serve as the location-based people finder of choice. It uses the iPhone and iPod Touch's GPS capabilities to help people manage their groups (or professional and personal "tribes") and identify people they would want to meet who are in their vicinity. A criteria-based search engine helps you locate people with similar interests, including business travelers, friends of friends, conference goers"”even potential dates. (Imagine looking for a well-qualified designer who can meet you for espresso in Zurich on the fly.) There is a "blacklist" option, and exact locations aren't shown until the other user accepts. The free app, which the company describes as the "first truly real-time person to person application for the iPhone," allows for 20 tribe members globally, or there's a larger network option with a monthly fee.

Unclasses

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Upon leaving the TED alternative BIL Unconference, Rahmin Sarabi wanted to see what his friends had to teach each other in a similar co-education framework. The community-powered learning community (un)classes became Sarabi and partner Jonathan Strauss' chance to see what smart folks would be willing to share, and the result is a good "what to do on a free Saturday afternoon" solution given the classes' informal nature and wide range of content. Peer instructors have raised their hands everywhere from New York to Boise, and the Cloudspace-powered community offers everything from the very practical  (Accounting for Dummies and Salesforce) to the fantastic (cheesemaking and straight razor shaving). Talk about the joy of learning.

Apliiq Fashion

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"Custom, limited and upcycled" wares for men and women are the calling card of clothing upstart apliiq, and the results are punchy shirts, second life Reeboks, and jewelry. The Splesh V-neck tee and Oliver hoody look like something you might create yourself if you had good throwback checkered fabric, decent sewing skills and, oh yes, a solid design aesthetic"“ check them out.

Ethan Lipsitz started apliiq after stitching hoodies in his UPenn dorm room. "Philly has some great old fabric shops with basements and hidden corners–I felt like a DJ digging for rare records as I would build the fabric collection," said Lipsitz, an urban development and design student who wanted to encourage customers to be inventive in selecting patterns. The company still uses basic methods and geometric shapes to show off bright materials, and some items can be found online at Cultist and Karmaloop. But the best (and most giftable) option is picking out your own materials and going to town with their team.

Q Tonic

qtonic.jpgIdyllic summer nights in Brooklyn leave little to be desired–unless you’re Q Tonic founder Jordan Silbert, that is. The gin and tonic lover discovered that the tonic water he was drinking four summer ago was chock full of artificial flavors and high fructose corn syrup, and in the name of not standing up for something so undignified, he set out to create a crisper tonic. After pulling together quinine from South America, organic agave and lovingly designed floral-inspired glass bottles, Silbert’s concoction can now be found at Gramercy Tavern and the Four Seasons in New York and NOPA in San Francisco. “One of the things that excites me most about Q Tonic is that it enables you to actually taste the difference between and gin and tonic made with different gins–a gin and tonic made with Plymouth and Q Tonic tastes very different than a G&T with Hendricks and Q Tonic,” says the drink maker, who slaved over the recipe in his Brooklyn kitchen for more than a few seasons. “Unlike when you use mass produced tonic waters, you can actually taste the different botanicals that make different gins great in their different ways.”

Snik Zipper Pulls

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With the global user base of mobile phones approaching 3 billion people, more than a few music listeners and callers find themselves in a daily tangle of headphones/bags/jackets that might be avoided if Snik creator Rob Honeycutt has his way. His product line of zipper puller and cord grooves featured on snaps and buckles relieves pressure on the earbuds (athletes rejoice). “I believe there is a widespread need for this ‘interface’ between a person’s clothing and their mobile technology,” said Honeycutt, who would like the feature to become ubiquitous on clothing and bags over the next decade. For now, the small devices are available by the 6 and 12 pack–dangling cords be darned.

Headline Shirts

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The economic climate has given designers good reason to be concerned, but kudos to San Francisco’s snarky Headline Shirts for bringing smiles to T-shirt buyers’ faces in the best way they know how–cotton and cartoons. With 20 top end menswear stores predicted to be out of business by the end of the year, Chris Gorog, the founder of Headline’s parent brand Revel Industries, says T’s have been the most recession-proof of his three lines (which include the mid-market menswear line REVL and the top-end Gythamander, whose silk neckwear is worth saving up for). The American-made shirts, which include “Party like it’s 1929″ in Dirty Dancing-inspired font, are sold everywhere from Canada to Japan and printed with eco-friendly inks. A series of “I heart NY” shirts include a nod to the Cold War with “I (hammer and sickle) the 80s” and “I (bike tire where stolen frame once was) SF,” which is being introduced in a new local line out today. How’s that for intelligently inspired apparel?

The Auteurs

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When Stanford Business School grad Efe Cakarel got fed up with sub-par film options for video on demand while traveling, he decided to do something about it. "The offerings were as exciting as a train time table," Cakarel said. "They reminded me of the bad video stores I used to visit in Instanbul in the "˜80s." Thankfully for us, his reaction was to create The Auteurs, a film showcase and lovingly created community hub for movie aficionados and creative visionaries behind film projects (the site's namesake). Cakarel and his team of filmmakers and programmers have cataloged and host 3,000+ films to date"”everything from In the Mood for Love to the "˜70s Soviet flick Dersu Uzala–and are working with academics and critics to select their next offerings.

In working to create a place for intelligent film discussion and sharing, Auteurs writer Daniel Kasman said the team is looking to create a place where people can share their opinions but that isn't elitist. "Popular doesn't always mean good," according to one portion of the site, and the anecdote to blockbuster film has been presenting hard-to-find greats as part of the IFC-sponsored Criterion Collection.

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