The X Machine Posted on 17 Aug 10:03
The entire Pacific North West has been in record setting drought conditions so it's hard to believe autumn is just around the corner. But you may have noticed that the sun is setting earlier, the salmon are finally beginning to return to their home waters and everyone seems to be in a rush to get in one (or two) last missions for the summer. This autumn Mr Gray has a few special releases ready to launch. The first series is the X-Machine sock which we have been holding back as production is extremely limited. After a visit to the factory in Sendai it's easy to see why we are allowed to produce only several hundred pairs of these styles. There are only a limited number of machines that can each produce something like two dozen pairs a day. As far as I understand, the X-Machine is a vintage knitting machine made in Italy decades ago when argyle patterns became popular for socks. The folks at GC and the factory have carefully adapted these machines to be able to knit extremely complicated patterns into socks. You may see similar types of patterned socks, but chances are they are not true knit socks - most likely they are jacquard socks. In our experience the knit sock is much sturdier and has more character. I was extremely lucky to have some talented folks help me shoot a small photo essay on this project in some of our favourite secret spots on the North Shore. A huge thank you to Matt for the camera work, Natsumi for the beautiful styling, and Alex for putting up with us. As always thank you to Roden Gray for providing an exceptional selection of garb and accessories.
Mr Gray Japan Production Trip Posted on 02 Jul 14:20
This spring I was back in Japan to design SS2016 - thanks to the A-Team at GC I am super stoked on what we are putting out next year. So many new styles and yarn combinations that are new to Mr Gray. If you happen to be in New York for the shows in July please contact us for a viewing at our mini exhibition. I have been super blessed to be able to travel many times to Japan for work and the past few trips have been exceptional. Starting in 2000 my work and homebase was right in Tokyo which was amazing; but recently I have been chilling in Shonan. Huge thank you to my family in Hayama for hosting and inspiring. I only had my iphone so not too many photos this trip but here are a few highlights.
I have discovered that the best jetlag remedy is an early walk to the beach with black lab followed by an afternoon of snacks and beer.
Yes I am going to post many van spottings - especially since there is a disproportionately large number of perfect examples cruising around Hayama. Many are no doubt weekend warriors and surfers but in 2 weeks I certainly spotted some locals like this handsome SO-42.
Hayama is a lovely beach town situated southwest of Tokyo, past Kamakura and Zushi. No local train station. A great vibe is happening there - creativity, beach culture, fantastic food. Apparently, this vibe has been happening for awhile because not a 10 minute walk from where I am staying is the Kachi Villa, designed by Arata Endo who was a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright. When I was a student in architecture school in Eastern Canada we took a few field trips to see works by the founding fathers of Modernism and certainly FLW's works left the most lasting impression on me. Visiting Kachi Villa has the same feeling as visiting Falling Water. It was an easy trip for me but any fan of design and architecture would do well to make this a day trip from Tokyo.
This was probably my favorite bus I spotted this trip - an amazing savannah beige barndoor splitty. The lady passenger noticed me frantically trying to make my iphone take flix and gave a shy wave - so cute!
Not 2 minutes later on the way to Morito Beach we walk by this shiny standard microbus in pristine condition.
Only a couple of days to get over jetlag and back to Tokyo for some serious work. This is the sky view overlooking Shibuya Station.
So many yarns, styles, and samples to choose from, it's overwhelming unless you go in with a strong game plan. As always with Mr Gray, the concept is to make relatively minimal design but execute using an original combination of yarns. Next year you will see many combinations of hiki-soroe (custom melange textiles), soft washable wools, technical Dupont Coolmax and more. Working long hours I need both green tea and black death AKA Nespresso coffee shots.
Hashimoto-san at GC always takes us to the absolute top places for our lunch break. This trip was no exception - every spot exemplifies the best in wafu style. This tiny sushi spot has room for 6 at a single counter. So clean and minimal and in my top 3 sushi experiences ever.
It's always great to see gaijin from home and I finally got to catch up with Arthur and Zen at our favorite new spot near NHK - combining the best yakitori with soba...and of course the infamous bowl(s) of shochu which Arthur was certainly digging.
The week in Tokyo proper always flies by and it was back to Shonan for a bit of relax and much inspiration. I have never spent much time at T-Site in Daikanyama but luckily there is a new and dare I say even better T-Site in Shonan. On the way you get to drive along the coast; if you have time drop in on the beach or your favorite skate park and end up at T-Site where I sure hope you have strong consumer discipline. Besides every magazine you didn't know you can't live without, there is a North Face Purple Label shop, a bike shop, a design shop, cosmetics and apothecary, cafes, and even a minä pirohnen popup shop. The best part for me of course was the Auto Life popup shop set up in 2 very smartly designed outdoor pavilions. Everything comes full circle: I later found out that the creator of T-Site is the owner of a car-themed bookstore on Kanpachi-Dori that we used to ride our bikes to do some digging.
This trip I really wanted to check out the Japanese camping equipment scene which has been exploding. Apart from the original weight weenies of the outdoor world, Snowpeak (who are crushing it by the way) I needed to check out Soto who are famous for their mountaineering stoves and the new jacks Uni-flame. After viewing a lot of product I would say Snowpeak is still on top in all aspects (especially design and presentation). However the others guys are putting out amazing product as well and I copped a few pieces from all the players.
Hayama has an abundance of beautiful, modernist inspired residential architecture. I was fortunate to be there during Hayama Art Festival and there were many open houses. Many of the little homes I walked by would make you stop in any Western city or town but this was one of the tops, plus we were able to visit and hang out. All the furniture is bespoke by the architect. This is everything I love about the Japanese design sensibility; the effortless layering of multiple influences in a perfectly balanced presentation. The owner in the kimono with her traditional Japanese textiles and homewares are in harmony with the Scandinavian-inspired architecture.
On the other side of the spectrum is Daruma's spot - I only had a few minutes to check this out before I had to jump on the express back to Haneda but I will return. Daruma is a digger and his home/storefront was packed with all kinds of desirable antiques and collector's pieces. From rare books and vinyl, to deadstock German electronics, rare ceramics, Americana and more. His wife also has her art studio here and there is no shortage of things to look at.
Did I mention I had the best timing ever for this trip? The Zushi Film Festival was also happening all week. Man it was busy this year, tickets sold out early afternoon so by the time we got to the beach the event was at full capacity. Fortunately the Archi crew was able to sneak us in and we got to enjoy the sunset, local craft beers and a rare groove set from the one and only Takagi Kan from Major Force West...
So long Shonan - see you next spring!