If you have only two pennies left in the world, with the first penny, you should buy rice to feed your family. With the second penny, say the wise Japanese, you should buy a lily. The Japanese understand the importance of dreaming.Japanese Proverb
Rising Sun — Touching Down
Confession time. We’ve been keeping a secret from you and it’s time for us to come clean. For the past 15 months, we’ve been working on a project that’s been a dream of ours since we started Taylor Stitch nearly a decade ago.
A quick background before I dig in too far. After college, we left our homes in New England and headed west to San Francisco for no other reason than it seemed like a pretty great place. It’s easy to escape to the mountains, it’s on the ocean, it has a national park in it’s backyard, it has amazing bars and restaurants and killer live music to name a few things. We moved here to start a clothing company and we didn’t know a damn thing about making clothes.
We figured some stuff out. We sold our first custom shirts over bloody mary’s at our friends bar on a Saturday morning in 2009, we had pop up shops called Man Up and Meet Your Maker and invited brands from all over the country, we finally opened our own shop in 2011. We’ve been working hard to grow the Taylor Stitch community over the years across this great country of ours. 3 years ago, 70% of our customers lived in San Francisco. That’s now down to around 15%, which means we figured out how e-commerce works at some point in there. Thank god a few smart fellas joined the team and helped us on that. Needless to say, it’s amazing to see orders pouring in from all 50 states.
Rising Sun — Exploration
In early August we literally and figuratively began a new adventure as a brand. The one that encapsulates that dream I spoke about earlier. Where to you ask? JAPAN. The land of the rising sun. Where retail may as well be a religious experience. Where the care for quality product and hospitality is something that is unmatched anywhere else we’ve ever been.
We landed at Narita on a Tuesday afternoon in early August. As we disembarked the wall of 95 degrees and 90% humidity had us sweating within seconds. We were there to launch our first international Taylor Stitch shop, on a beach in Kamakura, about 90 minutes south of Tokyo. Think of it as what Brooklyn is to Manhattan, where the creative class lives but it has a beach with surf and a massive Buddha statue.
We spent the first evening acclimating; checking out a few shops and immediately locating a chilly basement establishment to test out a few Japanese craft beers. Traveler’s note: For $10 a day you can use your AT&T plan in Japan just as you would in the U.S. and it’s well worth it, believe me.
Day 2 was party time. We took over an event space at the recently opened Trunk Hotel and small worlds started colliding. We walked into the lobby and our friend Takeshi who had visited us in San Francisco a year ago was hanging out in the lobby having tea, randomly. We turned around and there were some recognizable sofas and chairs from our good buddy Tok of Truck Furniture who was coming in from Osaka to join us for the event. 250 or so other new faces showed up to say hello. We felt an incredibly warm welcome from the many new friends and a few old ones.
Rising Sun — Looking Forward
The next day we dusted the cobwebs off and went to check out the shop and the surf. We had seen blueprints and construction progress as we talked through the project with our partners, but we’d never seen the finished product in person. They nailed it. Amazing elements of our original Valencia Street flagship were present and even a table which was a nod to our first pop up called The Common they had found a picture of from 2010.
The surf was small but fun with our new friends. The theme for the day was #kneehigh (it may have been shin high but you gotta exaggerate the size of a wave a little bit). Daisuke (our Japanese brand manager) dragged some boards over from his house and our new friend Michio brought a couple more logs out for the afternoon. After sharing party waves and hanging out in the water sans wetsuit (something rare for us), we learned about a few nice amenities of our shop next to the water. We realized just how nice it was to be able to greet people outside, have a beer and check the surf at the same time.
After a few more days of walking the muggy streets of Tokyo and taking bullet trains bound for the lands beyond the edge of the city we boarded our plane and headed back to San Francisco. As we sat down and decompressed we reflected a bit about launching the brand in Japan and what it meant to us. I think the initial words were, ‘holy shit, did we just launch a shop in Japan?’ After we pinched ourselves we spoke of our excitement around our Japanese partners; from their attention to detail from a brand stewardship perspective to their alignment on building a business that is meant to be around for a long time. One of our Japanese team members actually looked me in the eye and said, “I will die with this brand.” I’m not sure if he meant it but I dig the loyalty to the business. This is the next step in growing our community of like minded people who care about responsibly built product meant for the long haul. If you find yourself wandering down the beach in Kamakura, swing on in and say hello. You might even find some stuff that’s only available in the Japanese store.
Oh yeah, last thing: Hey Tokyo, we’re coming for you in ‘18.