If you want to work in media, being a social animal is part and parcel of the whole package. While others may conduct deals and build a network on the golf course or the boardroom, some of my strongest business relationships have stemmed from discussions done over drinks and at various social functions.
The only problem is that after a while, all these events start to blend together. I’ve worked in this industry for a few years now, and I can tell you that I’ve completely lost count of the different outings and functions that I have been to. I’ve found that most events follow a general template, resulting in the same crowds, set up and experience. And if everyone is doing the same thing, then nothing sticks out. It’s something of particular importance because if you’re a brand that engages with the media, you want to be remembered.
My best friend Sharad (who heads up his own men’s lifestyle website called Freshly Educated Men) and I have often lamented over this very fact. And so, last month we created our own event series that encouraged what we thought was missing in the ones that we had been to. The first of many to come, In Good Company (which is separate from my interview series on this site) was created to encourage a community of male tastemakers, leaders and innovators across various industries to interact with each other, all while learning something new through an interactive experience.
For our inaugural event, we introduced our guests to the art of sashiko, a traditional Japanese mending technique. Seen on the runways of designers like Junya Watanabe and Dries Van Noten, as well as on style icons like Nick Wooster, the basic ethos behind sashiko is really all about honouring the past and rejecting today’s disposable culture.
Social responsibility and craftsmanship are things that, personally, have become increasingly important to me. I come across a lot of stuff for my work, and the amount of waste that I see is at times nauseating. Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as guilty on my end and could certainly do more. But introducing this art form to our guests was something that was more than just a cool workshop, it communicated the value of slowing down and investing time and effort on the things and people that matter.
What is it?
Literally translated as “little stabs”, sashiko is a form of decorative reinforcement stitching (or functional embroidery) that is applied to points of wear, or to repair worn areas with patches. You may have heard of the term “boro” as well, which goes hand-in-hand with sashiko, and refers to the Japanese art of mending by using different scraps of fabric.
A Quick History Lesson
Boro was originally worn by peasants, merchants and artisans who could not afford the lavish kimonos and obis worn by the upper classes in Japan. No less beautiful, their clothes were made from cheaper materials and handed down through generations, constantly being worn and repaired as needed. And that’s where the charm really lies, don’t you think? The fact that entire family histories and generations are woven through the threads of a single garment that is worn, nurtured and mended. It’s a beautiful concept that we could certainly apply to aspects of our modern lives today.
We wanted to play on the idea of December being tuxedo season (given the holiday and new year festivities), so we decided to invite our guests to create their own take on the Canadian tuxedo using sashiko stitching. With the very generous donation and support of PAIGE, a fantastic luxury brand based out of California, we set each of our guys up with a pair of premium jeans and denim shirt to work on.
Shayne Stephens: Marketing Director, Saks Fifth Avenue Canada
Christopher Turner: Editor-in-Chief, Complex Canada
Marc Andrew Smith: Stylist
Done out of Toronto’s The Shop, instructor Bree Zorel led the session as our guys followed along with the presentation on Samsung’s new Galaxy View tablet. Perhaps tablet is a bit misleading, because these puppies are about 18.4 inches across and more akin to a portable TV with full 1080 HD touchscreen display and stereo speakers. In other words, it was fully immersive experience where everyone could easily follow along.
Because proper sustenance is key to any great event, we had some help from our friends over at Peroni and the Carbon Bar, who kept us equally full and hydrated throughout the night. For any of you that are unfamiliar with the establishment, the Carbon Bar is essentially Toronto’s ultimate destination for the urban carnivore. Think unpretentious snacks, plates and platters accompanied by impeccable Southern-style hospitality.
Check out below to see more photos and video from the night!
Venue: The Shop
Photographer: Mauricio Calero
Videographer: Ari Sooriya
And lastly, a BIG thank you to the sponsors that helped us put together such a wonderful evening.