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Grand Touring

When the first Gran Tourismo for PlayStation was released, I played it religiously as a kid. So much so that I eventually knew each track turn by heart. I loved driver simulation games—not because I ever wanted to own an Italian made car, or be in a high speed chase—but because I was obsessed with the concept of cars. I'm fascinated by how they are built, the thoughtfulness behind luxury design, how far the idea of motor vehicles has come—and how much further it can go.

Around this same time, I collected NASCAR Diecast models; totally unaware of the millions of dollars spent decorating the real vehicles in corporate logos, or costly engineering modifications in each car. To me, a car was more of a muse than a means, and thats as far as it went. I'm the guy that would own a Mercedes 300-SL and still ride a bike to work.

Fast forward a couple decades and my fixation for cars hasn't depreciated, but has evolved. I still love cars, only now I'm able to intersect my personal sentiments with design. Grand Touring, as a collection, you could say, is a result of all the hours spent on PlayStation, watching the Daytona 500 on TSN, and all the other imagery I managed to save to my subconscious hard drive.

This past June, I stumbled upon the film Senna, a documentary about the legendary F1 driver Ayrton Senna, a guy I'd argue was is the Michael Jordan of automotive racing. The world famous Monaco Grand Prix had already happened in May, but I was so inspired by Senna's story that I was ready to pack my stuff and fly to Monaco just to experience a race. Yo, God forbid I get to a point where I don't have the time to take my time, because to make something definitive, fine details and execution really have to be considered. My first experience this close to any real race track was the Honda Indy this past Summer. Most fans of motorsports will tell you theres a significant difference between the Indy and Formula 1 cars, so I'm fortunate to have experienced both fully immersed.

Above: A view from the pits at The Honda Indy. Its pretty interesting to watch an entire team of people service a vehicle being pushed to its limits, maintaining its highest performance every few laps—in record time. Even the smallest amount of dirt or debris on the front wing of the car can alter its aerodynamic advantage.

Below: The jacket named after Ayrton Senna from NEEDS&WANTS Pre-Fall '16. Throughout a decade, Senna would claim 3 championships, 65 pole positions, and 610 career points. Gold seemed pretty fitting given the context.

Above: We sampled onboard footage from Senna's record lap in Monaco for this teaser. The text was purposely exported in low resolution to match the quality of salvaged VHS.

Below: The Monaco jacket from NEEDS&WANTS Pre-Fall '16, crafted entirely in suede. We also did a red, white and black rendition. Ironically, loop zippers and other oversized hardware are trending in high fashion, but my inspiration for the loop zipper was a vintage Goodyear jacket I found on eBay.

Above: Product packaging and presentation—my other obsession. I always want to have product packaging people won't throw away and is still functional. This semi-transparent metallic bag allows you to see its contents when held up to light, plus its air tight and tear proof, too.

Below: I wouldn't have seen the correlation between racing and Brazilian music until watching the Senna movie. Immediately afterward, it became the soundtrack to the Grand Touring collection and the rest of my summer. I put this mixtape together for NEEDS&WANTS including some of my personal collection. Download it here.

Once I shot the Pre-Fall lookbook and the collection was released, I thought I had done all that I needed to. That was until a friend of mine in Amsterdam put me on to the Historic Grand Prix in Zandvoort, Netherlands. Thank you, Lana. The timing couldn't be more perfect, I had just scheduled a meeting in London the same week. The Historic Grand Prix was nothing like The Hondy Indy at home—not necessarily because it was bigger, it just felt like the real thing. The cars were 10 times louder, the track perfectly manicured, and the circuit park in Zandvoort sits right next to the beach.

I have never seen so many Porsches in my entire life; I'm talking an entire lot full of them, lined up in rows by year. We had access to everything at The Grand Prix, which was different from my experience at the indy, where even an "all access" pass only got you so far before you had to finesse. But in Europe, nothing was off limits, I could capture anything, so I made sure I did—film and digital. Just as I was leaving, there was a vintage Lotus Honda 99T on display, covered in Camel Cigarettes branding that Senna drove on that very track. Wild. There it was, propped up like some symbolic monolith of my childhood reminding me to hold on tight to my childlike sense of adventure. 12 year old me would be ecstatic.

Mexico City

Not being able to find an Airbnb in or close enough to Havannah, Cuba, for four people was the last minute deciding factor in how we ended up in Mexico City. Looking back, it's obvious that initial dilemma worked itself out. The image above is what Mexico City felt like (for the most part) in one photo, but the entire place was visually polarizing. Colourful, rich in culture and even below overcast skies everything still felt bright. On one hand, the city's aging busy streets felt like foreign film that would be Oscar worthy for best cinematography, then we'd drive for a few blocks and be within one of the world's most progressive design capitals. Ignore all the myths and bullshit Yelp reviews about the "dangers" of Mexico City—its heaven on Earth, let no one tell you different.

Above: The Museo Soumaya, designed by the Mexican architect Fernando Romero with over 60,000 works from 30 centuries. The top floor of the museum has one of the largest collections of sculptures I've seen, including Rodin's. As a bonus, the Museo Jumex is literally across the street, with a huge Jeff Koons piece in front, you can't miss it.

I'm going back someday soon. I didn't make it to the Teotihuacán Pyramids, Archivo Diseño, or La Casa Luis Barragán. Mexico City is one of those movies with so much detail that you can't really grasp all the nuances until you've watched it a second or third time.

NEEDS&WANTS Container 01

I just read an article on The Business of Fashion about consumers soon having the technology to 3D print their own designs. Crazy. Thats another conversation in itself. I was just walking through the new wing of Yorkdale Mall that recently underwent a $30 million dollar expansion. Thirty M's. Everything is becoming so grand, and it could be just me but I think there's even more pressure on larger retailers to keep up with the market and the attention of modern consumers. Remember Target? Damn. As a smaller brand, it only makes sense to be creative with retail; especially if you don't have the resources to open and close store locations nationwide and still be in business. The concept of a pop up shop is quite common today, but I imagine there is room to take the concept of mobile retailing further. Our first shipping container space was completed in June and has since been embedded into off-the-grid locations as initially intended.

This is not a pop up shop. The idea here is that the retail/showroom experience could exist everywhere most retail commonly doesn't. My friends would often suggest we open up downtown, in the middle of Trinity Bellwoods, where any and everyone could find us. Nah, too accessible, too visible, too easy. The sound of birds chirping as I opened the store in the middle of nowhere is exactly what I'd want someone else to experience once they found the space.

Above: Because we’re working with such small space, details like our choice in furniture have to be functional. Our coffee table, for example, turns into a laptop desk once its turned on its side. We imported our rack from Belgium, and it literally just leans on the wall. Our engineered wood panelling on the walls and ceiling are ideal for the outdoors as wood tends to shift depending on weather conditions. Photo c/o James C Lee.

Normally, containers are have one entrance point, but we installed a second garage door entrance to maximize on as much natural light as possible. The two adjacent windows are also an advantage for natural light depending on direction we position the unit. The best result for lighting are when the windows face North and South. The herringbone floor was really an aesthetic decision; that European touch. We also have full power source and LED linear slot lights for evening hours.

Accessibility was actually the easy part if you were willing to paste the coordinates into your Google maps after joining our newsletter. The live map we built as a micro-site makes getting to each of our locations pretty easy. A friend of mine was on the train and saw a white box glowing in the middle of the forest. He got off at that subway stop and walked over from the bridge. Prior to that, he didn't have any coordinates or location info about the space, he was just curious and by chance stumbled upon us. Thats how he found it—discovery. I'm not trying to be long-winded here, my point is that there is a coming of age in which the point-of-sale is the last thing a brand does. The first thing will be sensory communication. How does the brand (not the product) make someone feel?

Above: The container's exterior offers a mystique to those passing by. The mirrored glazing on each opposing side allows us to see outward but there is minimal visibility into the space from the outside. When deciding on location, we take into consideration the backdrop and how the space will transform itself from an industrial piece of corrugated steel, into a minimal accent among nature's surround. Photos c/o Michael Rousseau.

Below: Marco Lee's preliminary sketches of our next container for 2017. Twice the size and even more ambitious than our initial effort. Our first container was designed for land, our next will be designed for water.

Technology will continue to make everyday interaction faster; there's no doubting it, or escaping it. We'll all have to adapt. However, that doesn't mean that through evolution we can't find balance. A balance between online and offline experiences. Lines are for blurring and rules for breaking—and rewriting. You can thrive online with the technology made available, while bridging endless possibilities offline.

New Mexico

How do I sum up New Mexico? that's tough. I could go on and on about White Sands, or try explain the feeling of seeing a sunrise in a hot air balloon, and even then, it couldn't illustrate those experiences enough. I get why people choose New Mexico to retire or embark on some life changing pilgrimage. For me, I just a Boyz II Men video and wanted to go. What I love most is how quiet it all was. There was no rush, no pressure, no urgency. I think that's what allowed me to really take it all in.

Above: You can fit 275,000 basketballs into the largest hot air balloon. At least once, everyone should experience floating over Albuquerque, New Mexico at over 6,000 feet.

Below, left to right: Access points of Slot Canyon at Kasha-Katuwe become so narrow you have to hike sideways. I was in Timbs and didn't make it through to the end.

Above: The backdrop to some of Hollywood's biggest films; acres of prehistoric land considered an archeologist's treasure chest. Most notably, the creative refuge of famed artist Georgia O'Keeffe.

Below, left to right: These white sands—and much of New Mexico's surround—are what inspired NEEDS&WANTS' Spring/Summer 2016 collection. I did an entire White Sands retrospective a few posts back.

These photos (all shot with my phone) have been sitting on my desktop for months since we got back. In hindsight, I should've just uploaded them as full images in a thread, but my thinking at the time was how I would lay the images out in a book. I forgot to include the horse back riding tour through Georgia O'Keeffe's Ghost Ranch. Shit. It was beautiful. Maybe I'll save that for a book?