Paul Smith's Cycling Scrapbook

06 August 2016

The queues began forming outside Rapha Tokyo in the early hours of Saturday morning, many traveling hundreds of miles across the country for the rare opportunity to meet the celebrated designer, who's lifelong passion for the sport of cycling was recently immortalised in ‘Paul Smith’s Cycling Scrapbook’.

Prior to the book signing later that day, a unique ride had been planned with Sir Paul for RCC members. Visiting some of his favourite locations in the city on a meandering route that would take the group of riders from the Clubhouse through the high-fashion district of Harajuku, passing Yoyogi Park and Kenzo Tange's iconic National Gymnasium, on to the quieter, riverside streets of Nakameguro where he often explores the small stores and restaurants.

This association with Japan spans more than 3 decades from when he first visited early on in his career. His love of the country and the time he invests here has played a major role in the success, with more outlets here than anywhere else in the world – over 200 and counting. Japan has influenced in his own development too, describing the work ethic and attention to detail as things that still inspire him everyday.

After pausing to spend some time at the award winning Daikanyama T-Site bookstore (where Paul has been known to surreptitiously sign magazines), the ride continued with guided visits to two of the Tokyo stores – Paul Smith Space in Omotesando which has a gallery on the third floor – together with an English garden, and the newly opened location in Roppongi, where, completely unscheduled, we were greeted by Paul himself. Unannounced and bubbling with enthusiasm after arriving from London only a few hours earlier. He quickly requisitioned a bike from the group and began cycling around the store to the surprise of customers and staff, especially after ascending the walkway along the 23 meter gallery wall leading to the second floor and circling a free standing Sol LeWitt inspired cube – a subtle reference to his first 3 square metre shop in Nottingham.

Soon after the ride had ended final preparations were being made for the event to begin. The clubhouse lined with a selection from Sir Paul’s ever-expanding archive of jerseys, all neatly labelled by hand with swing tags that described the details of each item. On arriving he immediately connected with everyone – both staff and guests, his charm and friendliness infectious with an energy close to somebody a quarter of his age. As guests had their books signed over the course of 2 hours we witnessed a customer showcase of the entire history of Rapha x Paul Smith collaborations dating back almost 10 years, the only pause in activity was a swift cappuccino he enjoyed while standing in the doorway chatting to the people still waiting outside.

Towards the end of the signing Sir Paul quietly mentioned to me that he’d quite like another ride if there was a bike around – minutes later he was out the door slaloming no footed through the crowd outside, finally disappearing around the corner with nothing but smiles behind him.