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Cultural Time Capsules

Hokkaido: lens x 2

Seasonal activities such as skiing and snowboarding often lead to a non-trivial investment in equipment – a new deck, gloves, goggles, jackets, boots, trousers, hats, bags and so on. Most people don’t (perceive the) need to, don’t want to, or can’t afford to buy new equipment every year so as a result the places where people gather to carry out these activities are in effect cultural time capsules. Whilst having lunch in a mountain restaurant we sometimes watched in quiet appreciation/awe trying to guess the year when particular colours or styles were in fashion on the slopes.

The snowboard scene in Japan is now being pitched as 95% fashion 5% sport. From a sales point of view it makes sense – the criteria for owning and being satisfied with a sports object changes more slowly compared to fashions which, without fail will change once a year. The North Face shop in Harajuku is a good bell weather of sports-fashion-brand’s shift to fashion-sports. An evening shopper is more likely to stumble into a hip-hop DJed spray painting competition than a seminar on the hazards of climbing at altitude (camouflage North Face puffer jackets had some cred amongst the Tokyo hip hop crowd last year).

One regret from last week was not having the time to systematically document people, their equipment and in particular how they custonmised what they had. But it got me thinking about the logistics of setting up a photo studio on the mountain and being with people in one place long enough for them not to freeze. Perhaps this is an activity for the spring?

How long should/do product’s last? What can be done to slow down or speed up the replacement cycle?