At the very beginning of my time in the USA, my life was shaped a lot by Yoshiki Mishima, a good friend of mine at the GSD. I got to know Clark Terry, a trumpet player, when he brought me to his concert, which led me to get me my own trumpet and to play the instrument for a long time. He also showed me Pinocchio, a pizza place in Cambridge, where I had many lunches and dinners while living in Cambridge. He also introduced me to Mt Auburn Cemetery near where I live and the peaceful garden cemetery was a destination for my Sunday running routine.

Three guys on top of Mount Pilatus near Lucerne, Switzerland in 2006

One of the best ones I got introduced to was the Patagonia, the clothing brand from where I got my first down parka in the United States, which is the blue one in the photo above taken at the top of Mount Pilatus. Sung-goo, who is in the middle, once told me that the design of the particular down jacket does not fit an architect’s profession and an architect should avoid wearing this kind of jacket. Despite the comment, I have worn the jacket every winter for almost 15 years. Last year, when I went to the Patagonia store in Chelsea to check if I can fix worn parts of the jacket, the lady working there told me I had two options. I can either wait for about a month to get a patch which could be a different color of the fabric since it is an old design or get a brand new one in exchange for the 15-year-old architect-unfriendly down parka. I chose option # 2 and, this time, I chose a design that Sung-goo would approve as an architect’s jacket. It was the moment when my respect for the brand became permanent.

Yvon Chouinard with his Korean Friends in front of Insubong near Seoul, Korea in 1963

Recently, I happen to start reading a book by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. I was surprised to know that the founder was the one who climbed the North America wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. I learned from the book that he also climbed a couple of rocky mountains in Korea during his military service in Korea. He started his business as a manufacturer of equipment for rock climbing. With his spirit of iron craftsman, he started making durable and comfortable clothing for himself and his friends which ended up becoming Patagonia. I was able to learn where the great quality of Patagonia and the state of the art customer service came from while getting to know more about their philosophy of the workplace.

Work had to be enjoyable on a daily basis. We all had to come to work on the balls of our feet and go up the stairs two steps at a time. We needed to be surrounded by friends who could dress whatever way they wanted, even be barefoot. We all needed to have flextime to surf the waves when they were good, or ski the powder after a big snowstorm, or stay home and take care of a sick child. We needed to blur that distinction between work and play and family.

– by Yvon Chouinard

In many ways, Patagonia has been a positive impact on my life as they do on the environmental issue. It was nice to see scenery of my country from their website. Recognizing the natural living environment and sharing them with people around the world seems to be in line with what they are doing with their clothing business. The love of my life once told me that she wanted to get to know more about me because I was wearing Patagonia when we first met. That is one of many reasons why I need to visit Tokyo and say thank you to Yoshi again.