>> Old age prudence is catching up with me. I realised this when I opened a few of my presents on Christmas day and appreciated the tokens of slippers, knitwear and books going around the room. After years of expending effort trying to think of "unique" or "zany" gifts for people, I've succumbed to the norms. A nice jumper that isn't too jazzy. A useful mug for a cup of tea because the ones at home are stained beyond repair. A book that I've been meaning to read but have not bothered to buy. And a pair of socks that will come in handy when you reach into your sock box and find you're short on matching pairs. These are the staples of unexciting Christmas gift fodder, which I'm finding myself appreciating.
Not sure how many of you out there (especially menfolk) have found socks beneath the tree or have given them to your close ones but for years to come, I suggest that Japanese hosiery label is the sock brand choice to give if you want to combine utility and visual brilliance. I received a soggy brown papered package bang on Christmas Eve all the way from Japan stuffed full of the most colourful stocking fillers. The patterns are distinctive and unique to Aya Agaoka, who started Ayam√© in 2007, wanting to create a niche in legwear that would combine the know-how of Japanese craftsmen with the outer limits of her own imagination. Working with the experienced hosiery factories of the Nara prefecture, Aygaoka pushes boundaries of knit techniques and yarn choices to create feats (*uh-huh-huh*) of technical accomplishment which when you pull on to your feet for the very first time, makes you wriggle your toes and do a little new sock jig. Ok, just me who does the new sock dance jig.
If I was Agaoka, I'd be tempted to repeat patterns just to bulk out collections, but I've noticed that every pair of Ayam√© socks I own (and that's roughly twenty pairs or so) are all different in pattern configuration. Agaoka is definitely a master of geometric wizardry as well as being a perfect judge of colour palettes, taking influence from everything around her. Ayam√©'s dual headquarters in both London and Tokyo provide interesting contrasts for Agaoka to play around with, hence why her customer base is decidedly broad. , , and are the main overseas stockists and you can buy directly from their if you speak Japanese. Of course, the dream would be to take in the whole Ayam√© experience by observing Agaoka her knit craftsmen in Nara and shopping in her atelier/shop in . That will be a self-indulgent gift to myself next year.