Rubber Soul - by Nick Wakeman

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The city of Kurume sits at the foot of the Minou mountain range, on the banks of the Chikugo river in southern Japan. Home to the Moonstar Company since 1873, it's an area I've become more familiar with, ever since we started our partnership back in 2015. Throughout my career I've been fascinated by production lines, absorbed by the minutiae of every industrial process and inspired by the sight of stacked up raw materials – but most of all, I love the smell. The workforce at Moonstar operate a mixture of traditional machinery and cutting-edge technology under the heady, but pleasurable aroma of hot burning rubber.


For me, factory visits almost always kickstart the imagination. It's the so-called 'back end' of the industry that interests me, rather than the catwalks of Paris – I've had some of my best ideas under blaring strip lights, walking amongst the tinnitus inducing chorus of hundreds of sewing machines. Sometimes I think the nature of how things are made is almost as important as the finished product, which is why I felt compelled to photograph the inner workings of the Moonstar plant, which was a haven of brilliance, pride and calm.


On arrival I was handed a washed, worn, navy blue worker's cap bearing the company logo, which is part of the standard daily uniform for every employee. Attentive gestures like this (along with the raising of the Union Jack as I approached the entrance) made me feel like I was already a valued part of the Moonstar family – until it was time to leave and I felt more like a delinquent teenager when I was asked to hand back my temporary worker's cap. I'd surreptitiously stuffed it in my bag, ready to be reimagined for a future season of SNJP. Seems like the dynamism of the factory floor had worked its future-season-moodboard-magic again.


Nick Wakeman is The Founder & Creative Director at Studio Nicholson