A couple of months ago, as I returned tired from this trip, I lost my 3/4 read old-skool hardback copy of William Gibson's most recent novel Zero History. Fittingly, I left it in the back of a black cab. The secret brand that provides the red thread to the story remains, for me, unravelled.
Then other day, as a couple of cool looking Japanese 20-somethings stood in pilgrimage outside Vivienne Westwood's World's End retail shrine, I crossed the road and walked into the charity shop opposite where I picked up Paul Smith's You can find inspiration in everything* for a couple of quid.
Inside there's an introduction by William Gibson, where I found this paragraph:
"London and Tokyo possess an unthinking self-assurance. Paris is perpetually and narcissistically conscious of itself, and New York needs forever to be congratulated. The inhabitants of London and Tokyo, however, are consummate appreciators of 'secret brands'; they act out private dramas of relative consumer-status with a gravitas seldom seen elsewhere. Both the English and the Japanese are brilliant importers. If you want to know what it is that your won country produces that is genuinely excellent, look for what the most obsessively discerning residents of London and Tokyo choose to import. Look for the choices of the otaku, the fanatic of pure information."
A pattern recognition of sorts.