Embroidery might not be a craft that we’re accustomed to, especially not when talking about streetwearc but that’s exactly what James Merry has fused together. A frequent collaborator of Björk’s, Merry has provided the Icelandic singer with all of her embroidery needs. Most recently, he’s found solace in embroidering images of nature onto recognizable sports logos. Flowers, moss, grass and more are now found upon Nike’s Swoosh, the logos of Kappa, Umbro and FILA. Opening Ceremony has tapped the Icelandic craftsman for a capsule collection that consists of 17 hand-embroidered pieces dropping on December 10. Learn more over at Opening Ceremony.
When did you first discover the craft of embroidery?
The first time that I made something with a needle and thread was at age eight or nine. The fact that I remember it is actually quite telling. It was probably something my mom had given me and it wasn’t actually embroidery. I think it was what you might call cross stitch and I cross stitched a little bookmark and was just obsessed with it.
How did the embroidered sportswear madness take off after you created your first piece?
I embroidered [a Nike sweatshirt] and had been wearing it for a few months and decided to make an Instagram and post it there. I was actually kind of anti-Instagram for quite a few ages, because it just seemed like a vanity project. I started it and I made the decision that I would only post something that I’ve made or been involved with creatively, and it actually worked as a really good motivator. Social media is so addictive, and I’m not above that at all, so every time I wanted to post something, I would have to make something first. It really made me strive.
How do you pair each embroidered plant or flower with the sportswear brand being used?
It’s total instinct actually, but I’ve noticed that there is a consistency to it. I always embroider mushrooms onto FILA jumpers and Nike is always blobs of moss or primroses. Kappa and UMBRO are quite often roots or root vegetables. I don’t know why, it must just be something in my head that connects certain flowers to certain sportswear brands. It also probably has something to do with the shapes and colors of the logos. I’ve noticed that adidas is always good for hanging plants because there isn’t really a base in the logo, or something to “grow out of.”
Let’s talk about your interest in botany and plants. Have you always been interested in all aspects of nature?
Even you just saying that… I get butterflies in my stomach. I’m just obsessed with them and I always have been. It’s total alchemy to me; I could literally just stare at a tree for two weeks and be happy. It’s amazing to me that these things come out of the ground. The whole botany thing is just in my veins. I get tingly fingers even looking at plants and flowers.
I really wanted to embroider them, so it’s kind of why I’m so happy with this sportswear project. Embroidered flowers on their own are actually pretty boring to me, so it has to have some kind of modernity, contrast, or edge to it. I was so excited because this seems like such a juxtaposition.