Tom Bray grew up in Hong Kong with his Chinese mother and British father. He went to school in China and Britain, university in Manchester, England, then moved to Vancouver for two years, before settling in Shanghai.
He’s headed back to Vancouver today to launch the Coach Rexy Remix Pop-Up, featuring (among other key contemporary creatives working in China) Yeti Out’s reimagining of the luxury brand’s famous T-Rex. He’ll also catch up with friends from his old Fortune Sound Club days, his many family members who live in the city and, of course, DJ the pop-up party.
I catch him by phone—he’s on the roof deck of Soho House in Los Angeles preparing for the L.A. launch party. His accent is all over the place. As a Brit, I hear the flattened vowels of northern England, but there’s also a peppering of mid-Atlantic drawl; he sounds as though he’s from everywhere and nowhere.
“I identify myself as more Chinese,” he says, then laughs. “I may have been a bit confused as a child.” He has no complaints: his borderless upbringing was perfect preparation for building a career in a globally connected world.
“Once I was living in Shanghai, I realized that if I wanted to see a particular artist, I was going to have to bring them to Asia and promote them myself,” the 31-year-old explains. Club culture is a relatively new concept in Mainland China, he says “but everyone is quite curious and open when it comes to subcultures.”
The Rexy collaboration took off quickly after Bray met Coach brand creative director Stuart Vevers in Shanghai and the pair bonded over memories of the influential Manchester music scene. Bray says it’s a huge deal for Yeti Out. “For us to be able to work with a brand as recognized as Coach puts us on a pedestal,” he says.
“We usually operate within the underground and subculture realms, and here we are reaching an audience we might not otherwise have connected with—an audience outside our usual scenes. It’s a beautiful thing.”
In Yeti Out’s hands, Rexy the T-Rex becomes the nose of a smiley face that features Chinese character eyes and the collective’s own signature circumflex working as cheeky dimples. “It had to represent both us and our connection with music culture,” Bray says of the design that fuses Chinese calligraphy with the emblem of acid house and rave culture. It is also, he notes, the perfect vehicle with which to engage a Chinese audience.
“We wanted to speak to the Chinese market, which responds well to friendly graphics,” he explains. “They prefer brands and logos that promote positive meanings and energy.”
I ask him which Yeti Out Coach piece is his favourite. “For accessibility, I’d have to say the t-shirt,” he says. “But I really love the waist bag. It has the Coach pattern as the background, with our Rexy graphic on the front.
“As DJs, we always wear waist bags,” he adds. “It’s where we keep our headphones, USBs, spare plug adapters…all the bits and pieces we might need. Now we have our own really cool version to wear.”
Coach Rexy Remix Pop-Up runs until May 29 at Vancouver’s Pacific Centre mall.
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