I had no business buying this car. It could have easily been a used Jetta.
The GTI I was driving back in 2010 in Baltimore wasn’t up for the trip out west I had planned and I had bequeathed it to the enthusiastic care of my younger brother Vinny. There was no going back, Vinny had been wearing VW gear for a solid week before I had even truly made up my mind to give it to him. I remember walking around the lot of a remote car dealership off the highway in Virginia. I was feeling uncertain and was sweating in the humidity of the mid-Atlantic heat. Then there she was, the car I had seen in the Auto-Trader ad, an efficient, no nonsense black Jetta with black rims. She looked affordable.
But I had never driven a car that didn’t have a little swag. Well maybe not the ’87 Scirocco, but even that car I modified. So I went rogue and ran smack into a fresh white GTI wrapped in factory plastic. I geeked out. I thought it was the most beautiful car I had ever seen. The man who took me on a test drive was named Wolfgang, in my dopamine induced state I took that as a sign. What kind of sign? It didn’t matter. The 30th anniversary edition red and black plaid interior was smooth under my sweaty legs as we slid around corners going way too fast. After driving around Baltimore city in a car that hit potholes on the daily, had been totaled and had survived a flood up to the center console, it was like test driving a Formula One race car. I decided to go for it.
Sitting at the finance desk I gave myself a pep talk. “I’ve paid my dues” I thought “I am a grown ass man, I’m tired of messing with used cars, it’s time to buy something reliable.” The one thing I didn’t want to have to contend with in a new city was unreliable transportation. But the longer I sat there the harder it became to justify the purchase. I wasn’t sure how things were going to play out for me in Portland and I told this to Daniel, the finance guy. He then told me a story about how he spent a few years in Oakland,CA trying to become a rapper. Without me asking Daniel kicked a freestyle and I remember being impressed. I was sorry that it had not worked out for him. He said “look man, you started your thing out here, you’ll start it out there.” He seemed so confident. That was all it took. One vote of confidence.
Fast Forward almost seven years, and I still love driving this car everyday. I am amazed at how functional it has really been. For the better part of a year I debated between getting a separate company vehicle or transforming my personal vehicle into a Grafmobile, but what I have found as a designer is that it is a real challenge to make a GTI look better. They look great out of the gate and I certainly don’t want to drive around a clown car. It has held a surprising amount of load to and from street festivals, the Portland Night Market and on countless trips to and from the warehouse. I decided I didn’t need a vote of confidence on this one, after years at the helm of my design business and now at the helm of my brand I have learned to trust my gut.
There is something to say for the emotional connection we form with things. This car means a lot of different things to me. It stands for taking a risk, trusting my gut, and working hard. Ultimately these are the pillars upon which I have built this brand. And I hope you like it, because let’s face it. We all need a vote of confidence.
Dictation by: Julie Boucher