Monday, March 31, 2008

GOOGLE The real Danger of Monopolies

Google is a godsend in one way and a Great Satan in another. Part of the great blessing of emergent monopolies are the incredible public works and innovation they bring to us all. Like the Pyramids or the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Google is quickly becoming a great civilization creating and buying up Public Works and Private Works and Centralizing them into one giant global digital wonder. The problem is: like all digital or real civilizations, power leads to corruption, indifference, lack and revolution. Google doesn't want to go the way of the Romans, Egyptians and the Babylonians, but like other Megapolies, they are always teetering on the edge of pissing off the digital world.
My giant Google peeve of the week: I recently did some research using the Google Library "Book" project. For those out of the loop Google is working with Libraries all over the world to digitize their collections for all to read, especially books Pre 1920 out of copyright. Last week I found these said "out of copyright books" and was merrily reading and researching along and damn...this week, not available. Like all normal people I tried and tried to get them back, please where is my complete published essaying on tanning in North no avail. I tried calling good luck with that, they don't entertain outside customer service calls. I guess we virtual customers arnt so relevant in the big scheme of the unpaid and over tracked. Google, Ebay and other megopolies have more levels of avoidance then the President of the United States. Great...they have digitized all these out of copyright books just in time for no body to be able to read them! I cant find these out of print copies anywhere except in their newly created digital vault. Gah..I have no idea how to get my information back....I wish I had a digital bomb to blow the doors off ....

Friday, March 28, 2008

Horsehide and the Government:

My new Friend called me today slightly in a panic. "David do you know or have any research about Horsehide showing why it is a superior leather to cowhide?" I of course know tons about horsehide but actual documentation; I have none. My friend is desperate...he doesnt want to lose a governement contract to cheap Chinese leather crap. I now have a real live moment to try and help save some business and justify staying local to the government...real issues with real jobs at stake. Man, governments and people are so damn short cited, they will cut corners no matter who or what is at stake even lives. I'm busy scouring the internet for documents and now realise the only research is over 90 years old, still relevant but published in old books. Google book search has all the copies online and Im trying to figure out how to download them!!! Even the U.S. military specifies horsehide for their leather garments, but I cant seem to find the documentation to prove why! If anybody out there has horsehide research send some my and help me help someone in need......

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Globalised Production, Smart old Men and me.

I was having a bit of an ironic day. My wife was busy running the wheels of the Ministry of Finance and I was pondering why its so hard for many Canadians to make money with a Canadian dollar at par. I'm a bit of a mouse on a wheel these days. I often think how unfair it is that smart hard working people are incapable of making decent money in a sophisticated economy like Canada, and marvel at how even in the used clothing industry, most of my suppliers have up and moved to the third world and the U.S. in the last 6 months. In fact, I have watched the warehouse districts of Toronto empty out completely in every sector over the last 10 months. The sandwich truck drivers have no one to sell food to anymore, the poor bastards.
My new shipper tells me exports have never been higher. I ask him " what are you exporting", he replies"nickle, coal, oil, copper, silver, trees oh and equipment. We cant book enough containers to send the equipment over to China.". So there you have it...labour is mobile and Ontario is recession bound, and the new economy is ...what? Ontario factories are boxed and shipped and it begs the question, what happens to the people? Specifically to me the question is ...what happens to the people with knowledge. If for example the tanning industry moves to the third world, and the old 19th century equipment and skills are dismantled, can a new industry ever come back? Obviously and sadly once an industry is gone it is rarely revivable. So while everybody is basking in cheap, poorly made goods that are disposable, think about the cultural industrial genocide that you are participating in. All that knowledge and ecological damage that cannot be undone.
Why do I love vintage clothing so much. I can tell you simply that within each piece of clothing is a resonance of history. History of the people who came to Canada and the U.S.A. with knowledge and hard work and a vision of a better future. They embedded this idea into the garments that they built and you can still feel it. Leather..real leather holds the markers of its wearers and makers, its patina is much like a record, a vinyl record. Each mark is a story similar to an analogue groove that holds a sound. For my personal reasons, that record is a piece of the history of my Grandfather, and Great uncles who ran schmata (rag) stores collecting old junk and then reselling it. Later they made these garments and eventually they went out of business because of cheap industrial production in Japan.
Ironies of ironies, Japan is now the reservoir of all that knowledge. There is no culture more obsessed with American vintage clothing than the one that was destroyed by America, rebuilt by America and now the repository of American historical knowledge of clothing. Japan won the economic war with America in the 1970s and is paying its respect!!
My friend who is the head designer for a major label living in China often tells me that no matter how expensive a garment is, no matter how complex, he cannot spend more than 5 dollars in cost of production. I think of that every time someone asks me why I think we need a revival of craftsman and design indigenous to North America. Ill think about this more

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Its Been an Exciting Budget

Well its the day after the Provincial Budget and I finally get my wife back. I was looking hopefully toward some help from either government to start my new business but sadly Canada's idea of a future economy involves a future where big inefficient monopolies continue to squeeze working Canadians for every dime they make and small innovative companies and new ideas get very little incentive to open or operate. Its the Canadian way, resource exploitation, monopoly and mediocrity. The problem always goes back to the power brokers who run our province and country. They are not too smart, too creative or broad based, usually from old money families with old money mentalities, with mediocre educations in the classic MBA, Law School genre. My favorite Canadian line from every MBA graduate I ever met is "Ideas are a dime a dozen" it is all in the implementation". Of course that is code for old money and conservatism and power stays with power to maintain power! Those same people never talk about the implementationers who get off they're collective arses and then get stymied by lack of private, government and institutional support all run by these uncreative nere-do-wells! Ok enough gripe fest, back to the Leather!

I joined a great site yesterday called "The Fedora Lounge". These guys discuss vintage fashion and vintage replica fashion. Many many of the members are quite knowledgeable about leather. I haven't put my two cents in, but it is nice to see people discussing the kinds of things I like to write about here. Also, it made me wish I could get more questions or discussion or commentary on my own blog. I'm always looking for commentary or questions, and I am hoping people send me pictures of their own jackets or relatives in jackets or club gear so I can post some new images or engage in more conversation.

On that note I have been going through my own collections of jackets and club gear and I have come to a conclusion; I am a geek, a serious serious crazy geek. I'm stuck and I have to open a museum! The photos: East West Jacket! Really cool picture of a dude on a bike! Daniel Boone famous label from the 1930s-1940s where they made mostly sporting jackets in the motorcycle jacket and horsehide sporting coats.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Shock of Bad Design and Leather

Ive been blown away how many people are camping on the words "vintage leather jacket". If you google it you end up with about a hundred different sites that make crappy jackets or insufficient jackets. FACT NUMERO UNO: VINTAGE MEANS A JACKET BUILT IN THE PAST, SPECIFICALLY ONE THAT HAS SOME HISTORICAL VALUE DUE TO ITS SUPERIOR CONSTRUCTION, OR HISTORICAL RELEVANCE IN THE PANTHEON OF FASHION. These jackets do not meet my standards of design, wearability, and ecological production. I am sure the people who make these would disagree with me but they don't care one crap about what I blog about.

FACT NUMERO DUO: YOU CANNOT BUY A REAL LEATHER JACKET FOR LESS THAN 500 BUCKS!!! There is a perfectly good reason for this. If you are buying a real leather jacket, the leather alone which should be veg tanned or chrome/veg tanned or at least full grain naked, steer, horse or serious goat, is 2 to 6 dollars a square foot. It takes a minimum of 45 square feet to make a jacket that is two full sides or a whole cow. Given that, and that your jacket must be hand cut, and hand sewn not machine cut, it is not possible to sell for 100 or 199 unless a small exploited child is being forced to do the work on an i.v. drip for food. If you want your jacket to have resale value or last to hand down to your kids, or grandkids, if you want it to protect your ass, get better with age, than you cannot be cheap. In fact a jacket should be priced at around 800.00 and up to be realistically in the running as a quality garment, if it is not, you should not read any further and not pass go, do not collect any more information from my blog. Now there are mass produced crap sites trying to imitate winning jacket makers like Lost Worlds, Aero Leathers, Langlitz, Lewis Leathers and others. Shame on them, especially if they are not meeting these minimum standards.

I have found a link showing how not to make a leather jacket: If you wanted to open a company and produce a quality garment this is the way to not do it:

here is another link to how not to make leather jackets, you too can dress like a clown

Friday, March 21, 2008

Undergoing MyBlogLog Verification

Wolfgang Leather Genius:

Wolf is quite the character. I am constantly amazed how many people are willing to speak to me at length regarding the old days of leather and how few people there are out there left to interview. In my pursuits of vintage clothing I would often find myself in the basements of stores of mostly older Jewish people who were well acquainted with my grandfather, great uncle or my landlord. As I would be digging through their old stock and old treasures they would regale me with tales of the heydays of the schamata business, before the big corporations took over family run business’ and these retailers and wholesalers could still make a living. I was buying a pair of 1930s wool knickers and the proprietor asked my family name. She was about 84 years old and then told me she was giving birth to her son right next to my bubby! When my grandma was giving birth to my uncle Butch, wow what a thought. There is just way too much history and wisdom in the clothing for me to share here on the site. But I digress…

Wolf explained many things about the old tannages and process’ that went into making the hard leathers that made up my vintage leather jackets. Chrome tanning has been around since the 19th century and in the industrial age where multiple use garments and speed were important factors, chrome tanning very quickly replaced vegetable tanning. Chrome tanning takes relatively little time compared to the month required to veg. tan, also chrome tanning produces a skin more receptive to dying and produces a more waterproof hide. Wolf told me that in the early days they used a combination to produce a tough hide, the initial tannage would be a chrome tan or a syntan, and then the hides would be finished with a vegetable tan and shrinkage.

Syntan is a synthetic tannage that has the characteristics of vegetable tannage without the smell and color negatives associated with vegetable tanning.

Early vegetable tanned leather was typically tanned with sumac, oakbark or nogwood, then oiled, then milled and then shrunk dried This shrinkage results in the compression of the leather fibres and a 30% to 40% loss in size of the hide. This accentuates the grain and strengthens and hardens the leather; two effects not sought after in todays leather market.

Black leather cannot be made with the oak tannages as it bleeds colour, it cannot be made with the syntan cause the colour bleaches out, according to Wolf it was made with logwood. Logwood was the perfect tannage for black leather. Ive even found a valuable copy of a book detailing the various tannages and chemistries for tanning liquors down to the smallest details for the various regions of North America. Its amazing to begin to understand what went into making these classic American jackets, all the expertise and knowhow that is lost or otherwise moved on. The next bunch of postings Im going to explore why these old tannages and leathers are important and how we are failing as consumers and buyers by purchasing cheaply made, poorly sewn and designed butter soft cheap vintage replica jackets. It is super important to remember that when you purchase something made overseas, not just the local economy culture and knowhow is diminished but that the environment, ecology and global health is diminished as well. Many companies are exploring the old ways of production and design and many are succeeding in many aspects. Perfection is always the goal!

Undergoing MyBlogLog Verification
What a Tumultuous Day:

Wow, after a one hour long interview with Wolfgang, I have learned a whole lot about vintage leather. Wolfgang was the head chemist at Dominion Tanneries, one of Canada’s most important and largest tanneries. I’m a babe-in-the-woods about leather (leather jackets aside); Wolfgang is an old school genius. I have only part of the story in my collection of vintage leather. Fifteen years and hundreds of thousands of jackets later, I am putting the pieces of the puzzle together, a picture of what made these jackets great. I realize that many things I knew were more guts then facts, and Wolfgang is the facts behind the guts.

Wolf came over to Canada in the 1950s as a chemist and expert from Germany. Germany had the swell of knowledge in chemistry. Bayer and BASF controlled the knowledge base of tanning and dye formulations that was the key to the preparation and finishing of leather. Wolf worked at Dominion as head chemist through the hey days of the North American leather boom. He is near retirement and working his father and son run family run leather supply.

Wolf told me Dominion tanned 35% of the leather produced in Canada up until their recent bankruptcy. In fact, if you google many Canadian tanneries, many of the companies will still show up on the web as the great wipeout blow was only dealt in the last ten years. Cheap, ecologically unfriendly leather plants in unregulated economies closer to the production plants for clothing have eviscerated the North American heritage in leather production from tanning, right up to sewing and skilled production techniques.

Dominion Tanners Bankruptcy
Government Assistance
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Inkster): My question is for the Minister of Industry. Dominion Tanners went into bankruptcy on July 25. Dominion Tanners operated in this province for decades. There were over 50 families that were affected by that bankruptcy. When I met with representatives of the union and workers, I was really disappointed to find out that this Government, a government that claims to be there for the working man, a government that claims to be there for the people, was an absolute farce. This Government was nowhere to be seen.
The question that they posed to me was a very good question. Why would a government get involved with Motor Coach but have absolutely nothing to do with Dominion Tanners when it faces bankruptcy, when dozens of families are told the day before not to bother to come in to work?
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk (Minister of Industry, Trade and Mines): There are times when industries go through phases of bankruptcy and there are certain situations–
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Ms. Mihychuk: The procedure that the department and the Government uses is to work with every situation which is facing crisis. At times there are plans to restructure, to find additional capital to infuse the company. Sometimes it is a situation where the businesses can no longer be competitive and we try to transition the workers into more long-term and successful opportunities.
Mr. Lamoureux: Mr. Speaker, let me ask the minister: When was this Government aware of the problems at Dominion Tanners or was it even aware of it? If it was aware, why did this Government not intervene in any fashion whatsoever? Till this date, they still have not met with the workers. Why has this Government given up on the former workers of Dominion Tanners?
Ms. Mihychuk: Any time that a business is reducing in numbers, the Department of Labour is notified. Various procedures are set up for retraining and opportunities for workers to find other employment. If a company is looking for restructuring or for an infusion of capital or if there is a way for us to facilitate its successful continuation, we will do everything we can as we have for other projects in the province from the North to the Interlake to Winnipeg, as members in this House know.
Mr. Lamoureux: Mr. Speaker, what this Government is proving is that if a Manitoban, whether it is in the cattle industry, whether it is in the manufacturing industry, is having a problem during the summertime, you are out of luck. This Government enjoys its summers and believes that it does not have to do anything.
It is shameful that this Government has done absolutely nothing in terms of retraining programs, approached the workers and provided any assistance for an industry that is relied on for many jobs, many contributions, Mr. Speaker. This Government does not even have the courtesy to meet with the workers, does not even have the courtesy to provide alternatives, does not even have the courtesy to pick up the phone, do some consultation, find out what it is that this Government might be able to do in terms of assisting in retraining and so forth. I find especially that it is a New Democratic government, and it appals me that they would neglect–
* (14:10)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Nature of Leather:reification and Modern Industrial Culture Wars

What is wrong with the modern concept of the leather jacket? People still buy leather. Despite movements and media coverage away from animal products and social trends which disparage the use of leather, society still seeks out leather to drape over their shoulders. Entire subcultures depend on the look and feel of leather for their wardrobe. Gay or straight, Goth or motorcyclist, leather still serves an important role in the modern fashion lexicon. So what is wrong with the modern leather jacket that leaves us wanting as compared to the vintage jacket? What differentiates a vintage jacket from the 199.00 motorcycle jacket produced in Asia? The answer is not as obvious as it would seem.

Since the dawn of human beings the earliest garments were made of leather. Paleolithic humans draped the skins of their food over their backs for warmth and protection, developing techniques to preserve those skins and make them as hard or soft and pliable as needed so they would serve as excellent protection from the elements or other violent forces. Leather speaks to the primal source of what it is to be human. The vintage leather jacket is the end of that continuum of the hunting gathering human. It is not simply an “old” jacket but the last stop in the era of the hide jacket. Not the junky mass produced jacket that most are purchasing today from the corner leather shop.

Why is a hide important as a concept? Hide implies and imbues all the earliest conceptions of what leather is. Leather is a skin; the skin of an animal. We are hairless, clawless, toothless beings who took the hair, claws and teeth of the animals we feared and revered most and through creativity, invention and respect fashioned our own hair, claw and tooth. Protection from the elements, animals and each other were fundamental to the fashioning of leather jackets. That paradigm stretches far into the 1970s, where North American made leather jackets arguably reach the pinnacles of the representation of those instincts. Where jackets run a perfect gamut of utility meets fashion.

The early process of preserving leather to save and keep those precious skins involved tanning. Tanning leather is the process of preparing the animal hide in a solution which replaces some of the organic components that rot with others that do not to keep the skin preserved and flexible. That process was perfected over thousands of years using organic wastes which contain tannins and soaking the hides in these wastes until the tannins replace the volatile decomposable elements of the hide. Usually the hides are then softened and made pliable through stretching, beating shaping and oiling in a fat solution. The skin is made softer or harder depending on the use of the garment. Protective garments are harder and thicker leathers, like breast plates for Romans or biker jackets for motorcyclists, and fashion garments are softer like fur coats for princess’ or chamois for soft fashion garments. So what has changed? Why is today’s leather different from the leather of early 20th century? In a nutshell we have lost the concept of hides or skin. It became socially incorrect to acknowledge our ancestral heritage of respecting the animals we eat, and wearing their skins. Somehow along the way we lost the importance of animals and their skins, and lost the value of leather as a protective covering. Today’s leather is an industrial product, cheap efficient and more like a fabric than a skin. Whether the reason for this change in the perception of leather was a reflection of changing fashion, changing technology or changing economics, the fact remains that modern leather jackets for the most part reflect a paradigm shift in the perception of leather. That shift cheapens and devalues the concept of the leather jacket and removes the skin from the leather. With the resurrection of the vintage leather jacket there is hope we as a culture can put the leather back in the leather jacket and start embracing our very human history as people who wear and respect hides.

Undergoing MyBlogLog Verification