Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Jacket Porn, the Best of the Best

The dealers at the "Inspiration" show are the best of the best modern day craft producers and vintage clothing historians out there. These people represent the points of a vast pyramid of pickers and processors trying to collect and disseminate the long lost history and technique of my grandfather and his peers clothing production. Making a living out of history is random at the best of times and parodies the hunter gatherer model of primitive man! Hunting and gathering vintage antique clothing that is traded, migrating slowly upward until it lands on the behind of Bruce Springsteen or Cheryl Crow or maybe in the hands of some fantastic design genius who wants to copy a pocket or a lost sewing construction technique. For me this show was all about Jacket porn. My neighbor Mike of PatandMike shows up in every Rin Tanaka book as one of the worlds great leather jacket collector/dealers and has been a good customer of mine for years. He let me photograph some of his awesome jackets. Bill Wall Leather sent one of their guys is a picture of a jacket that they have been offered 25k for and still will not sell. These guys are at the highest end of custom exclusivity and authenticity. Just check out all the rockstars that are into their stuff.

I met up with lots of buddies...if you read or follow Lightning Magazine, MyFreedamn, or any of Rin's books, Free and Easy Magazine et al then you would be surprised to find that all these faces are the people behind these genius collections. Pictured here is Larry Heller of Hellers Cafe...The Inspiration show was for the launch of his book King of Vintage. Bill Wall Leathers sent over a 25K custom jacket. My fellow Canucks were here from the West Coast with their Viberg boots. And that cool red truck is Christophe Loiren and crew of Mr. Freedom.  He has launched his own super sucessful brand of "vintage"clothing (its not copies, its not inauthentic).  Everybody is hanging out having fun!

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Difference Between Best and O.K.

There were some of the best designers of "Nouveau Appalachian" gear in the world at the Inspiration show. Aesthetically I've wondered what is this movement about. I'm not 100% sure when I look at the participants. The scale of different designers and their means of production are often completely different. In many cases, like myself or my friend Robert, we are micro businesses. On the other end of the spectrum is RRL Ralph Lauren, who while having a high end small line like RRL, is as macro as you get. I'm never quite sure what qualifies as "legitimate". There were Nouveau Craftsman there showing their handmade pieces of denim, boots and bags made one piece at a time, and the guys doing small production runs of limited edition pieces. I definitely am not casting stones. I think that exclusivity and craft go hand in hand. To use the best parts and to be part of the production process are what make the difference in perfect garments. The price of the perfection is dear and that garment will be kept for a long long time. I've read many comments on blogs like ACL about companies bringing back old designs and quality at ridiculously high costs to the consumer. Those making such comments do not realize that the price of "the best of the best" materials and design and small craft production is incredibly high. The cost of made in China goods reflects the standardization of sewing techniques and materials, and the sacrifice of eco and socially friendly practices for pure profit. It can't go both ways. I use vegetable tanned leather that takes 3 months of soaking in a bark solution, from bark gleaned from mimosa trees. The animals are well treated farm animals from Europe so that they are large skins with no blemish. That is the testimonial of the quality of leather unsurpassed both in character...and ethics. As for the nature of craft...Walter Benjamin was a brilliant theorist who wrote a ground breaking article "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" asked the question what is the "Aura" of authenticity and the politics of "originality" in mass production. Benjamin proposed that since with mass produced goods there is no original piece, with its linage of ownership, cult of ritual and "high art" standing that the ritualistic nature of this form of production is smashed and the politics of it too. He wrote during a time where there was hope of new cultural politics tied up in the new "mass media" of the cinema. I suppose that after years of "mass production" that perhaps some people are longing for the ritual of slow production. That maybe the craftsman and small run clothing makers are becoming popular to return the "aura" and "authenticity" and linage back to clothing production.

In the pics...that is Snappygabs..Brian's booth, some amazing jackets from PatandMike..Mike. Included is a painted post war buco cafe racer, grizzly jacket, some early Harley shirts and some incredible 50s era two tone jackets (safer for the night riders). Thats a pic of me and Rin...and John Chapman and Mike..and that green jacket is one I havent sold for 5 years the rare East West backpack jacket...sweet!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Inspiration, Rin Tanaka and Vintage Geeks

I was trying to explain to my good friend what I do for a living and how I ended up in Barker Hanger with a bunch of clothing geeks the other day. I had a shocking epiphany that in reality I was describing the last 20 years of my work and a brief history of workwear. How did all these little companies come to meet in Barker? What does Ralph Lauren RRL have to do with a surfboard maker, military reproducer, sukajan collector and a leather jacket geek?

When I started in vintage clothing in 1992 you might say the internet was "new" There were few options for selling vintage however Toronto was a strange locus on the map of clothing dealers. Japanese pioneers of "club culture admiration" converged with the old guard of hippy era vintage sellers and began the seeds of "Japanese" styles. By the time I started in the business, companies were in a full fledged attempt to grow into mega vintage companies! Here in my city the long tradition of Jewish immigration developed a locus of rag factories (many people like my grandfather started their clothing companies by collecting old clothes and repairing them, which probably initiated the model of "copy and improve). By the 1970s huge waves of immigrants fleeing east Africa and Idi Amin took over the "Schmata" factories here and grew the business. This vast archive of clothing made Toronto a center for vintage with no outlet to sell it. Toronto vintage dealers had to work hand and hand with L.A. vintage dealers selling their wears. Eventually the dealing order was broken down by early websites like and Ebay. The lines between vintage pickers, vintage dealers, designers, and new clothing brands disintegrated. New clothing companies replicated vintage, vintage clothing companies made new clothing, pickers became retailers, dealers became designers. This massive mixup and breakdown of barriers has reinvented the "workwear denim culture" of the 1930s 40s and 50s without any of the production efficiencies of the North American Factory system. Its like everything is starting back in 1930 all over again!

So the natural order of things was a complex web of operations. Toronto guys would sell to L.A. guys. The L.A. guys would sell to Japanese stores. Japanese fashionistas would set fashion trends and they would get replicated from the street to designers back in London and New York. Slowly the speed of the cycle got faster and faster until designers went straight to the vintage dealers in L.A. and N.Y.C. cutting out Japanese street fashion. Soon pickers stopped selling to dealers, and started retailing through the web. After that designers started saving money buying from pickers...and pretty soon after that dealers were becoming designers...this wonderful anarchy created the "Inspiration" show!

Featured in the pictures, Schott Japan setting up, Little REata, foremost in deadstock vintage, The Flat Head, Japanese repro company,Bob Chat, worlds expert on military collectibles and reproductions ...RRL and my good friend and clothing and marketing genius Atsu Tagaya of Topanga.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Computers, the Web and Leather I've spent the last 3 weeks getting my life ready for websites and tax season. I came back from the wide world to heaps and heaps of paperwork..This just in time for one of my 3.5 inch hard drives to crap out. Geeze...I have decided to shed the 3.5 format, afterall this is a replacement drive for the last drive; 4 drives in 1 year. I got some advice and bought an Acer Revo machine. How cool is this...full power media and graphics machine in the space of a modem. Enough of my techie obsessions...step 2 of getting home was to set up a website to compliment the blog and start selling some new leather jackets. I was pretty far along when my good friend and talented webby girl reached her limit of winter and went on holidays. I figured after getting my host and equipment, setting up a temporary Wordpress site would be a piece of cake. Boy was I wrong. Sometimes it sucks when you cant be a jack of all trades!

Ok, enough of that lets get back to Los Angeles and the Inspiration show . After a hard day of setup Rin organized a special pre-show viewing for show participants and v.i.p.s. This turned into a huge party! Around 4 pm Barker Hanger began to fill with vintage celebrities and fashionista of every variety. My anticipation was building because I knew that I would be meeting many of my friends and business relations in person for the first time. There is a strange phenomenon of web business, I have been collaborating in some cases for years with people that I speak to and see every day through my computers but have never shaken hands with flesh to flesh. Wow who would have thunk it! There's a picture of me with my good friend and conspirator John Chapman of Goodwear Leather We exchanged our jackets for that one. And these other cool guys are the dudes of Deus Motorcycles . They came all the way from Australia to participate. That's Carby Tuckwell trying on one of my jackets...part of the design team behind Deus Ex Machina and their custom bobbers, fashion and club culture D.N.A.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Inspiration, Rin Tanaka...and My Neighbors

We ate a mighty breakfast at Swingers Diner famed location in Melrose. This resto has been the meeting place of many a hipster, and since we were staying at the Beverly Laurel Hotel it was a very convenient launch point for our stomachs. 24 hours a day of the cool, the strange and the hungry! I needed a full stomach to head off to the Inspiration show and set up our booth. Thank god for my GPS because the drive to the Santa Monica Airport was smooooth and fast. When we got there setting up was a combination of a vintage reunion schmooze fest and a lot of great embracing of old friends. Was I ever surprised to find out that Robert and I had a booth right across from Rin Tanaka's book booth, down beside Mike of Filthmart, Mike of Mike and Pat, Larry of Heller's Cafe (who was launching his book with Rin) and Double RL. I was in a pantheon of new and vintage greats. This was one hell of a party. My good friend Eric of Junkyard Jeans
lent me his best 1920s display rack and we set out to show off Himel Bros new leather jackets!!!

After the big panic of getting setup the schmoozing began. I checked out everybody's stuff. It was a vintage leather jacket porn fest. Every person who ever contributed to the rise and popularity of vintage clothing was there. It was a vintage rockstar festival all created through the vision of Rin Tanaka and his vintage spirit!!!

I will cover many of the attendees in my upcoming posts. Each one of the exhibitors at Rin's show contributes keystone style and design to the movement of craft historical clothing. If that's what your into, then you must get to know every single detail of the collections that were hosted at this show!