Thursday, November 24, 2011

Military Ensigns: Leather and Decoration.......

 One of the common modifications applied to vintage leather is decoration with military insignias. Cherished jackets either military issue or civilian made often bare the patches and souvenirs of the owners service in the Army, Air Force or Navy.   The history and traditions associated with those symbols are usually strongly associated with A-2s  as patch work applied to leather jackets from the American Air Force or Army Air Forces of World War Two.  What is often forgotten is that other branches and armed forces of other countries had long and deep traditions of military insignias and mascots.

During a recent trip to St. Johns, Newfoundland, one of my local friends insisted I have a pint at The Crows Nest.   Until my arrival I was utterly unaware of these storied walls.  The Crows Nest was established in WW 2 to provide a safe place for Naval Officers to unwind during active duty.  St. Johns harbour, one of the oldest in North America was a launch point for many of the convoys that supplied troops and materials for the European Campaign.  Outside the harbour safety of St. Johns, Nazi U boats lay in wait  to hunt down ships and entire convoys.  It was a game of hunt and run between the fast U boats and the Corvettes of the Canadian Navy.  Spies were everywhere and Officers needed a facility to drink and discuss the war.

As was told by the bartender in the club, naval colours, mascots, female Varga pinups, photos and war souvenirs were both exchanged and donated to the club over the years of active service for the Canadian Royal Navy.  There are a million stories here but I will not spoil the tales told within the walls of this club of secrecy.  The periscope was from a captured German U boat.
 I would point out that many designers today still borrow from the rich and often mystical iconography of the young men risking their lives fighting the Axis in WW 2.  From bike gangs to military fashion, the power of these images still resonate!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Himel Brothers Leather: New Designs and Traditions of Mixing Media

I have not posted about my leather jacket project Himel Bros in a while and in fact I've barely posted at all on my blog here.  Its not for the lack of love I have for my blogs to be sure.  I have simply been so absorbed in the Himel Brothers projects that I have barely had time to come up for air.

I am of course doing everything top to bottom at the shop.  I design the jackets, labels, pick fabrics, do branding, blogging, webstuff and on an on and on including putting the button holes on the jackets. 

I between jobs I still have to go out and find vintage jackets to buy and sell, post stuff up on my website and communicate with all my customers.  We are always looking for customers and given the hard times people are in I am always trying to make everybody feel welcome and have a great experience for their hard earned and kept money! 
 Lately I've been working on projects in mixed media.  One of the great traditions of vintage leather companies was to combine fabrics, leather and textures to create really crazy abominations of leather jackets.  These jackets often had so much flare that they made the wearer look extra tough.   From blanket jackets to Grizzly jackets I've posted in the past about the aesthetics of these combinations which often created loud displays and statements for the wearer.  Recently I made a few versions myself.  The buffalo hair on with brown horsehide was one.  And the last month I have been experimenting with wool, oilskin and leather.  I'm really really proud of the results, especially the plaid wool goat skin Heron model.  I think it turned out really snappy  with the contrasting chin strap and the deadstock navy style urethane buttons.   Super cool!

Monday, October 24, 2011

What is in a Tag: Label Your Brand

I spend a lot of my time thinking about labels.  From a social context Labeling something or someone can often imply a negative.  Oh he was labelled a racist, or she was labelled a get the point.   From a Marxist theoretical standpoint applying the label can imply "dissempowerment".  By naming the thing, you take away its power, flux and change.  The thing becomes fixed ideologically both in place and time.  A side effect of this phenomenon is often the renaming and re-contextualizing of words when new power structures form.  After the revolution dictators rename cities, rewrite laws, and new terms emerge to name a societies members  like "comrade" or "citizen"

Revolutions lead to whole new ways of naming, and inventions of new systems of time and space.  The "Julian" calender, or "year zero" in the Pol Pot Regime.   I guess the point I am making is that labelling and branding are pretty powerful moments.  They add a value to something otherwise taken more simply.  They fix a meaning to those boots and that jacket.  They create a meta meaning on top of the thing that both fixes it and either can hinder its existence or add value to it.  I spend this time sweating and hemming and hawing  over my Himel Brothers Leather Jackets labels hoping to get the design just right for this very reason.  I want my brand
to reflect my insane obssession with quality and tradition while at the same time not looking old, repetative, copied, cheap tired or fake.  I collect and analyze thousands of images of great brands, some recognizable and some not, in order to embed in my deep subconcious brain the "language" of good brands and great labels.  I ask myself what their value propositions are, and how they are reflected in the design and naming of the brand because I want to capture the "esscence" of my own brand and never miss the message.  That is the beauty of great designs and gorgeous labels!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Rivet Head: 1930's 1940's Wool & Leather Sporting Jacket

Rivet Head: 1930's 1940's Wool & Leather Sporting Jacket: This one just popped up on eBay! I know the auction's not completed, but what the heck, it's not my size and it's sure to go through the roo...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Amazing Jackets: The Slow Death of Ebay

Every month that goes by and Ebay brings more and more changes to alienate its junk sellers. Junk, dead peoples clothing, these are the terms I endearingly use to describe my years of buying and selling vintage. The best of the best have passed through ebay...and with its eventual demise the concentration of and pooling of the best of vintage will disperse into the web universe!

The wonderment of the primitiveness of early designs never stops to impress me...I have decided that I am a full on jacket addict

Friday, July 8, 2011

Summer Comes in With a Bang: Barber Shops and Rockabilly

 Summer arrived with a bang in Kensington Market.  Ive been struggling with the fact that I have my feet in two or three ponds at the moment and cant get back onto dry land!  One of the bonus' of this new generation of vintage lovers is the arrival of a new appreciation of bad ass old school cars and a new wave of business owners.  While barber shops were closing up because the old Italian and Portuguese barbers were retiring...a new trend has been emerging here in Toronto and elsewhere.  Gen Y'rs have seen opportunities to take up traditional jobs in the marketplace and rebrand them as cool!

In L.A. right next to CraftWorkWear they have subleased to a cool barbershop, and here in Toronto, my friend Roger has also done the same thing.  There is now a dirge of vintage cars and free Rockabilly bands floating around my beautiful neighbourhood!  Even my old butchershop Max and Sons, has been bought and rebranded with local meats but more on that later.  For now enjoy some snaps of my friends and neighbors!

Some of the Best Jackets This Year: Just Because

I find myself overwhelmed with work and underwhelmed with income.  Not very inspiring for doing tonnes of writing online.  So here are a few excelent pictures to randomly make myself feel better!  They are from all over the internet..and of course I barely had time to sort out where they came this is a collective shout out to all the people who share in webworld and inspire me to recycle their (our) collective culture!