Now well into fall I am behind on my orders. Part of the struggle of running a small brand is that I cannot replicate myself. I am in a constant struggle to keep up with the demands of producing really really high quality jackets with a tiny team and tiny resources. This year I have been incredibly lucky to start relationships with some of the best stores in Europe and the U.S.A. I am ecstatic that my jackets are desired and selling and am now facing the challenges of meeting production demands and regulatory requirements of the countries involved. What a crazy business! I have to become an expert very quickly at bureaucracy that I am completely unfamiliar with! These are new designs and materials that I have put together this month. Sadly I had to model the first Japanese Shinki horsehide Canuck myself as I made it size huge for the test jacket!
Many times a month I am emailed or requested to create a specific design or modify a jacket to make some special edition for a customer. As much as I would like to be able to do this I find myself explaining the impossibility of it and the complexity of the process of developing a new design or pattern. I thought I would take the time to explain the very unique process of coming up with jacket designs here at Himel Brothers and why our products are unique compared to large corporate fashion.
It is important to understand that we design our jackets and patterns by hand using pencil and paper. The large corporate fashion companies have softwares that can take ideas from computer to finished product and 3-D animation in less then a day. Gerber and Optitex allow for seamless production. I believe however to truly capture the beautiful lines of original garments and the organic nature of the human body, it is required to hand draw, alter and finish patterns. When I design a new jacket I start with original jackets for body shapes. I create an aged vintage mock up of the design in Photoshop to get an idea of what the finished product would look like. From there we draw up a pattern, often using the original jackets and a tape measure to get shapes just right. From there measurements are altered to fit a modern body size and a cotton mock up is made. The mock up is altered, the paper is altered and this goes back and forth until we can get just the perfect fit, shape, curves, strange lines and authenticity. This can take weeks, and when it is finished a real leather version has to be made and tested on several different people of the sample size. If the jacket works we send the pattern for grading, if not it starts all over again. Grading is tricky itself. To make all the different sizes you have to determine rules to adjust the size consistently, but on occasion change those rules as the sizes get to the far ends of the size range. Every step of the way can lead to failure, especially when grading as any mistake is repeated on every single pattern size produced. So you can imagine I can’t just whip up a new jacket on the fly! But I believe our handmade pattern process is superior to computerized system that smooths out lines and removes the organic nature of the design.
This was a very exciting summer for me. I had the chance to attend and show Himel Brothers Leather at Bread and Butter in the beautiful city of Berlin. Having never been to Berlin Nancy and I jumped on the chance to find new customers and meet supporters. It was the perfect choice as many of my European friends rarely get the opportunity to fly to North America. We arrived in the city to find ourselves staying in one of the coolest areas of the former Eastern Block and is the historic core of Berlin. We rented an apartment and found ourselves smack dab in front of bars and cafes and possibly one of the most wonderful transit systems on the planet. Oh German beer and subways make my home town of Toronto pale in Comparison. We set up for the show in the exclusive Lock section of the Tempelhof airport. This historic building was one of the biggest on the earth when built, and even had an underground factory and rail system. This was flooded by the Russians in WW 2 as unexploded booby traps laced the underground floors. So we were hanging out on top of bombs! I met amazing people during the show. Viberg and I shared a booth, and the brands like Pike Brothers, Merz B. Schwanen, Nigel Cabourn, and Dehen sweaters were all hangin out. Everyday was an A list fashion event, with dinners and meetings to boot. While we were spending time shaking hands and having meetings with stores like 14Oz, VMC and The Self Edge, at night it was all dinners and parties. The lads from Silvetto came down from Scandinavia, and many of my good Japanese friends from The Flathead, Lightning and Clutch magazines spent hours eating, chatting and giving me excellent advice!! I was super excited meeting Fredrick, Eric Jost and Roger Hatt for the first time in person, and the whole Flathead team. I wish I could detail every single bit here but suffice to say Berlin was awesome and so was the Pizza!