Well it was a long long journey from Los Angeles and Inspiration all the way to Las Vegas and Project. The days at the show really opened my eyes to the bigger picture of growing a fashion brand and our host Andrew did an amazing job curating. The last day was vaguely ominous as I knew it was near time to pack up. Eric, Caleb and I took a Project limousine for a quick jaunt to one of the other related shows called “Source” . We were looking for new materials and suppliers that could offer up fabrics and materials for our fashion brands hopefully made in America. Sadly that did not work out well except we had an amazing ride with two young fashion bloggers from N.Y.C. who spent the limo ride texting notes via their iphones. Cool and weird for them I am sure! Well the show came to an end and we packed up the booth. Unfortunately after nights of no sleep waiting for 3 hours to get a union truck to lug our stuff out of the building was no great pleasure. Especially since we were very aware that we were going to somehow have to get every thing in our booth back in the van! This time we had one extra person and luggage. Fabian the expert chainstitcher from Junkyardjeans is excellent company but the van was full to bursting. We were in a race to Utah to meet up with world-famous motorcycle sculptor Jeff Decker to return his motorcycle gang cuts and squeeze in some hang time at his studio and restaurant. We were leap frogging with Jeff and his van all day. When we finally pulled into Hippodrome Studios he greeted us with a big smile. Jeff had a van load of rare motorcycle items to show off. Of course Jeff owns his own Himel Bros Jacket and I have my own Decker belt buckle!
I will tell you that I have dreamed of doing this drive from Las Vegas to Boise, Idaho for 10 years. Every month my good friend Eric does this from Idaho to L.A. and back and every year I say I am going to do the drive and come see his store. Well this was my year. Unfortunately for us, we were going to do it in a overpacked van, and due to a snow storm moving in across the desert, we were going to have to stay in a hotel for an extra night in Las Vegas and play some cards. Sad for me really because I knew I wasn’t going to get any sleep for the long beautiful trip the next day. Regardless we hit the road in the early A.M. The storm had passed leaving a light dusting of snow on the desert and I was in for my first real trip across the vast beautiful terrain of American wilderness. I got to visit Decker’s absolutely stunning studio and resto, and managed to make it to Boise in one day of driving to boot. The wildest, fastest road trip across America I think I will ever take!!!
The first day at Project started with a bang. I missed my ride over to the show so I had to flag a cab in Vegas. Little did I realise it is illegal to flag a cab in Vegas. Luckily some desperate cabby broke the rules and ferried me over to the Mandalay Bay. Eric (Junkyardjeans) Fabian and Caleb(Enemy to Fashion) already arrived at the show and finished setting up our booth. I walked into the hotel convention and as penance was tasked with acquiring drinks and fruit salad. I did not know that only one resto booth would be open and charging triple normal pricing. So I waited and I waited and I waited and then spent 40 dollars blackmail style on some fruit salad, coffees and a few other sundries. I headed toward the show entrance and KAPOW so many people. Hundreds and hundreds of beautiful people, fashion buyers, owners, designers, aficionados, bloggers, press, models and anybody else you can think of making their ways down the main concourse and heading into the show. When I arrived at the booth the lads informed me Decker was held up and his rare Crocker motorcycle would not make it that day. That was ok, his cuts and Eric’s looked amazing. The pictures say it all. I walked down Main St. as the booth was down the central isle. The show was so cool set up like a N.Y.C. street map with all the best highest end brands setting up million dollar booths. The jewel in the crown was the Wooster booth where fashion curatorial genius Nick Wooster organized collaborative projects with top planetary design genii. Where else would you see Darren Romanelli of DRx hanging out with Brett Viberg, or Maurizio Donadi of LVC with Donwan Harrell of PRPS jeans trying on Himel Brothers jackets and getting opinions from Judy Augur. Basically every person or owner was by to encourage me and my project. Mr. Tsujimoto owner of Real McCoys dropped in to share words of support, and his son Kento tried on my newest model 1910 Canuck Railroad jacket. Our booth was right beside the photo studio so while Fabian of Junkyardjeans was making amazing old time chainstitch biker patches we got to chat up potential buyers and network with the top design minds on the planet while being entertained by models. Project is really really cool. They set up ping pong tables for the attendees…PING PONG! I was completely drained by the end of day one but that just meant making dinner plans and recharging by attending the craziest party hosted by Project and running around having the old school Vegas buffet dinner with some very badass store owners and designers. I probably sound star struck but it is far more than that. I already achieved my goals to find partners to work with in the U.S. but Project was really a bigger step upward. I somehow found myself standing side by side with the designers of every major brand that I used to sell design and inspiration pieces to. LVC, Ben Sherman, Barbour, Woolrich, PRPS, G Star and a million others. I attended parties like a shoe launch at UNDEFEATED and had networking dinners with guys running brands worth millions. In the clothing business showing your face is very important especially if you want to work with collaborative projects down the road. What was really really interesting on top of that were all the teams behind these brands. Every booth was represented by the teams that built the brands and the lines. And what blew my mind the most was not just the incredible level of design at the Wooster Project, but the fact that a whole bunch of these cats were aware of my leather jacket brand micro project and followed my blogging. It freaked me out when people came over to try on jackets and told me they were waiting to see one in person. Awesome!
This year my trip was a marathon of sleeplessness Los Angeles is truly one of the great cultural cities on the planet. The vibe is completely different then my east coast existence. People seem to have more room to create and more facilities to do it in. Inspiration and the RRL party were incredible but after a week of flu and 3 to 5 hours of sleep a night, I needed one night of catchup. Sunday Rose Bowl flea market is really a 5 am gig so technically I missed all the really good fun. That being said, it was time to put Nancy back on a plane to her other job in Toronto so we needed a good breakfast and some check out time. After a day at the bowl and a sad goodbye it was time to pack up and head down the road for Project Las Vegas. I had never attended a trade show of this scale and had no idea what to expect. Caleb (Enemy to Fashion) and Eric (Junkyardjeans) called me for the emergency pack out. Apparently we had to get from Pasadena to Las Vegas by 6 pm in order to set up for the show. We had three hours to do it in.
The pack up at the Rose Bowl was insane. Between Eric’s stuff from Idaho, Caleb’s from North Carolina and mine from Toronto, all the display stuff and various sundries the van was starting to dangerously overflow. We filled and filled and filled and at some point Eric stopped and pointed out we had to meet up with Jeff Decker, famous motorcycle expert and bronze sculptor, and fit his motorcycle cuts in the back. Well in some sort of unbelievable puzzle like solution every single inch of the V-10 Econoline was filled. There was barely enough room to squeeze our asses into the seats between the sewing machines and gear to the ceiling. It was a miracle. So was the journey completed in 2 hours 47 minutes.
Pulling up to Mandalay Bay at 5:57 PM was exhausting. We arrived happy to make the deadline and feeling overwhelmed by the task ahead of unloading the madly overloaded van and creating a world class booth from scratch. We waited for the union boys to truck the gear into the building and I walked into my first ever Big League trade show. It was incredible. The scale was hard to imagine. We somehow scored a booth on the main entrance aisle of the show beside brands like LVC Clothing, PRPS Jeans, Ben Sherman and a select few other super cool brands. Now it was time to figure out how to construct an amazing display with our van load of “stuff” after most of the other million dollar booth exhibitors had gone home . Luckily Caleb who has years of experience in trade shows from both sides was an expert in these matters. Caleb set up a rough layout with Eric and I ran around digging up bubble wrap and other discarded materials from the Wooster booth to stuff into our bags and boots to make them look good. We had to figure out a way to accommodate Jeff’s rare Crocker motorcycle that he was going to try and bring by. We set up and by 11 pm after a quick hello to Mike Hodis and the lads at Rising Sun who were also there late into the evening, we headed out to find a hotel and a poker room.