It is always hard to explain to people what I do over here in my little tiny company. I often get emails from people wondering why my jackets and other items are so expensive or why it takes so long to make a single jacket. I guess part of my job is trying to de-mystify what I do. A lot of people might see that as a crazy thing to do but I want anybody who is interested to see the day to day workings of HBL. Firstly I do almost everything. I run a very tiny shop! I have one other sewer and one cutter. We make each jacket one by one by one. Cutting each carefully matched piece of leather from the skin and assembling every single jacket a piece at a time. I post about this all the time. Well I just got a new shipment of leather in. I search out vegetable tanned top grain shrunk hides from the best tanners on the planet. This shit’s expensive. My hides are running as high as ten dollars a sq. foot. What this means is my leather is like fine wine. It is aged, cured and treated with incredible respect from the most beautiful sourced animals on the planet. This load is from the most respected cordovan tannery in Japan. As far as I know only 3 other jacket makers use this tannery, John Chapman of Goodwear Leather, Tsujimoto of Real McCoys and The Flathead. Perhaps there are others but most importantly for me is that I use the best of the best leathers on the planet and I know my friends in the jacket business feel the same way. This load is for my new secret super special project debuting in the U.S.A. soon. I have also acquired some very interesting liners. These jackets will be super limited edition HBL specials!!!
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!!!
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.