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.
Day two of Inspiration arrived far too early in the morning. Nancy and I moved hotels to the historic Dolly Vardan in Long Beach in order to save the long drive from downtown L.A. We got to the show unpacked our gearÂ and prepared to meet and greet. I was really impressed with all the vendors and dealers at the show. I chatted up Bob Chatt and Owen about their recent reality t.v. show Combat Cash, and revisited all the best store owners in L.A. Day Two was the day that designers cruised in to visit before heading out to the Rose Bowl to buy vintage design pieces on Sunday and then rush off to Las Vegas to represent their brands at Project clothing show. Everyone in high end menswear dropped in to offer support. Tsujimoto of Real McCoys, John Chapman of Goodwear Leather and I managed to get a picture together. We all share the same ethics and philosophies of how we make real pure and true to the 1930s leather jackets. We also all buy our leather from the same supplier in Japan. I was very honoured that these two jacket makers let me join their ranks as an equal!Â Kento, who is the next generation of Real McCoys and famous baseballer, tried on my newest model the Canauck 1910 leather railroad jacket! Innis and Sophie came by the booth and when Nancy, Naoko and Sophie started trying on my girls leather jackets the whole room stopped to watch. It was really quite amazing. Right at that time Paul D’Orleans of the most famous motorcycle blog The Vintagent, dropped in to say hello. We have shared links for years without actually meeting each other. However, like everyone else we all waited slack jawed and mezmorized untilÂ the ladies ended their fashion show!!! Blair of General Quarters Store L.A. tried on a Heron. He makes every jacket look good! The most important two goals for my day were to meet Matt from Imogene and Willie and Kiya from Self Edge.
The show began to lull, by 2 in the afternoon everybody was exhausted and dreading the pack out because of the stairs and the single freight elevator. Finally Matt came by. He was one of my first customers and a real supporter of my jackets. What a true Nashvillian gentleman. I was blown away. Finally, at the 11th hour Kiya came by. This was a big moment for me. We shook hands and talked and then pow…just like that Kiya told me he wants to carry my jackets in all three stores. Finally I will be back in Los Angeles. Not just L.A., San Fran, NYC and Nashville and Portland! So HBL will be releasing limited edition jackets in all Self Edges locations pretty soon! Phew my trip was worth the 3000 mile exhaustion run. So now it was pack up and load up Eric’s van for the Rose Bowl flea market the next day and get to the Ralph Lauren RRL party. Well we got packed up and I had to shower up and de-swell my feet at the hotel. RRL was incredible. Jeff Decker was releasing his limited edition custom RLL belt buckles. As we were heading to Project on Sunday with Jeff’s rare motorcycle cuts and likely showing his rare Crocker motorcycle in our booth I really wanted to show my support at the RRL party. Well it was fantastic. Everybody in fashion was there! Nevermind that, RRL hired In and Out Burger to make burgers for everybody!!!
Nancy and I got up late the next day unlike Caleb and Eric who had to be at the Bowl at 5 am. We were parting ways as I was hitting the Rose Bowl flea market which is the biggest most important junk sale on the planet for fashion designers and Nancy had to head back to Toronto for her other job. Well it was an amazing day. The best part was meeting Robert outside in the parking lot to discuss our not so secret boot project that will hopefully be coming to Himel Brothers Online store pretty soon!
We finished our day of journeying to Huntington Library and the Griffith Observatory. If you are going to embark on a life changing adventure in Los Angeles, you must visit the observatory to see the city and really get the big picture so you don’t lose yourself in L.A. We headed back to the hotel and after a lovely night of sleep at the Beverly Laurel, we got up at the crack of dawn. I was on a mission to visit every store in Los Angeles that was hip, high end and heritage. This meant a journey to Unionmade in Santa Monica. So on goes the GPS and we hit the highways of Los Angeles. I have to say that driving in Los Angeles is a dream compared to Toronto. Traffic flows smoothly in L.A. and the drivers are super courteous compared to the constant traffic jams of my hometown and the constant assault of maniac drivers. Well Unionmade is right on the way to the beach so first we stopped in for some pictures and a hello and then off to Pallisades Park! Its so cool to visit iconic locations that previously only resonated in the cultural objets d’art of my youth. I was super surprised to see a Canuck flag floating over a tent right on the beach and Nancy guessed that Cirque de Soliel had set up there. As usual she was right! Needless to say we decided to walk the beach which was several kilometers long, and this left us a long way from the car.Â Then the phone rings and my good friend and booth co-occcupant Eric Schrader of Junkyardjeans gave me an earfull! They were setting up on the Queen Mary and where were we?Â So bamn, 5 km from the car we scramble off the pier and somehow instantly find a cab and head to the car, get on the highway and race to the ship.Â The stress was building as we got closer.Â I always get freaked out at these public events because they are big deals. Its kinda like the first day of school each time.Â By the time we got to the parking lot of the ship and I parked beside Jeff Decker’s van I started to relax. We hauled ass into the boat and it was hello’s all around. Every L.A. vintage dealer I knew was there and this year everybody was super friendly. Rin was not at the front entrance but his number two and one of my oldest friends in the business Nao Akimoto was there saying hey! We got down to the booth only to realize Eric had set up for us and went back to his hotel. So now it was fun time. I got my camera out so I could take some pictures of everyone setting up and watch the most important people in the vintage business pre-negotiate deals on the very very expensive stuff before the show opened the next day. It is an amazing thing to see the top historical clothing experts haggling over 20 thousand dollar jeans and 3 thousand dollar leather jackets.Â Â My good Canadian friend Brett Viberg of Viberg Boots rang me up and he, Nancy and me spent a couple of hours chatting, shaking hands and right over to the samples of the Clutch Magazine promotional issue.Â No one had seen it and since both Brett and I were in it Nancy wanted to see it immediately! Ok…long long day and we delivered our jackets and decided to head out to the Inspiration opening party.Â Super cool…the party was in a vintage mall in Long Beach. Oh man, magazine writers, photographers, vintage guys and everybody wanted to say hello and introduce themselves it was a great vibe. After the inspiration party we decided to head out for dinner at a great resto near our hotel and then head over to a “happening” hosted by Davide Berutto at Shelter Half! I wanted to introduce myself to him and chat about his business. Wicked party and beautiful young L.A. hipsters tired us out so back to the hotel to get up early for the first day of Inspiration.
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