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!
So we got up bright and early. First day of Inspiration and as I said, I got coughed on flying into L.A. and yet again spent my first 3 days in sun, heat and snot. I hoped it would be gone by the time the first day of the show came and of course there was no chance of that happening. I was puffy and bloated and completely unready to shake hands. Part of my lessons from the last two Inspirations taught me that I need to set goals for the show. My primary goal was to find a store to carry Himel Brothers Leather in Los Angeles. Since Craft Workwear expired, I have been missing my L.A. customers. My second goal was to meet, grill to grill, all the store owners, designers and customers that have been emailing me and reading my blogs, generally being so supportive of my project. So I vowed not to get too distracted by the high school exuberance of hanging out with all my west coast vintage buddies that I never get to see because I live in Toronto.
So we primed the booth and made sure it looked good. Me, Eric and Caleb spent most of the morning poking fun at each other. First thing when I walked into the show Larry Heller was right there, so was Greg Wallraven and my other best vintage friend Rob Medellin. If you look in Rin Tanaka’s book on motorcycle jackets, Rob is Robvintage. These guys were my men back in the day when the internet was brand new. They used to buy my best motorcycle jackets. Needless to say the best brands and vintage guys in the world were at this show. Potential customers bounded through the door to get to the best vintage first. It was Rosebowl weekend so Inspiration is kind of like a Rosebowl warmup with fashion heritage brands thrown into the mix.Â What is most interesting about the show is that it is a mix of big hitting vintage dealers and super authentic small designers and then the biggest players in the fashion business. Top guysÂ from LVC, Ralph Lauren RRL, Goldschmied, John Chapman and just about anybody else that designs from the underground upwards to the biggest high end brands on the planet. Basically Inspiration is like the first few games of the World Series of cool menswear…you go from here to the Rosebowl and from there to Project Las Vegas. This was my first big step into that light. I will say sick or not, it was a killer day. I hung out with Mike Hodis, and Brett Viberg came down so we could talk boots. The guys from Free and Easy magazine said hello and we went out for dinner. Eric informed me that we were going to Project and we were going to have a booth in the central isle of the show decorated with Jeff Deckers motorcycle cuts and one of his rare motorcycles. Jess Carson owner of Reveille came by to try on one of my jackets. He will be showing Himel jackets in Portland. But the best best best part was that I was being featured in Lightning Magazine’s newest venture Clutch.
Atsushi Matsushima came to visit me in Toronto. I spent several days with him and his team. They were awesome. I showed them every detail of my leather jacket company and I was very honoured to be featured in his new magazine Clutch. The day could not have gone any better so we all celebrated by going out for new age sushi in Long Beach. What a day!
I am always striving to document my leather jacket project down to the last detail. Sometimes it seems absurd to share as many moments as I do. I think about why I try to blog about my brand and the answer I come up with is to share the experience of building my company from the ground up. Each move, each meeting is like a piece on a chessboard. I am learning as I go. After attending Rin Tanaka’s Inspiration Show for two years running I was considering not making it down this year. I was thinking that way until I received a call that a very exciting new Japanese magazine was going to feature a story on my new brand in the centerfold. The magazine was launching its promotional edition on the Queen Mary for the Inspiration show. I couldn’t miss it! As soon as the news was out I received phone calls from my old friends in vintage, customers and my new friends in fashion all asking me if I was coming down. Well that sealed the deal. Pack the bags and time to get some sun. I had to assemble all the new jackets that I had been working on, and come up with some emergency printed material. Luckily I had been working on catalogs and hang tags in the evenings leading up to the event so with some last minute tweaks it was off to the printers.
Nancy and I hauled ourselves onto a flight to L.A. Well lucky me we found a direct flight, unlucky me some guy coughing with the flu in the seat behind me infected me and yet again I was going to spend my first 4 days in sunshine feeling like a corpse. Never mind that…there is nothing like the lights of Las Vegas to signal the approach into LAX. Unplug the headphones and prepare for rentals and warmth I say! First order of duty check into the Beverly Laurel hotel.Â One of the few hotels that Nancy will let me stay at. Second call straight to Canters for a late night tongue sandwich! We got up early, down to the iconic Swingers restaurant and off to check out the best stores in Los Angeles. I will write about those stores on my other blog The Art of Vintage Leather Jackets…but lets just say I saw some old friends like Christophe and met some new friends like Davide and Blair!Â L.A. is a wild place on wheels!