Where Did I Come From: Designing Herons


I sometimes loath to write blogs.  I feel tired, run down, exhausted and weird about sharing.  I am trying to win people over, get fans, find followers and mostly explain the things I think about all day long.  Sometimes I just don’t feel like sharing.  Today is the opposite.  I was photographing jackets that I made over the last 3 months and thought “how do I describe what goes into these jackets.”.  I think about price and brand all the time.  I definitely do not want to “go off brand” or make a “bad image” for myself. Sometimes I worry and even get hatemail and nasty commentary.

I guess part of the benefit of hanging it out in the world is the great feedback that you get.  Part of the cost is the bad feedback and the naysayers that try and knock you down.  This project is expensive and hard, and tough, and demoralizing at times.  It is also new and invigorating and a journey into my past, family life and reviving history and making beautiful things.  Hopefully I will turn it into making a living one day too.  This post is about how I came up with my first design.  I thought it might help to understand what I am trying to create over here at HBL.

I have been very very proud of my heritage.  Not just my culture, not my family but everybody and everything that went into creating the great North American brands.  Yes many many of the creators were Jewish, or American, or Canadian, but these histories were also built by immigrants of Irish, Italian and European descent, great Empire brands of the colonial period and the roots of North American settlement and the interaction with indigenous peoples here.  I am trying to assemble all these threads into my jackets.  My first design was the Heron.  I drew rough sketches on a canoe trip into the wilderness of Ontario.  I realized that my brand needed to bring back the genius of many Canadian brands that had been lost.  In the vintage business there is often a belief that all the good brands only came from the U.S.A. with a little room for English brands and others.   In my opinion  Canada and the U.S. were an integrated immigrant community and I don’t think this concept that good brands were strictly American holds up historically.  I celebrate Canadian names and some Canadian jacket motifs, mostly I celebrate the history of beautiful jackets and am trying to recreate the spirit of that past in my jackets.  There were so many connections between manufacturers and companies and families and there is a history gap between vintage lovers and the makers of great vintage brands.

I saw a Heron on that trip and the majestic fisher was going to be my first jacket.  I knew I wanted to make an A-1 style jacket.  I had 20 years of experience looking and and selling vintage jackets but I know nothing of design and making a jacket reality.  The sketch is the first step.  I assembled a silhouette of the Heron and started to try and imagine the perfect parts to make it.  Here are the pictures from the early designs. I wanted to try and crawl into the headspace of a 1920s jacket maker and come up with the most authentic purpose built design possible!


Score Sportswear and The Tapper: Developing New Models

Part of the fun of starting this “heritage” project is developing new ideas for leather jackets.  I am very committed to having a solid concept behind every single design that I do.A huge part of that philosophy is applying the knowledge and history that I have accumulated into the creation of a jacket.  Each jacket requires a different process and some of the designs come from my head and some of the designs come from real existent jackets.

When I saw my first Score jacket it was in Rin Tanaka’s History of Motorcycle Jackets book.  It was unidentified by manufacturer.  I researched that jacket.  It was so cool.  As it turns out it should have been in the Canadian jacket section.  That jacket was developed and designed by Score Sportswear of Toronto.  Open since 1930 Score was one of the many jacket manufacturers down on Spadina (now Chinatown)  where I live and work.  I knew one of my first jackets would be a Score!

When I start working on a design I try and assess what my goals are in recreating or creating a jacket.  In this case I have tried to imagine what the diagonal zipped Score racing shirt would have looked like if Score had made one in 1935. I should say I own 4 versions of this jacket from the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and then of course the company disappeared.

I sat down with the pattern and imagined a slightly more primitive version.  The leather was thicker, the seams top stitched, the lines hand drawn and the zippers typical of that period.  After justifying ever design change I now have my first prototype, which I will preview fully once I build prototype number two.

I am working on 6 new designs.  The second one I am calling the Tapper.  It is more of a heritage project.  I found this workers jacket from around 1910.  It immediately struck me as absolutely beautiful and primitive.  I was blown away by the simplicity of this jacket and its refined utilitarian lines.  The 1910 jacket looks essentially like a WW 1 era jerkin vest with extra large arm holes for mobility, and then the designers sewed circular gussets and external corduroy arms on to the leather vest.  It is so simple!  A protective wool lined horsehide vest with external twill lined cord arms that continue into the body component of the jacket.  This sort of design is ridiculously primitive and avant garde .  Sometimes the genius and simplicity of the past reflects the cutting edge of the future.  I have not completed this jacket yet but I have a prototype sans button holes that I have completed and am looking for test wearers!