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!
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!