Bread and Butter Berlin: Viberg, Himelbros and Inspiration

Well so many things are going on in the new year and I am playing catch up as usual.  I have had some great customers last year and I am thankful I’m still here and launching into the new year with exciting new jackets!  So I would like to extend a big thankyou to all of you who follow my blogs, and my little tiny company and an especially large thankyou to all those that have bought jackets.  I will of course be posting all the reviews by my customers on this blog this month.  I am honoured to have so many pleasant compliments in my in box!

So big news for those living in Europe interested in seeing jacket in person.  Brett Viberg of Viberg Boots will be previewing some of my jackets at Bread and Butter Berlin this week.  If you happen to be in Germany drop in and say hello to Brett, he is not just a fan but a collaborator and is launching his own line of clothing at the show!!  Also for my American friends, Himelbros will be going to Los Angeles for Rin Tanaka’s Inspiration Show and will be show cased by Eric Schrader of Junkyard Jeans in his booth at the bottom of the Queen Mary.  Come down to the show if you are in L.A. in February to see the action, as some of the best and greatest in the design business will be hanging about shaking hands and kissing cheeks!

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Vintage Meets New: Special Order Heron’s for Roger and VMC

I completed a special project a few weeks back. Here at  Himel Brothers we  strive for authenticity and ultimate creativity. I have a huge collection of vintage leather jackets and being small I am capable of small run special projects.

One of the special qualities of custom jackets made before 1930 was the raw custom nature of the techniques that went into their making.   The reality is many of the tailors that sewed leather jackets pre 1930 had little experience in mass production. The pattern making skills were often intuitive, the sewing techniques were usually crude and rudimentary. Jacket makers would either be copying something that they had seen in a publication or just a simple interpretation of something from memory.  There were few sewing standards and pattern making techniques  pre WW 2.  The primitive nature of these jackets is very hard to “recapture” both in technique and spirit because of the random beauty of the intuitive design.

 

I own thousands of jackets. I love leather and developed a crazed passion for collecting and dissecting the nature of these jackets. My Heron jacket is one of the results of my passion for patterns. My new friend Roger of VMC Originals asked me to do a very special project of super authentic Herons.

Back in the day leather jackets were mostly work wear.  Leather shells were super tough but often even after being resewn the linings were not either tough enough or warm enough for the inclement conditions that workers of the 1920s might have to endure.  Often the jackets would go back the tailor to have a old tired blanket sewn in to provide extra warmth.  What better way to keep a good and expensive garment working for you then to repurpose a warm old wool blanket into a liner.  I own many such jackets with custom blanket liners.  Here is my version of blanket liners in my Heron’s available exclusively at VMC in Switzerland.  Each jacket became a unique artwork combining the beauty of the past with the resurrection of new horsehide leather shells!


Cordovan Horsehide: The Best of Japan and Himel Bros.

horsehide

Curing horse butts and fronts

The journey of Himel Brothers Leather has been about  learning to make the most amazing accurate jackets possible.  I have travelled  the world looking for the best zippers, leather and parts that exist.  I spent years hunting the internet and carefully examining all the amazing Japanese and North  American brands looking at the plus’ and the minus of each one.  I counted stitches, disassembled jackets and contacted every living person I could track down that had worked in the leather jacket industry.  I was very very surprised  to find that many of the people who had worked for many of the great brands were still alive and well and that many of them were still working in the schmata business.  In my hunt for the perfect leather I spoke with many people who had built some of the earliest leather jackets in North America.  I asked them where they got their leather from, which tanneries,  and what kinds of leather.  Many of them regailed me with great stories and some of them even gave me specifications  right down to formulations for the tannages of the leather.  I spoke with the head tanner of Dominion Tanners now retired in Edmonton.  Wolfgang was the head chemist for one of the biggest tanneries in the world.  Each one was a small step or a clue to unlock the  puzzle of leather.  After reading several books published before 1900 on the art of tanning my email rang with a friendly hello from a stranger.   John Chapman of Goodwear Leather emailed me out of the blue and introduced himself.  Hundreds of hours on the phone later John and I became good friends.  Without people helping me I would have never found my way to Japan.

Nancy and I marvelled at our journey to the tanneries of Southern Japan.  Onto a bullet train we watched in awe as city after city flew past.  Names we had only seen on the news were right there flying by at hundreds of kilometres an hour and when we arrived at our destination.  The openess and generosity of Japanese culture astounded us.  The owner of the tannery picked us up at the train station with an took us on a tour of his town.  He was as proud of his city as he was of his business!

Horsehide tanning is an age old business as horses produce the finest shoe and garment leather in the world.  Horsehide is renowned for its strength and weight, waterproofness and wearability.  There are very few cordovan tanneries left in the world and Japan has some of the finest.  These horse skins are the pride of Europe, imported to Japan specifically for  the tannery.  The tanneries of Japan select the finest best grown and treated horses of Europe where stringent regulations and animal treatment produce well cared for animals.  At the end of the lives they are slaughtered for the food industry and the hides are exported.   When they come in the “green” horsehides are in the salted and preserved stage.  To make cordovan you must first use a cool notched bench to cut the bean shaped butt off from the fronts of the hide.  The butt has the best properties for shoes and the fronts are used for garments. The hides are washed, dehaired and cleaned of fat.  After that cleansing,  each hide goes for a long long bath…months long with agitators soaking in a liquor of bark and water imported from Australia.  This mimosa tannage produces an incredible product  After soaking in the bath skins are carefully sorted, dried and stored for months allowing them to cure and shrink.  This curing is part of what makes a superior hide.  This shrinks the fibres and compresses the skin.  Of course losing 30 percent of that skin by shrinkage is partly what makes the leather a premium product…that and it takes months to make a single hide.  After hides are tanned, stored and shrunk, they are finished.  Finishing involves milling, or tumbling the hides to soften them up, bring out the grain, dying, bating (adding oil or other solutions back into the skin) skiving and sanding, and finally putting finish on the leather.  I buy the best leathers in the world from the last few tanneries that have been open and family run since the war.  This father and son operation is run with the same care and commitment that goes into the production of every Himel Brothers Leather jacket.  Their clients include Goodwear Leathers, The Flathead, Real McCoys, Toys McCoys and Me!