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!!!
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!
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!