A big part of my Himel Brothers project was to create a brand that celebrates being Canadian. So many clothing brands are secretly made here in Canada and so many Canadians are secretly living prominent lives in the good ole U.S.A. hiding their Canadian identities and I didn’t want to be one of them.
The names and themes of HBL celebrate all things Canadian, from my neighbourhood, to the animals and people that live here in the Great White North. One of my earliest supporters and customers was one of the few globally celebrated Canadian brand owners Bret Viberg of Viberg boots. Bret and I have become great friends, not only that but he has bought a couple of Himel Brothers jackets!
Another incredible talent that Bret has is his tremendous ability to collaborate. As a small growing business is it good to share information but collaboration is a key strategy for brand building. Bret has been a key supporter, spreading the word about Himel Brothers. When running micro brands you have to be on the constant hunt for new innovative materials, ideas and stock. I’ve been out searching old factories, looking at techniques to make authentic old style buttons, hunting down perfect leathers for my jackets and I’ve had a bunch of buddies to share information and resources with. Together we are going to put Canadian clothing proudly back on the list of cool brands and innovative design and production!
I spent the better part of last week developing some new ideas for my jackets. I have a whack of designs that I am working out for some very exclusive retailers. A lot of my experience working and hanging out with other designers as well as my fascination with odd and old designs has led me down the road of mixed media.Â That is to say, the beauty of old world materials like wool, leather and oil skin cotton should be mixed and matched to create beautiful well balanced jackets. Usually I make smaller prototypes and have friends try them on. Winter is approaching and I wanted to make two jackets I could wear in the cold. I wanted them to be warm and in the case of the oilskin, moderately water proof.
This is Italian dark brown horsehide, with black oilskin and 1930s ball and chain chest zippers mixed with old stock lightning cuff zippers. The inside is thick heavy Melton wool body liner and cotton twill sleeves.
The second jacket is a perfect blend of European veg. tanned goat skin, in two tones, with plaid wool body and a beige flannel liner. Nice for mid weather, I used my deadstock 1930s urethane rimmed buttons and an nice simple tube cut. It really creates a balance of simple beauty and nice details. The A gusset stands out in leather against the dark rich greens of the plaid. I think these are really beautiful but I wont know until I wear them out in the world and see what my friends think!
I seem to get a lot of questions regarding the “cost” of my jackets. I have noticed a rather disturbing trend regarding the use of the term “vintage” and worse, the use of the designs from the past. I rarely focus on the negative regarding the emerging new brands that are either heritage brands, or heritage based brands but of late these brands have been appearing in somewhat of a “frenzy”. Every week there seems to be a new clothing brand, or an old clothing brand, producing a replica vintage product. It would almost appear that as long as a garment contains some tweed, oilskin or horsehide it is now “authentic”.
Last week a leather jacket company called me looking for horsehide leather. They were quite frustrated that they could not purchase horsehide leather from Horween for 3 dollars a square foot. This was a very very old original California leather jacket maker and as I am an amicable fellow I offered up my expertise on available horsehide and design in the hopes that there would be a small exchange of history in trade. I was rushed off the phone, the company in question taking my information and assurance that there is not a “cheap” supply of vintage horsehide, and has since ignored my requests for a historical inquiry.
Last week I also saw some very interesting knockoff 1960s hippy jackets that were near perfect replicas of some original jackets…the problem being that the sewing techniques and leather were not of the same quality and character of the originals. Ok, here is my point. I am sure there are cheaper ways to simulate “authenticity” and certainly anybody can put a D pocket on a jacket and call it vintage design. The real art of making a perfect jacket is in spending the time and money to go back to the best of the best of handmade materials, cutting and techniques of manufacture. These are not always easily discernible on the surface. There is no shortcut or cheap way to imitate this kind of “authenticity”. Often the slightest improvement in technique and materials can increase the labour and cost of a great jacket exponentially. But isn’t that what one should strive for in an ‘authentic” jacket? I will not knock others efforts, and I am sure that many will not see the value in my search for the best of the best. But I think it is important to acknowledge the quest and be honest in the authenticity of what your selling not just what you are branding. The best way to be sure is to ask questions, and from my perspective share the quest and the process. Every person deserves one good thing, inform yourself, ask questions, and spend your money with brands you can trust to be true to your own values.