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!
We finished our day of journeying to Huntington Library and the Griffith Observatory. If you are going to embark on a life changing adventure in Los Angeles, you must visit the observatory to see the city and really get the big picture so you don’t lose yourself in L.A. We headed back to the hotel and after a lovely night of sleep at the Beverly Laurel, we got up at the crack of dawn. I was on a mission to visit every store in Los Angeles that was hip, high end and heritage. This meant a journey to Unionmade in Santa Monica. So on goes the GPS and we hit the highways of Los Angeles. I have to say that driving in Los Angeles is a dream compared to Toronto. Traffic flows smoothly in L.A. and the drivers are super courteous compared to the constant traffic jams of my hometown and the constant assault of maniac drivers. Well Unionmade is right on the way to the beach so first we stopped in for some pictures and a hello and then off to Pallisades Park! Its so cool to visit iconic locations that previously only resonated in the cultural objets d’art of my youth. I was super surprised to see a Canuck flag floating over a tent right on the beach and Nancy guessed that Cirque de Soliel had set up there. As usual she was right! Needless to say we decided to walk the beach which was several kilometers long, and this left us a long way from the car.Â Then the phone rings and my good friend and booth co-occcupant Eric Schrader of Junkyardjeans gave me an earfull! They were setting up on the Queen Mary and where were we?Â So bamn, 5 km from the car we scramble off the pier and somehow instantly find a cab and head to the car, get on the highway and race to the ship.Â The stress was building as we got closer.Â I always get freaked out at these public events because they are big deals. Its kinda like the first day of school each time.Â By the time we got to the parking lot of the ship and I parked beside Jeff Decker’s van I started to relax. We hauled ass into the boat and it was hello’s all around. Every L.A. vintage dealer I knew was there and this year everybody was super friendly. Rin was not at the front entrance but his number two and one of my oldest friends in the business Nao Akimoto was there saying hey! We got down to the booth only to realize Eric had set up for us and went back to his hotel. So now it was fun time. I got my camera out so I could take some pictures of everyone setting up and watch the most important people in the vintage business pre-negotiate deals on the very very expensive stuff before the show opened the next day. It is an amazing thing to see the top historical clothing experts haggling over 20 thousand dollar jeans and 3 thousand dollar leather jackets.Â Â My good Canadian friend Brett Viberg of Viberg Boots rang me up and he, Nancy and me spent a couple of hours chatting, shaking hands and right over to the samples of the Clutch Magazine promotional issue.Â No one had seen it and since both Brett and I were in it Nancy wanted to see it immediately! Ok…long long day and we delivered our jackets and decided to head out to the Inspiration opening party.Â Super cool…the party was in a vintage mall in Long Beach. Oh man, magazine writers, photographers, vintage guys and everybody wanted to say hello and introduce themselves it was a great vibe. After the inspiration party we decided to head out for dinner at a great resto near our hotel and then head over to a “happening” hosted by Davide Berutto at Shelter Half! I wanted to introduce myself to him and chat about his business. Wicked party and beautiful young L.A. hipsters tired us out so back to the hotel to get up early for the first day of Inspiration.
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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!