With Lewis Leathers one of the pioneers of rider jacket this makes for interesting reading, thanks to Honeyee compiling an interview about the history of the label. Andrew Bunney has conducted an in depth interview with owner Derek Harris, with topic of conversation regarding his involvement and how he was able to establish the Lewis Leathers as an elite label.
Andrew Bunney – How did you become involved with Lewis Leathers?
Derek Harris – I ended up going to Japan in June 1991, firstly to see some friends of mine that used to come over every six months. I was out there, and this band were touring, so I got a job translating for them, buying their food, lighting equipment and things. I stayed on longer, staying on friend’s floors, I hooked up with these guys that I knew, one of them had a company and said “We need someone to buy stuff for us in London. Would you do it?”
“Does that mean I’d be working for you?”
“Well, we can pay you a fee”. So I became a self-employed export agent, but I only worked for them, and I was just finding punk-y gear. One of the first things they wanted was leather jackets. So I said the first thing you want is Lewis Leathers, so I headed off there to take photographs of their jackets and things, and that’s how I first officially became involved.
A – You’d had the original point of contact with Lewis Leathers, what were the next developments there?
D – The first thing we were looking at was that at that point the jackets didn’t look like the ones that were available in the ‘60s and ‘70s, which was the look we wanted to sell.
I sent the pictures to my pal Eiji that worked for the company who I had known since ‘85. We were both agreeing that these don’t look right, so I went back to Lewis Leathers and asked “can we change it?” and he said “they’re the same”. We tried a few things, but I hit upon the idea of going to Portobello Market（＊1）, getting a vintage Lightning jacket, took it to a tailor who re-cut the pattern and Lewis Leathers remade the jacket. Bingo, we had the jacket
A – Were they easy to find then?
D – No-one wanted Lewis Leathers at that point. I got them for £10 or £15 each. There were other things – we needed to find the right buckles and linings, an evolving thing. Then we got the Bronx and a few more jackets and by the 3rd or 4th jacket I had a bit of a bug. I was really appreciating these things.
We got these styles up and running, and Richard Lyon who owned the business from 1986 decided to close the shop. It wasn’t doing well, high-overheads, and he could see that we were doing a couple of hundred a year in Japan, and if he closed the shop then maybe it could grow in profit again, albeit small profits. He had other companies that he was more than happily living from, meanwhile he let me get on with my thing.
I’d work until 8 o’clock with my day job, then go down to the factory because they’d be working all hours when they had work to do. I’d go down and make sure they had the collar right and stuff like that. 666（＊2） were buying the jackets to sell in Japan, but what I was doing in the evening was purely my own thing. I’d come back home and it would be 11 o’clock, I was having great fun.
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