Friday, 16 April 2010

Discovering Lewis Leathers

Known for their distinctive motorbike jackets, Lewis Leathers is one of the UK’s most enduring clothing companies. It is true heritage brand. Founded in 1892 as a “Tailoring and Outfitters Shop,” it began stocking protective clothing for motorists and aviators from inception. It has survived wars, dramatic changes in social history and the ever changing winds of fashion for almost one hundred and twenty years. However, until very recently I knew nothing about them. My eyes were open wide to this institution of leather the moment they came across Andrew Bunney's breathtaking biker jacket during my visit to Dr Martens. Bunney has long been a convert to their jackets and as soon as I touched one of his own jackets (he currently has three and is looking to add a fourth) I too became a disciple. As I began to drool over the soft grey leather of his biker jacket he informed me that he had conducted an in depth feature on the store for Honeyee and I'm pleased to find that it is now live.

Images from the Honeyee feature. Photographs by Tommy.

At its height in the 1970s, Lewis Leathers had six shops nationwide in Sheffield, Birmingham and London. The stores offered boots, accessories and made-to-measure leather jackets but by 1986 all had closed. Remaining as a made-to-order business for many years, Lewis Leathers have recently opened a new London shop close to the original address of 104 Great Portland Street. Never forgetting the initial goal to outfit members of Britain’s cycling community. The spirit of D. Lewis remains and with it a consistent balance between function as riding product and fashion icon.

Family-owned until 1981 when the company changed hands, the helm eventually fell to Derek Harris. Harris has been the owner of Lewis Leathers since 2003 although his involvement with the brand stretches back some 20 years. In actual fact, his involvement with the brand began as a customer. His passion and obsession led him to research the true company history, the products’ evolution and Lewis Leathers’ significance in UK motorcycling and fashion culture. Bunney talks at length with the charismatic and knowledgeable, fifth generation owner and I heartily recommend that you make yourself a cup of tea and partake in a spot of interesting procrastination. I've been inspired by this piece and will make the trip to Lewis Leathers, so you can expect a follow up feature to be posted at some point next week.

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