An Interview with Stuart Clurman from Lost Worlds Inc.

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July 23, 2020 by Ville Raivio

VR: Your age and occupation?

SC: 69, Leather Outerwear Manufacturer.

VR: Your educational background?

SC: B.A., English.  4 years Ph.D. Program, English, No degree. Published two articles on film and literature: Postif and Journal of Modern Literature (1973).

 

VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your clothing enthusiasm)?

SC: Divorced, one son, no interest in leatherwear business.

A custom California Highway Patrol model in horsehide

VR: …and your parent’s and siblings’ reactions when you first chose leather clothes as your trade?

SC: No reaction other than parental supportiveness.

 

VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides apparel?

SC: I collect US Militaria, Vintage Guitars and Amps. Like film, good cars, Americana, books, women, genuine late ’60s rock and roll.

The Fairfield model in sheepskin

VR: How did you first become interested in clothing, and when did you turn your eyes towards leather jackets?

SC: Growing up in the 1950s, I was drawn to WWII movies and the flight jackets therein (virtually all incorrect!) as well as the rugged jackets in ’30s – ’50s melodrama. And vintage western wear in the pre-polyester decades. In the ’60s, British rock and roll garb fired my imagination and wannabeism.

The A-2 in horsehide

VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of the topic  — from books, in-house training, workshops or somewhere else?

SC: From collecting original jackets, beginning in the early ’80s, through a disappointing learning curve period selling a longtime mfg.’s apparel, then learning to source and develop correct materials, such as our proprietary horsehide, then to pattern, produce and refine vintage styles to high levels of craftsmanship. Everything by trial and error, there were no road maps.

The Courier peacoat in deerskin

VR: How would you describe your own style?

SC: My personal style? Utter non-conformity! I rarely dress in other than Wrangler 13MWZs but own plenty of American and English shoes, boots, jackets, coats. Example of my “eccentricity”, or is it just Cool, i.e. epater le bourgeoisie? In NY in winter, I wear an old West German Loden duffle with USA Chippewa snake boots tucked inside Brit moleskin trousers, of course!

My professional style? Doing things correctly, thinking outside the box. Loading my ears with wax like Odysseus.

The Leathertogs A model

VR: Who or what inspires you?

SC: My inspiration is a personal demon: a thirst for excellence, uniqueness, consistency. Jackets beyond mere clothing, unrelated to ephemeral trends. Clothing that endures.

An external raison d’ etre – I hope these French droppings are impressing the reader — cited on our web site. Borges’s short fiction Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote in which the title character decides to re-imagine Cervantes’s Don Quixote completely – every word, comma, sentence … Everything — not from memory but from pure inspiration and imagination because, as the character Menard “writes,” such will create a ‘Quixote beyond Cervantes’. A fable of creativity, what I try to do in our modest way. Reimagine original examples from the past from the inside out rather than from the outside in as hobbyists do. To afford a glimpse into the soul of the past, not a gravestone rubbing.

The Buco J23

Does this mean taking apart an original jacket? Absolutely not. I’ll address that inanity below. Rather, understanding proportion, nuance, intention, spirit, gleaned from forty years of immersion in this truly lost world, forty years in the wilderness, using my academic background to seek (and speak) uncontaminated truth, not produce a one-dimensional Xerox-like jacket replica of some relic found on eBay or in some vintage scrounger’s closet. The jacket should be a portal, not mere postcard.

 

VR: What’s your definition of style?

SC: Craft united with function to produce beauty, individuality. Traditional masculinity. The criterion of Cool in an uncool world.

The Ryder in horsehide

VR: If what I’ve read is true, you’ve ripped apart vintage jackets to see their inner workings. Is this done for faithful reproductions or do you believe leather jackets were just made better before?

SC: A ridiculous internet myth. I’ve never ripped apart a vintage jacket. Whichever self-appointed internet expert – and there are plenty – came up with that one! A jacket can only be made one way and has been since Neanderthals or earlier went from one-piece pelts to attached sleeves and pieces. Looking at a jacket tells the professional, as opposed to the hobbyist, everything. Ripping apart a jacket to see the backside of the leather panels? Well, some modern repro jackets should be worn inside-out, because the exteriors leave so much to be desired, namely truth and cojones. Honestly, how could a 70+ year old leather jacket, evidencing wear, shrinkage, stretching, etc. provide anything other than inaccuracy if some neophyte tears it apart as if it were a machine to view the cogs? Lost Worlds sees the forest, then the trees. It’s deductive, arising from pre-knowledge gleaned from wide experience of the correct relations between elements across the tradition. It’s having the eye.

The Easy Ryder in horsehide

VR: To add to the previous question, how were leather jackets different before our times?

SC: Materials, functionality, fit, image, workmanship, Style. Clothing expresses the age in which it’s made. Compare the 1930s, say, to the 1970s. Double-knit, anyone?

 

VR: When did you set up Lost Worlds and what was the motivation?

SC: I began Lost Worlds in 1986 selling the Willis & Geiger Outfitters line through a retail mail order catalog I designed and printed. W&G was undergoing consistent management, quality and market problems at that time and my valid efforts at popularizing the brand and expanding sales were ignored by the company. I also suggested their hiring me to source genuine Horsehide rather than the substandard stuff they were being supplied. They ignored me there too! Seeking quality, I was perceived as a threat by the new management. This was my first business contact with replicas, however flawed, of some of the classic and vintage jackets I had begun collecting earlier.  By 1992, I decided to follow the entrepreneurial path to make notable leather jackets to my criteria of quality and authenticity.

The Buco J100 in horsehide

VR: How is LW different from other leather jacket makers?

SC: We don’t preach to the choir. I don’t make flavor-of-the-month jackets. We make jackets I perceive as historically interesting, stylish, technically challenging, ultra-cool and high performance. What I like. All our gear is or can be used on motorcycles or in challenging environments and always rain and snow. None is fashion clothing, for posing, faux hipster boulevardier wear for Tokyo, Manhattan or London dive bars and the like. Making fewer but benchmark styles is our mandate and we eschew every tiresome minor vintage variation through boredom, not inability.

 

VR: How would you describe the House Style of your designs?

SC: Heirloom grade classic American rugged wear devoid of fakery, i.e. prêt-à-porter antiquing, overdrumming, flimsiness, gimmick tanning with tea (or is it urine?) to simulate top finish fading from black to brown in a vintage jacket after decades of dry storage, wear or exposure, etc. Our signature American Horsehide from our own tannery is peerless, famous, natural full grain, unduplicated and better than vintage examples. Period. Every hide – deer, sheepskin, goatskin – is tanned to our specs. Nothing off the shelf, everything from USA.

No pandering to fashionistas and those who find necessary ego completion in Internet blogs, forums, chat groups, etc. where the fundamentalist dispersion of ignorance and bias laden with ulterior commercial motive quickly converts those so inclined.

 

VR: Do you have a favourite leather and jacket model? (If you do, why these?)

SC: I started with the A-2, own many flight jacket originals, then the Trojan and (real) Beck motorcycle jackets because these were the first that showed me that true classic jackets so differed from the punk rock and also-rans worn then and now.

The A-2 in goatskin

VR: Finally, why should Keikari’s readers try you instead of others leather specialists?

SC: Your readers should buy what they believe is best or appeals to their tastes. We never compare ourselves to other ‘specialists.’ The opposite, however, cannot be said. Much of our web site and many of the styles we made first have found their way, shall we say, elsewhere? Myself, I wouldn’t “borrow” someone else’s ideas if a gun was put to my head but that’s why we’re LOST WORLDS. Edgy enough?

Photos: Lost Worlds Inc.

http://www.lostworldsinc.com/


1 comment »

  1. Kristopher Bush says:

    I own 3 LW jackets and 1 LW vest and these are best made, most durable, style correct leather garments made! The attention to detail, craftsmanship, and materials are second to none. I ride a motorcycle 6/7 days a week so I’ve owned plenty name brand leather jackets mostly made in China and when I found Lost Worlds, I bought the Easy Ryder and loved it. Within months I sold 7 leather jackets I had in my collection and bought another LW, and another, and another. Now I only wear LW jackets.

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