I have a weakness for vintage leather racing jackets, so together with Bruno Hollywood and PJ, i decided to visit the Stewart workshop in Florence.
They produce beautiful items but only a few and it is easy to understand why, i was there only to waste time, instead it turned out to be a constructive experience.
Judging from the brand and the models, i expected to meet people like Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana (with all due respect), in a beautiful elegant villa, instead i met people who were apparently plain, discretely enthusiastic, as i had heard about only in some legendary stories, but had never had the proof of their existence.
I met businessmen who have made an art of their lives.
I understood the trick: the beauty i find in their jackets is not in the esthetique taste itself (even though it is completely respectable) but in the use of original materials and workmanship, coherent to the period they want to reproduce.
Lining which is put together on frameworks of the 800′s, both for their design and for colour. They heat up the animal fat in a small pan (not industrial as i had imagined, but a kitchen pan with a long handle, heated on a turned over iron) which Carlo asked me to smell. And i did: animal fat hardened in a plastic bin, which they use to treat the leather, a smell which on other occasions would have made my stomach turn but in that context it perfumed.
Mauro let me visit the archive as they call it. A huge warehouse with items of clothing, from Hussar’s uniform to the customized cloak of Gabriele D’Annunzio, from Fonzie’s jacket to the uniform of a jewish prisoner with the yellow star which distinguished him as a homosexual and which came into contrast with the leather trench coat of the SS officer with the label that warned the unaware that they would have spent 4 years in prison only for having worn it.
This discovery made me reconsider the concept of company excellence: it is not a certificate with printed stamps shown on accounting documents as if they were medals of valor, with esoteric marking such as Uni En Iso 9000 and so on, but it is something intangible.
When you buy a Stewart jacket, you don’t only buy an object but you buy all this priceless work, made of artisan processes of detailed research up to obsession and pure individual passion.
I met people that with their passion transformed objects into masterpieces. I was lucky.
I Made an appointment to take measurements for a tight fitting jacket, in horse skin, hard as wood, because when protection still didn’t exist, the only way to protect yourself from a fall was with the toughest leather possible.
You can read all about this on their website, i only wanted to tell you about my impressions.
Special thanks to: Cosimo, Bruno and Pierluigi…friends…travellers and most of all H-D Bikers!