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Inspiration LA 2011 wrap-up

February 17, 2011

First a caveat: we have a crappy camera. The pictures you don’t see were even blurrier. The rest were taken with my iPod.

On Saturday, my wife and I headed out to the Inspiration LA show at the Queen Mary in Long Beach. Now, she is a vintage/thrift hound and I like jeans and Americana, but neither of us is really into what the other likes. But I thought she would like the show, and she did.

Before we even got to the ticket booth, I ran into an old co-worker of mine, Bernard from Cyclone Coaster, selling his vintage bikes. He told me a Japanese guy leaving the show pointed at one of the bikes, asked how much, Bernard said $4000, and then pulled out a wad of cash and gave it to Bernard along with his shipping info. He didn’t even feel the tires!


Yours truly and Bernard from Cyclone Coaster after the show.

So, before I get into the details, overall we liked the show. We preferred the new vendors versus the vintage ones and found the Japanese vendors more polite and approachable than the American and European ones. Grant it, those are generalizations, as we didn’t talk to every vendor, so others may have had a different experience. My wife definitely wants to go to next year’s show.

On the first aisle we walked, we came across The Stevenson Overall Co. and I was immediately drawn to a wool herringbone jacket. It was a thick wool melton that I think was unlined (forgot to check). The sample was a medium, which is my size so I asked to try it on, forgetting that it was Japanese medium. The shoulders and sleeves fit, but I needed a good 2-3 inches in the torso before I would even attempt to button the jacket. They only sell to 2 locations in the U.S., both in L.A. but the rep said they were looking for more accounts.

Walked past the Wrangler Blue Bell booth, but didn’t even realize it until we saw the the saw the installation of letters.

Then we came across 2 Japanese vendors sharing a booth. One vendor was from Ink, a small label that started out making military reproductions and is now branching into sportswear. Honestly, I don’t remember much of the rest of the clothes, as I was drawn to a green duffle coat with cool toggles made from skateboard decks. Our picture doesn’t do this coat justice.

It’s a men’s, but it fit my wife perfectly. They don’t have any stores in the U.S. carrying them yet, but hopefully they’ll land one this week.

The other vendor in the booth was Kou from Blind Man Tools. My wife liked his spoon necklaces and I liked the “LOVE” pillow.

Unfortunately, neither company has a website yet, but I got their contact info, so email me if you want to talk to these guys–though their English is limited. We told them we were from Orange County, so Kou was telling the other guy in Japanese where we were from. In the middle of his sentence, I made out “The OC” so I dropped in, “yeah, you know, Disneyland!” That translated.

Next we came across King-O-Wear, an old American brand that has been resurrected by the Japanese. They were showing a collection of wool jackets and vests, all made in America and all from Woolrich Woolen Mills wool.


We really liked these shawl collar jackets. They call this the Grafitti model. They also had a few vintage King-O-Wear pieces. I particularly liked this plaid coat:

Across the aisle was Nathan Blacksmith & Co., a store fixturing company from Tokyo specializing in cast-iron and other early 20th century reproductions. You could totally open a brand new store that looks like it was transplanted from 1903.


A few more images from the rest of the show:



Old high school yearbooks with paper covers and a sewn binding.




The man responsible for the show, Rin Tanaka, signing some of his books.



A Levis Vintage Collection jacket



A doctor’s bag made out of natural cork by Peasants and Travelers. Full disclosure, my wife and the designer hit it off, and my wife might be doing some PR work for the company.

So my final opinion is that it was totally worth it. A Saturday ticket was only $20 through the website. It’s a decent size show right now, but will probably grow in the future. We spent an hour-and-a-half to two hours walking the three levels and we didn’t go in every booth. If we had bought anything, we probably would have been longer, but we were going out to nearby Fuego Restaurant for an early Valentine’s dinner with friends.

I’ll definitely be back next year, with a better camera.

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One Comment
  1. February 17, 2011 11:48 am

    Cool blog post and pics – but yes you guys need a new camera. 🙂

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