A leather jacket isn’t exactly something you’d immediately associate with sustainability and a conscious-living lifestyle. Fashion brand Deadwood have a different vision however. They craft their jackets from vintage, 100% recycled leather, a philosophy that has seen their company expand rapidly since Carl Ollson and Felix von Bahder started it as a vintage store in 2012. We had a chat with von Bahder about their ideas and methods and their upcoming season.
So Deadwood’s vision is to reuse and bring new life to old and forgotten pieces of clothing. So what motivates you to do that?
Felix: Well, first and foremost the idea came from me and Carl’s love for vintage clothing. So it wasn’t so much the environmental upside [in the beginning], it was more a love for vintage clothing, the worn-in soul that a vintage garment has. Carl and I used to have a vintage shop back in the day, and the one piece of clothing we used to have the hardest time finding was leather jackets, a good vintage leather jacket was really difficult. There seemed to be so much juice in vintage leather, so many stories, just from the signs of wear. There is something in leather, and in denim in a certain way, it’s really suited to being a vintage garment because so much soul has gone into it.
It’s like when you buy a new leather jacket, it’s weird.
Yeah, it does feel weird, it doesn’t feel like that’s the way it’s supposed to be, it’s supposed to be worn-in or loved-in a little bit. So when we couldn’t find the perfect vintage leather jacket, and we couldn’t find a new one, we decided we had to make a new one from vintage leather. That would be the perfect combo. This idea took hold, and we got some following due to it, and it grew into its own brand, which is Deadwood now. A while later we started realised the tremendous environmental upsides of upcycling leather, the ethical and all of that. But the motivation was our love for vintage leather. And the other aspects are a bonus almost.
Your speciality is 100% recycled leather jackets. So how does that recycling process work?
It’s actually quite lo-fi, quite basic. For the most part we use vintage clothing, used second-hand clothing. We feel every used garment, pick the best in terms of leather quality, the ones that match what we’re looking for, take it back to our place, take it apart, use the best pieces of leather for each garment and use that as raw material, to, from the ground up, patch up our own designs. It’s a patchwork, mixing and matching. The sourcing is a huge part of it, actually sourcing the raw materials.
How do you typically source, where are you sourcing the used garments from?
In the beginning we did it on a very small scale, from vintage markets and that. You could go to charity stores, thrift shops, all those kind of places. That’s how we started out. Now we’re sourcing it through larger, vintage wholesalers. It’s [the wholesalers] like a huge vintage market, not as neat and cool, a little more corporate unfortunately. But it’s still the same principle, which is finding good vintage leather garments which are ugly, but have a beautiful feel to the leather.
You’re picking them up to revitalise them?
Yeah. And there’s so much leather out there, it’s crazy the amount of clothing that gets discarded every year. And that’s the back-end of fashion I guess, it’s ever-faster moving and changing, so there is a lot of waste. And that’s one aspect we try to go against little bit, to go against the fast-fashion type of mentality, we try and stay true to more classic styles, more carry-over fits and that. So that we won’t regard them as ‘not modern enough’ in a season or two, we try to make them evergreen in that way.
That kind of fits into a question I had. Say leather jackets kind of enter the pop culture fashion world in the fifties, off the back of motorcycle culture that then spilled over into music culture. Do you still think they still have a place in the fashion scene of 2018, all this time later?
Absolutely. Because it’s so deeply embedded in our pop culture as a marker of rebellion, and going your own way. I think it’s rooted deep enough that it will never go away I think. However, as people become more aware of the downsides of the leather industry, which goes hand in hand with the meat industry, and just the factory-farming side of things, it does feel like leather as a material doesn’t make sense as much anymore.
You mean the production of it from raw?
Exactly, so that’s why we feel there is a huge opportunity to present people with this classic, symbolic marker of rebellion, while at the same time making it so they don’t have to choose virgin skins.
So taking away the ethical weight? So you kind of see yourselves in the same zone as vegan leather or whatever? Your production is outside the animal-harvesting industry?
Exactly. The animal side of the ethical aspect of this is a big thing. When it comes to vegan leather, what we’re talking about there is usually plastic, and I wouldn’t regard that as a very sustainable way of making clothes either. It may not cause as much suffering as virgin skin leather, but there are still a lot of [environmental] problems. I’m not claiming there are no problems with using recycled leather, obviously there’s transport, and there’s all kind of stuff we’re responsible for. But we find that this is the best method of producing clothes we could find.
So then talk us through your SS/18 collection, what are the main features?
We’re doing some spin-offs of our classics. We’re doing a shorter version of our biker jacket, more suited to female bodies, that’s something we’ve had a lot of feedback about recently, so we’re trying to meet our fans there. Also we’re presenting two new linings. We use recycled PET linings, plastic bottles, and we try to do some seasonal prints. We have one leopard lining and one ‘Mad Dog’ lining. Leopard is a classic, that one’s going really well, and the ‘Mad Dog’ was done by our artist friend Johanna. We’re playing around with a military/fisherman’s vest, which I like a lot. We’re doing a leather shirt, an oversized women’s biker. And then we’re launching the kids’ collection. Which is cool, three styles, a biker vest, a motorcycle jacket and our classic, The Biker. For kids three to six maybe. It’s a lot of fun, Carl is a dad now, his daughter Mercedes is one-year-old.
Is that what inspired the kids’ collection?
Yeah, we couldn’t stay away.
For this collection, it’s lead by the non-binary model Terra Juano, and you said the idea with it was to explain ‘how one could achieve a more conscious lifestyle’. So what does a ‘conscious lifestyle’ mean to Deadwood?
We’re constantly being presented by choices as human beings, and for us I think it’s to live in a conscious way, to be mindful of those choices, and to be an active player in our own everyday lives. You always have a choice, we think you should embrace that. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about being aware. We’re certainly not perfect, but we’re trying to be more aware. When it comes to the non-binary aspects, we’re trying to present as unisex as we can [with our clothes]. Without closing our ears to our fans, who tell us that bodies are different. But we’re trying not label stuff as female or male or whatever, and trying to have an open mind.
So what’s coming up in the future that we should keep an eye on from Deadwood?
We’re working on quite a few collaborations with some designers and brands from abroad. We’re making some serious progress in the US and UK, which is a lot of fun. And I think we’ll be attending some festivals in Sweden, we have some cool things in the pipeline for that.
Deadwood’s flagship store is located at Bergsunds Strand 32. www.deadwood.se