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Leather Jackets in China : Fabric Markets, Taobao, Vintage, and Custom Leather Shops

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16,515
What I would truly like to know is what's with those crazy names? A Tired Child? Why do the Chinese come up with such strange names for stuff?

And more importantly - how is it possible the Chinese come up with a Hanzi for literally everything new that appears?


OP: interesting rad. You'll find two or three other Floungers live in China, I believe. I am based in the UK myself, but I spend up to a month, collectively, in China - specifically, Beijing - every year in connection with my work at the university. My impression of China has long been that they're on the same curve as the West - just as owning a car, fast fashion, and other things were big here in the eighties and nineties, China is now enjoying that form of prosperity; I very much suspect that over the next decade we'll see them shift in favour of durability, quality, environmental responsibility.... even if mainly in the interests of profit over anything else.

I'll be interested to hear what your experience of tony Leathers is. At the price they are charging relative to the local market, they should be able to equal at least Schott level - or exceed it, if they're custom building rather than production line. The main thing will be the ensure no corners have been cut in terms of the quality of components, but again there's no need to assume that they will definitely do that. They've been building high end electronics for years; now they're increasingly making high quality guitars. Once, Japanese guitars were laughed at; now they build a better Gretsch than ever the US did. Then cheap guitars moved to being built in Korea, and they were laughed at - until Korea became the new Japan. And now China is fast becoming the new Korea.... All they need is the spec and the budget, and they can equal anywhere else in the world.


As for the old stereotype that the Chinese can copy but not innovate, well.... There was some basis in that at a time: thousands of years of a culture where copying the master was revered as a way to learn. (Still a problem for enforcing intellectual property). That said, much as has long been the case with Japan, very often the best that China has to offer is simply never seen outside China because the West doesn't want it. In much the same way, Westerners used to point at Japanese guitars and say they were just staid copies of Western designs, while missing that the Japanese were making some extremely far-reaching stuff, but it just didn't sell in the West because Western players only wanted more of the same. One of the most fascinating things I've seen in China was a copy of an iPhone which actually vastly improved on the original in almost every conceivable way. My current handset is a OnePlus 2 - OnePLus, a Taiwanese company, are now onto the Mk 5, but my three year old Mk 2 is still a better spec than most iPhones, and an original design, not a copy. The limitations o Chniese and Far Eastern production more generally are not local but rather pertain to Western Market demand.



That's the thing. People in the West have gotten so used to buying everything for practically nothing, that in order to satisfy market demand for low price, quality had to give eventually. DMs took the production of their standard boots to China because they market refused to pay hat British labour cost; over time, to keep the price the same, the cost of material was cut again and again, and now they're nothing. The Chinese can make whatever you want - at a price. If you want the lowest possible price, they can make it down to the spec too; you want good, you have to pay for it.



That's the difficult bit; remember, you're dealing with an ancient civilisation with a very different cultural approach to intellectual property. It'll take a while. Of course, as the Chinese brands themselves become more valuable, this too will change.




Some of the best shoes ever I had made were done by a shop on Gulou East Street, just a few doors from the Mao Livehouse in Beijing (running East from the Drum and Bell Towers). I had the hlpe of a local colleague on the phone who also collected them for me after they were made (took two weeks). Beautiul shoes, fit like a glove. I'd have a whole lot more made there if I manage to get organised enough and once I've cleared out the flat properly! Cost me GBP110 in 2009; at the same time, comparable Loakes were around £190 in the UK.




There's certainly something of a lack of health and safety concept in China (though that'll come), and often public project are done on the cheap. nonetheless, they'll get there. Brands like Bronson and Bob Dong are closing in on the Japanese stuff. Be interesting to see how they would do if somebody were to set up an import business here and market them.

Just wanna say spot on. Fantastic post. That's all.
 

Blackadder

My Mail is Forwarded Here
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3,827
Location
China
My friend bought the Langlitz padded Columbia copy from the Shanghai shop. Not bad for the price.
As for rtw leather, I own a couple of Bronson leather jackets, an A-1 and a suede type 1 Levi's copy. IMHO, both are decent. RRL has a similar suede denim jacket and it is also made in China, so it would be very easy for those factories to carry on with cheaper materials.
 
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navetsea

I'll Lock Up
Messages
6,711
Location
East Java
with precision shown by Chinese 1/6th scale clothing manufacture,
A007B-1-6-Men-Hippie-Motorcycle-Leather-Suits-Jeans-Pants-Models-For-12-Figures-Male-Bodies.jpg
20140426_29548e.jpg

I believe they can do anything as precise 1/1 scale
 

TheJuniper

Familiar Face
Messages
54
Location
Californian living in China
My friend bought the Langlitz padded Columbia copy from the Shanghai shop. Not bad for the price.
As for rtw leather, I own a couple of Bronson leather jackets, an A-1 and a suede type 1 Levi's copy. IMHO, both are decent. RRL has a similar suede denim jacket and it is also made in China, so it would be very easy for those factories to carry on with cheaper materials.

Yes! Thank you! I was hoping someone here would have bought a jacket from Tony. I'm still gonna check out their shop/products in person before I decide to make a purchase, but I'm glad you can at least partially vouch for them!

I'm glad so many of you have had experiences in China. I was starting to think I was on a lonesome quest for good leathers out here.

There are a lot of cultural differences out here, eg. short-termism, intellectual property, weird names, etc etc. And construction. The construction never ends! You either get used to it, or it drives you crazy. China is a perfectly fine place to live and work IMHO.
 

Edward

Bartender
Messages
24,827
Location
London, UK
Yes! Thank you! I was hoping someone here would have bought a jacket from Tony. I'm still gonna check out their shop/products in person before I decide to make a purchase, but I'm glad you can at least partially vouch for them!

I'm glad so many of you have had experiences in China. I was starting to think I was on a lonesome quest for good leathers out here.

There are a lot of cultural differences out here, eg. short-termism, intellectual property, weird names, etc etc. And construction. The construction never ends! You either get used to it, or it drives you crazy. China is a perfectly fine place to live and work IMHO.

There's certainly a lot to love about it, as well as a lot that would drive me mad in a few months... Much like the US, or anywhere else, really. ;) I hear you on the construction. The interesting thing is that in so many cases you see these elaborate buildings go up, then not be maintained to the same degree. One campus we're now moving out from, some of the buildings are only ten years old but look like they're from the Sixties!

I'm really keen to see Shanghai; hoping that next year I can do a trip out there and take Herself so we can tack on a few days down there, as well as letting her see Beijing.
 

Big J

Call Me a Cab
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2,961
Location
Japan
Nice to see a thread on Chinese jackets.
There must be some high quality artisans out there making things for the domestic market to high quality levels.
I'd also love to know more about Cold War era PLA(AF) leather flight jackets.

@Monitor, the chinese have no other script for writing except Kanji (Hanzi) so when a 'new' western concept like Coca-cola is introduced, they just choose from the characters that will approximate the sound with the best inherent meaning (characters are in themselves actual words with meanings).

The Japanese can make high quality repros and workwear, but this is a small group of nerds producing for another (relatively) small group of nerds who have fetishized US 'pop culture' of the postwar era. The vast majority of Japanese wear as much low quality one season disposable clothes as people in the west (check out Uniqlo for instance), and given the poor storage conditions and humidity in most Japanese homes, you can see why this culture is so stubborn. And of course, the fashion industry feeds it.

China has spent the last 10 + years making out disposable mall fashions, so we shouldn't be surprised that this is what they now aspire to for themselves. It's 'our' fault for selling them a distorted image of western quality of life.

However, IMHO China is possibly peaking in such terms. It's demographic time bomb means that its society will get old before it can get rich, and therefore stifle any demand for the kind of $1000 jackets we buy.
 

TheJuniper

Familiar Face
Messages
54
Location
Californian living in China
We also want to buy items that age quickly and look old. Not a huge draw for cultures which revere the old in traditional terms but admire the new in material ones.

Well said.

My significant other is Chinese. Her answer to most things is "Buy a new one".
Whenever I show her leather jackets I want to buy, she just says "Old !"
I'm not even going to tell her my dream car is a 1968 Camaro SS. That conversation is not worth the frustration...
 

Justhandguns

Practically Family
Messages
779
Location
London
@Monitor, the chinese have no other script for writing except Kanji (Hanzi) so when a 'new' western concept like Coca-cola is introduced, they just choose from the characters that will approximate the sound with the best inherent meaning (characters are in themselves actual words with meanings).

The Japanese can make high quality repros and workwear, but this is a small group of nerds producing for another (relatively) small group of nerds who have fetishized US 'pop culture' of the postwar era. The vast majority of Japanese wear as much low quality one season disposable clothes as people in the west (check out Uniqlo for instance), and given the poor storage conditions and humidity in most Japanese homes, you can see why this culture is so stubborn. And of course, the fashion industry feeds it.

China has spent the last 10 + years making out disposable mall fashions, so we shouldn't be surprised that this is what they now aspire to for themselves. It's 'our' fault for selling them a distorted image of western quality of life.

However, IMHO China is possibly peaking in such terms. It's demographic time bomb means that its society will get old before it can get rich, and therefore stifle any demand for the kind of $1000 jackets we buy.

Speaking about the Chinese words, we still use the full Han characters in Hong Kong and Taiwan where as in China, the use of the simplified characters (handicapped characters as we call it), was introduced by the infamous Mao for the less educated public at that time. Traditionally in Hong Kong, we try to translate the pronunciations as well as giving some meanings to it, say "Coca Cola" in Chinese will be "可口可樂", which means 'delicious Cola'. As for names, we tend to attach a Chinese sir name whenever is possible, in cases such as Tom Cruise or Tom Hanks, even though Tom is the given name, in Chinese is '湯', which is one of the common sir names in Chinese.

Anyway, enough of the language talk, I remember even after the cultural revolution, say in the late 70s' to 80s', Chinese still produced some fine silk and wool jackets for exports. The craftsmanship was as good as you can get these days, and no short cut, no cheat. I am still looking for a good real silk wadded jacket (綿襖).

50626981.jpg


People in China who have money would always opt for foreign products, including the high fashion, because they simply do not trust their own production. It is a vicious cycle after all.
 

Big J

Call Me a Cab
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2,961
Location
Japan
@Justhandguns, I defer to your superior knowledge sir! My understanding of the Chinese language is pretty superficial, and Taiwan and HK have certainly got historical reasons to use language to protect their identity. It's very interesting.

Not leather, but I read somewhere that there was a 'hierarchy of fabrics' in Mao era China, with proles wearing cotton (later a type of polyester), then wool, and silk at higher grade party member level.
I always fancied one of those 'Mao' suits. They pre-date him of course, but they are just so James Bond villain.
 

Edward

Bartender
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24,827
Location
London, UK
The history of the Mao suit is fascinating: it does indeed predate Mao, having been designed by Sun Zhongshan (Sun Yat-Sen, as he's better known in the West), the first president of the Chinese Republic after the fall of the Emperor. Over time, the design has had various meaning subscribed to it. You hardly ever see it in modern China, alas - it has evolved into an all-purpose formal dress for major state functions, largely taking the place of both formal day wear, and evening wear (black and white tie). For day to day business, the Western suit has pretty much replaced it.

There was a time in the UK, around the 90s, when the Nehru suit, a similar confection though coming from India, was briefly fashionable; I had a black velvet one though I always wore it with a collarless shirt - to me, they looked awful with a tie. I did have a Chinese People's Army uniform tunic and trousers that I wore as a Mao suit once to a Russian themed night (stretching the point a bit, I went as Donald Pleasance's Blofeld). I'd love to have a half decent one made in a heavy, silver grey drill cotton.

Good article on Wikipedia on the Mao suit - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mao_suit
 

Big J

Call Me a Cab
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2,961
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Japan
@Edward, interesting comment.
I was reading some guy's analysis (sorry, don't remember who) of Xi's speech at Davos last year, and the guy said that Xi (and other top party officials) wearing of western style suits rather than Mao suits was a conscious choice designed to send a message about China as a modern post-Mao member of the global economy, and to shrug off the image of China as 'backward'. Seemed legit to me.

As you mention the Nehru suit, I also last year read (being hospitalized provides plenty of reading time!) an analysis of Nehru suits and Astrakhan hats in India, Pakistan and Africa amongst the elites as a sign of 'non-British' culture; a kind of search for, and demonstration of, a post-colonial identity that was distinctly not 'western'.

And that 'non-Britishness' of Astrakahn hats led me back to the 'Great Game' and Britain V's Russia's struggle for control of India.

I have given up on the Mao suit because rather than looking like John, Paul, George and Gringo, I'd end up looking like Dr. Evil. I do love the idea that there is a smart alternative to suits with neckties though.
 

TheJuniper

Familiar Face
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54
Location
Californian living in China
Thought I’d take a few minutes today to update this post…

I did buy a vintage Schott 618 off of Xianyu (闲鱼), which I am reasonably happy with. The jacket was made in 1995 and needed some repairs. I did a thread on that here.

3-4.jpg 3-6.jpg

I also ordered some blue suede tanker boots from Ray Kwoh / 玩累了的孩子 (A Tired Child). I really wasn’t sure if I would like this style, color, or material … so I decided this would make a good test pair. This was also my first time ordering custom hand made shoes anywhere. It was 695 RMB (~$110) for the shoes and another 200 RMB (~$30) for the extra Vibram half soles.

RK Top Down.jpg RK Profile.jpg RK-Bottoms.jpg

As it turns out, I really like the style and color!

Customer service was really good too. I initially ordered a size 43, then waited 3 weeks for them to be made and delivered. They turned out to be a size too big. I was able to return them, and the shop made me a size 42. Free of charge.

PS-WechatIMG21.jpg

These shoes actually fit me, which has been difficult to find in China. They are pretty comfortable too. I’ve had them for about 2 months now.

Unfortunately, these boots have a flaw that will discount them from ever being “keepers”. The stitching on the toe is uneven and a little crooked. One shoe has a row of 5 stitches, and the other has a row of 4 stitches.

RK Toe.jpg

I can’t really tell when I’m wearing them, and I doubt that anyone would really notice unless they were looking for it. Not sure if this is a result of the shoes being handmade, but it’s enough of a flaw that I will probably chuck these shoes in a few months and replace them with something better. I’ve already got my eye on some Aldens …
 

Carlos840

I'll Lock Up
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4,937
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London
Thought I’d take a few minutes today to update this post…

I did buy a vintage Schott 618 off of Xianyu (闲鱼), which I am reasonably happy with. The jacket was made in 1995 and needed some repairs. I did a thread on that here.

View attachment 123573 View attachment 123574

I also ordered some blue suede tanker boots from Ray Kwoh / 玩累了的孩子 (A Tired Child). I really wasn’t sure if I would like this style, color, or material … so I decided this would make a good test pair. This was also my first time ordering custom hand made shoes anywhere. It was 695 RMB (~$110) for the shoes and another 200 RMB (~$30) for the extra Vibram half soles.

View attachment 123576 View attachment 123575 View attachment 123577

As it turns out, I really like the style and color!

Customer service was really good too. I initially ordered a size 43, then waited 3 weeks for them to be made and delivered. They turned out to be a size too big. I was able to return them, and the shop made me a size 42. Free of charge.

View attachment 123578

These shoes actually fit me, which has been difficult to find in China. They are pretty comfortable too. I’ve had them for about 2 months now.

Unfortunately, these boots have a flaw that will discount them from ever being “keepers”. The stitching on the toe is uneven and a little crooked. One shoe has a row of 5 stitches, and the other has a row of 4 stitches.

View attachment 123579

I can’t really tell when I’m wearing them, and I doubt that anyone would really notice unless they were looking for it. Not sure if this is a result of the shoes being handmade, but it’s enough of a flaw that I will probably chuck these shoes in a few months and replace them with something better. I’ve already got my eye on some Aldens …

I'm pretty OCD, but even i wouldn't discard shoes because they have different numbers of stitches!
These look great! They are just shoes, wear them until you forget about it...
 

Hh121

Banned
Messages
3,004
some of 武装在线 (wu zhuang zai xian) jacket looks really good , I don't see there is big difference from Johnson leather, in terms of construction skill, some of even looks better.
128fa0e246631ebb200528121346e6aa.jpeg


The price of this jacket is around $400, made of tea core horsehide
d2b136240d06f8a6fe96ea7615103740.png
66aa7ea7816da35bbc40a1caf164b747.png
f3ab076adbd6e4934cff2ef648d1f076.png
8551958ca2da5ab6637a8b88d151b447.png
 
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Edward

Bartender
Messages
24,827
Location
London, UK
These shoes actually fit me, which has been difficult to find in China. They are pretty comfortable too. I’ve had them for about 2 months now.

Unfortunately, these boots have a flaw that will discount them from ever being “keepers”. The stitching on the toe is uneven and a little crooked. One shoe has a row of 5 stitches, and the other has a row of 4 stitches.

View attachment 123579

I can’t really tell when I’m wearing them, and I doubt that anyone would really notice unless they were looking for it. Not sure if this is a result of the shoes being handmade, but it’s enough of a flaw that I will probably chuck these shoes in a few months and replace them with something better. I’ve already got my eye on some Aldens …

I understand what you mean about a 'flaw' or detail bothering you. This particular one wouldn't me, but I've had similar issues in the past that were huge to me and others couldn't see it at all.

FWI, they're pretty cool bootys - and that's a steal of a price for something custom made. Once the Chinese convince the rest of the world of the quality of what they can do, they'll really start to do some interesting things we'll actually get to see in the West.

some of 武装在线 (wu zhuang zai xian) jacket looks really good , I don't see there is big difference from Johnson leather, in terms of construction skill, some of even looks better.
128fa0e246631ebb200528121346e6aa.jpeg


The price of this jacket is around $400, made of tea core horsehide
d2b136240d06f8a6fe96ea7615103740.png
66aa7ea7816da35bbc40a1caf164b747.png
f3ab076adbd6e4934cff2ef648d1f076.png
8551958ca2da5ab6637a8b88d151b447.png

If China can convince the West to buy 'premium' goods as Chinese made (which is already happening in electronics and mainstream fashion, of course), I couldc see them being a serious competitor for the market that is interested in Japanese stuff.
 

Hh121

Banned
Messages
3,004
I understand what you mean about a 'flaw' or detail bothering you. This particular one wouldn't me, but I've had similar issues in the past that were huge to me and others couldn't see it at all.

FWI, they're pretty cool bootys - and that's a steal of a price for something custom made. Once the Chinese convince the rest of the world of the quality of what they can do, they'll really start to do some interesting things we'll actually get to see in the West.



If China can convince the West to buy 'premium' goods as Chinese made (which is already happening in electronics and mainstream fashion, of course), I couldc see them being a serious competitor for the market that is interested in Japanese stuff.

That's complicated, and I don't see it will happen very soon(As much as I wish) . The people in China vintage jacket forum have totally different taste and knowledge about leather, they thought the leather quality of Aero has declined over the years, they prefer Japanese stuff even though it costs more. Vanson also received pretty good feedback.
 

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