CRAFT: hollows leather

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At Parka I have a routine rhythm to my patronage. I freak out the servers by being overly friendly. I only order Americanos. I cozy up to that same spot where I am always by myself.  I leave generous tips. I buy a magazine at Forage.

Last Thursday — more of the same. Father John Misty was being cranked. So was the AC. I was working on an email to my friend Nicholas Hollows. Then, instead, he breezed through the front door with his girlfriend. My dad used to say that email would never catch on, that people liked talking to each other too much. He was wrong of course, but I do prefer a chat over typing, so we sidled up to catch up.

 For the past three years Nicholas Hollows has been making belts, wallets, and suspenders under a brand that bears his own name. Hollows is that rare type whose breadth of interests will never limit the depths to which he will then mine each in order to become a true expert.

 First Nick dug bikes, and he’s still a mean mechanic. Then began a dutiful dig to the depths of vintage workwear archives when the clothing bug caught his eye. Now, Nick’s busy tooling leather accessories, a combination of both interests, the aesthetic and the mechanical.
From his involvement and interest in fringe denim culture, personal projects  turned to custom orders. Now a full product line is offered on his webshop and belts can be found on the seminal blog-slash-emporium-of-vintage-basics Archival Clothing.

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“We’re taking a break from making suspenders,” Nick answered when I asked what he and his girlfriend were up to that day.  “It’s been an ALL day affair.Right now we’re cutting out parts one by one… I’m really anxious to get that clicker up and running. There’s no benefit to cutting certain pieces by hand. It just takes longer.”

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Yes, the new clicker. Heavy as hell, and hardly moved from where it had been taken out of it’s box, I was sure it could still be found squatting in all it’s proud and heavy glory near the entry door.  I had expressed interest in seeing Nick’s workspace the week prior.  When I visited, Nick and Sarah each sat at their workbench stools, while I stood sipping the tea I had been offered from a canning jar. It was good and they were obliging with all my questions.

“One of the best people I could ever hope to work with,” answered Hollows, when pressed on what it was like to work with Archival’s founder Lesli Larson.

“We had been into the same stuff for awhile, reading the same blogs. She liked bikes, I liked bikes. She liked old stuff, I liked old stuff.  It was one of the most natural things in the world.”

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Ah, Old Stuff. That’s my jones as well and Hollows possesses a unique taste level otherwise hard to find among my peers here. For  better or worse, the Americana workwear and denim culture has reached mainstream consciousness and yet Hollows operates not from the tail-end of a trend, but from an ache for authenticity. Those willing to travel West in order to prospect scraps of 1800‘s-era Levi’s in the name of research are my kind of folk, and Nicholas Hollows is placed firmly in this camp.

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His appreciation for the design details of what has been worn leads west this August. Denim Bruin in San Francisco rounds up a who’s-who of the denimhead community. Last year Michael Harris, Rising Sun Jeans, and Italy’s Blue Blanket came out. This year it’s Rogue Territory, Railcar, LVC, and Jack/Knife. Of course I would throw my favorite pair of Imogenes in a dorm-room washer and dryer if it meant I could attend this cool camp-out of industry types. I think I actually squealed with delight when told that Lynn Downey, Levi’s Historian and Chief Archivist, would make an appearance at Denimbruin as well.

Levi's Vintage Clothing
Levi’s Vintage Clothing

My coffee was gone. “Well, we better get back to it.” Nick had said, as we closed our denim-for-days discussion. “Yeah,” I responded. “Cuz them britches sure ain’t gonna hitch themselves.”

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All photos courtesy of Nicholas Hollows, except for 501 shot- that’s courtesy of LVC marketing.