Lewis Leathers

Nuggets – bite size chunks of London


Lewis Leathers

 
Lewis Leathers shelf 200

In 1892 David Lewis Isaacs estab­lished a gen­tle­men’s out­fit­ters at 124 Great Port­land Street, trad­ing under the name ‘D Lewis’.

The busi­ness might have tak­en a more con­ven­tion­al sar­to­r­i­al direc­tion if Mr Isaacs had cho­sen some oth­er thor­ough­fare but Great Port­land Street was soon to become Show­room Cen­tral for the nascent auto­car indus­try. Benz Motors opened premis­es here in 1908 and with­in five years anoth­er 21 motor man­u­fac­tur­ers were dis­play­ing their vehi­cles along the length of the street. In those days almost all cars were open-topped – and motorists need­ed pro­tec­tion from the ele­ments. D Lewis accord­ing­ly began to spe­cialise in coats, gloves, gog­gles and head­gear for dri­vers.

By the 1930s the com­pa­ny was mak­ing leather­wear for motorists, motor­cy­clists and avi­a­tors at a fac­to­ry in Lan­cashire and had trade­marked the brand name ‘Avi­ak­it’ for its range of fly­ing suits and acces­sories.

When pri­vate avi­a­tors were ground­ed dur­ing the Sec­ond World War and petrol rationing restrict­ed pri­vate motor­ing, D Lewis sur­vived by mak­ing cloth­ing for the RAF.

From the mid-1950s D Lewis rode the wave of the new motor­cy­cle cul­ture. British teenagers aspired to the Amer­i­can ‘out­law bik­er’ look and com­pa­ny launched a series of short-bod­ied leather jack­ets – of which the Bronx has proved the most endur­ing style.

Punk fash­ion brought Lewis Leathers to the atten­tion of a new gen­er­a­tion in the late 1970s, when Sid Vicious, Joe Strum­mer, Chrissie Hyn­de, Iggy Pop and Joey Ramone were among the lumi­nar­ies pho­tographed sport­ing the com­pa­ny’s leather jack­ets.

“His clothes hang from mismatch iron coat hooks screwed at precise intervals along the wall. The girl wears his jacket. Lewis Leathers. Great Portland Street. She asks where that is. Jacket older than she is.”

William Gibson, Skinner’s Room, 1990

 

The Isaacs fam­i­ly con­tin­ued to run the busi­ness until 1980, since when it has changed hands three times. The Great Port­land Street store closed in 1993, after which Lewis Leathers sold its clothes, boots and acces­sories via mail order and through a hand­ful of appoint­ed stock­ists in the UK, the USA and Japan.

Present pro­pri­etor Derek Har­ris bought the busi­ness in 2003 and restored the busi­ness’s retail pres­ence – ini­tial­ly in Padding­ton, then relo­cat­ing to Whit­field Street, a few blocks east of Great Port­land Street. Har­ris isn’t a front-man for some anony­mous invest­ment house but a true enthu­si­ast who’s been a Lewis cus­tomer for most of his adult life. He worked with then-own­er Richard Lyon on rein­tro­duc­ing clas­sic styles in the 1990s – pri­mar­i­ly at that time for the Japan­ese mar­ket.
 
Lewis Leathers sales counter