For the centrepiece of our AW18 collection inspired by Bowie’s Berlin-era, we found a truly special partner an hour just outside Edinburgh in Galashiels, Scotland. Specialists who have been handcrafting jackets for decades, Aero Leathers worked with us to reimagine the jacket that featured on the cover of the 1977 ‘Heroes’ album.
With a rich history and deep connections to the culture, we speak to Denny Calder son of founder Ken to tell their story.
How did Aero Leathers first start?
My dad moved to London in the ’60s, to be a football player, but did his knee cartilage in. He was also massively into music and got himself a job at The Marquee Club. He was doing club lights and lighting. At the same time, he was making clothes, not with leather, but he was making granddad collar shirts in his little factory in Soho.
Do you think that working in music inspired him to make the clothes that he did?
Yeah, kind of! He was making clothes that he liked because he couldn't find them anywhere else! And hanging out with people like Sid Barrett, who used to hang around his studio a lot. He would dress them, but not from a marketing point of view, just because they like his clothes! I think he got a bit disillusioned during the glam rock era, because he was being asked to make stuff which was moving away from what he truly liked, and he always tried to stick to making stuff that he really liked and believed in.
So how did Aero come about:
Well, one of his money spinners back in the day was that he used to buy used Levi 501’s from the American airbases and sell them to the Mod’s. They wanted 501’s but they didn't want them new - so he saw a gap in the market and opened one of the first vintage shops in London. It was called The Thrift Shop, opened in 1972. He would import in bundles of used clothes, looking mainly for 501’s, but in and amongst these bundles there would be flight jackets and leather jackets. Some of which needed a bit of work done. A lot of these jackets were really small sizes, and there was this one customer who came in, again and again, hoping that there would be a jacket in his size, and there never was! Eventually, he asked my dad if he could make him one. My dad knew how to work a sewing machine, and had some cheap leather he had just picked up, and so thought he would give it a go - and that was the first Aero leather jacket. We actually got it back about 6 years ago, and its now hanging up here on the wall, as part of our archive.
So when did this factory here get set up?
This has been here 27 years, the first 30 or so, Aero Leathers were made in London - my dad had actually had enough of London. He wanted to come back up to Scotland and start a Bed and Breakfast, but with one room dedicated to a leather jacket studio. After a while he realised that the leather jackets were making him more money than the Bed and Breakfast, so he found a little factory in a small town, hiring 2 people. He would make a certain amount of jackets per month and send some down to London, and drive the others up to Edinburgh.
How did it grow?
Lots of Scottish bands brought into Aero pretty early on. So we grew through word of mouth, lots of the students etc wanted to buy into that look.
So would Bowie have got one of the jackets sent down to London?
No actually my dad had a stall in Kensington market called Ruskin. This got him a lot of press, shots by David Bailey in Vogue etc. Ruskin was really popular with the music set, Freddie Mercury actually worked in the store, as did Sid Barretts’ girlfriend. The jacket was purchased from there, and then when the Hero’s Album came out - my dad was like “hey thats one of mine!”.
You can shop the Heroes Jacket here