Friday, July 20, 2012

Profiles in Vintage: Liberty Motor Wear

What do you get when you cross an unapologetic Twi-hard with a Louise Brooks bob and a mustachioed, wise-cracking biker?  The answer is Liberty Motor Wear!  Liberty Motor Wear, producing the finest in reproduction vintage motorcycle clothing and accessories, is run by husband and wife team, Paul and Amber Umbriaco.  We are friends with Paul and Amber and are fortunate to live close by, but it took going all the way to Viva Las Vegas this year for us to catch up with them so we could interview this dynamic duo about their business, their style, motorcycles, and Paul's predilection for lycra swimwear and gardening.

Meet Amber & Paul, the masterminds behind
Liberty Motor Wear.

WT: How do you feel about being interviewed?
LMW: How do you feel about doing the interviewing?
WT:  I don't understand, that's too "confucian."

WT: Tell us about your product line. 
LMW: We make reproduction vintage motor wear: motorcycle hats, sweaters, belts, etc. made in the USA.  We also have some original vintage items for sale.


Do you have a favorite piece?
Paul: My favorite items are the motorcycle hats.
Liberty Motor Wear Motorcycle cap (available in black & khaki)
Amber: I love the red and black sweater.
Liberty Motor Wear - Scarlet Sweater with Black Trim

WT: What got you started in the business?
LMW: We have a passion for casual vintage wear.  We wanted to reproduce clothing items that are more rare and difficult to find.  For example, if you were to find an original motorcycle sweater that is moth-hole ridden and pretty much unwearable, it would start at around 900 bucks.  So we figured we would start reproducing hats, shirts, pants, sweaters, and many more things to come, all made in the USA, at an affordable cost.

WT: Your attention to detail is unparalleled.  Has it been hard to find manufacturers who understand your vision?
LMW: Yes, definitely.  It can be trying at times.

WT: Is owning your own business everything you thought it would be?  Is it more or less difficult than you imagined?
LMW: We have to say, it's a bit more difficult at times to be able to find the people, material, and resources to have items manufactured the way we want them, here in the USA.

A Liberty Motor Wear cowhide purse with hand-stitched binding.

WT: Paul you handle the production of your hand-tooled leather goods, are you trained in leather working or are you self taught?
 LMW: It's funny, I went in to Tandy Leather a while back to ask them how to fix a leather watchband, and the next thing you know, after a handful of Saturday morning classes and $3500 in leather tools, BAM, I'm a leather craftsman.

And how!!!

WT: We're not trying to start any fights, but you seem to fill a unique niche in the vintage marketplace, is there a lot of competition out there?
LMW: There's not a whole lot of competition out there, and some of them have moved into 70's motorcycle trends.  Tthe ones that are left somewhat do the same thing as us, but have their own niche.

WT: Motorcycle culture, like cowboy culture, seems so definitively American.  Do you get a lot of overseas clients?
LMW: Yes, most of our customers at the moment are overseas.  They really appreciate American vintage style, sometimes more than Americans do.



WT:  Your work would come under the heading of thoughtfully reproduced, well-crafted, handmade motorcycle wear.  "Repro" can carry a negative connotation; do you think of "repro" as a bad word?
LMW: No, because it's what we make.  We actually use the word all the time to describe our line.

Liberty Motor Wear hand-tooled/studded
wristbands and keychains

WT: Your merchandise can be found online (libertymotorwear.com) and at select shows/events.  Would you like to open a brick and mortar shop?
LMW:  We would love it!  There are a few prime spots in Old Town Orange that would be a dream come true for us.

WT: Speaking of dreams, have you found your dream job?
LMW: Yes.  The sky's the limit. It's just going to get better from here.


WT: You are hands-down the best dressed couple.  Who are you style icons?
LMW: Wow, thank you so much!  Our style icons are regular everyday people in old snapshots.
Amber: ...and Louise Brooks for my haircut.
Paul: Don Knotts is also my style icon. LOL!

Or maybe not so "LOL".....

WT: What are your favorite eras?
LMW: We're really in love with the early to mid 20th Century, especially the 20's through the 50's.  The clothes, the hair, the houses, the furniture, the motorcycles, the cars, the music, the attitude.  We can go on and on.  It was just amazing!

A wacky tacky personal favorite!!!

WT: Much of the vintage community adheres to a very strict, and often unrealistic, standard.  You have definitely developed a distinct personal style but it doesn't seem to hinder your participation in all kinds of events (20's, 50's, motorcycle, etc.).  Do you ever feel the need to defend your style or participation?  Do hardcore vintage enthusiasts ever question your loyalty/commitment?
LMW:  We both have outfits from the 1920's through the 50's so we can go to different types of events and not look completely out of place.  We haven't been questioned about our loyalty to a particular era.  Sometimes when we go out, we wear our casual vintage motor wear, and people are interested in it; they don't see it very often.

WT: What do you collect?
LMW: We only collect things we can actually use, like vintage clothes, furniture for our house, etc.  If we don't use it then we sell it on eBay.
Amber:  I love 30's beach pajamas and 40's-50's tshirts. 
WT: Amber, you do have the finest collection of beach pajamas we have ever seen!!!

Exhibit A
Exhibit B

WT:  Now we get down to the real business.  Do you collect motorcycles?
LMW: We have a 1940 BSA and a 1935 BMW with a sidecar.  The BMW gets a lot of looks, but let me tell ya, the BSA makes you feel like a Chinese jet pilot!

A patch detail from a Liberty Motor Wear t-shirt!

WT: What is your most prize possession in terms of motorcycle history?
 LMW: I wouldn't say it's my prize possession, but I do own the earliest known model of a BMW R12 motorcycle, which is from 1935.  It served on the Russian front in WWII.

WT: What is your dream motorcycle?
Paul: I would love to have a 1937 Indian.  It's the epitome of the American motorcycle.

1937 Indian
(Source)

WT: Do you always wear a helmet?  I mean aside from when you are on a motorcycle...
Paul: I usually wear a helmet and speedos when watering the front lawn.
Amber:  The neighbors love it when he does that! 

That sounds like a punishable offense.

WT: One last question, what do you have spinning on your turntable right now?
LMW: Flatt & Scruggs


"Foggy Mountain Breakdown" - Flatt & Scruggs

Thanks, Paul and Amber.  If we ever have a foggy mountain breakdown, we hope that you'll be there with the BMW and side car to give us a lift!  Please be sure to check out the Liberty Motor Wear website for all of your vintage motor wear needs.  You'll be glad you did!


Liberty Motor Wear


Cheers!

Mr. Tiny

10 comments:

  1. Damn you! Now I need to go buy something from them. :)

    I adore that sweater very much. What a cute couple. My hair is going back to a very similar style to hers on the 4th. I can not wait to get this mop chopped.

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    1. Hahhahaha!!! They have some pretty cool stuff. Let me know if you buy something cool!

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  2. Ahhh! I need some of those leather wrist cuffs.

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    1. They are cool, aren't they? I'm going to try and coerce Paul into making some custom ones for me!

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  3. Replies
    1. I know! Why do I insist on surrounding myself with such good looking people; it only makes me look even goofier...hahahahahaha!!!!

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  4. One of my favorite couples! I love Liberty stuff, one of these days I want Amber's favorite red sweater. Great post on great people!

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    1. Thanks Emily! I want one of everything, but I'm not sure if I'm cool enough.

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  5. Just love that it's all made in the US of A! Awesome

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    1. Me too! Quality products made at home!

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