Chain Gang L.A. will keep you in stitches, and not only because these guys know how to have a good time. The collective of seven Los Angeles-based embroidery artists have been crafting custom patches and doing artful embroidery on jackets and flags for car and motorcycle clubs for years, but have more recently begun applying their craft to the world of high fashion through a series of partnerships with familiar industry names like The Elder Statesman, En Noir, and Adaptation. In honor of their foray into the fashion world, we’ll be hosting Chain Gang on the third floor our Beverly Hills Flagship now through Sunday, April 9th, where they’ll be offering their services to make your purchase your own, and we got the residency started off right with a cocktail party last night.
Founded by three friends who still run their operation out of a space shared with a custom motorcycle detailer, Chain Gang’s roots have always been interwoven with the car culture of East L.A. “We come from a background of custom, vintage, and lowrider cars,” Tul Jutargate, one of the company’s founders, tells us. “Car clubs back in the ‘50s and ‘60s had their insignias or logos chain stitched on all their club jackets, vests, and shirts. We liked wearing it ourselves, so we started out stitching the stuff that we liked and catering to a lot of the clubs around Southern California and overseas with clients in Japan, Brazil, and in Europe. We had friends who were connected with the fashion and entertainment industries, and they started seeing what we were doing and approaching us to bring stitching to what they were doing. That was really how we got introduced to the fashion industry.”
From those initial projects, their experiences in the world of fashion have grown through word of mouth, friends, and more recently, through social media, leading to collaborations with some of the top names in fashion and musicians like Pharrel. “We don’t have a website. We don’t have business cards or anything,” Jutargate says. “Unlike other brands that are chain stitch companies, you can’t really just walk into our store and get something—we don’t have a store! It’s referrals or word of mouth, so this week at Barneys is making it a lot more accessible.”
For the next week, stitchers will be on hand in the store to help customers put their own stamp on purchases. While a set collection of designs are being offered, Jutargate is quick to point out that they’re more jumping off points for embroidery, since the point is to make it personal. “If someone see something that they like, we can work with them and tweak it for them,” he says. “We selected elements that represent California and designs that people can relate to. They’re also designs that can be done in a short amount of time, so that customer can pick something, have it done, and leave with a finished piece. But we have some of our other more involved work on display and people can see what we’re capable of.”
And what they’re capable of is truly beautiful. Using machines that were built anywhere between the late 1800s and the early 1960s, Chain Gang artists freehand their work in a way that Jutargate likens to calligraphy or drawing, and it’s a form that allows for just as much individuality or creativity. “Graffiti artists have their hand styles. Tattooers each have their own style. And it’s the same with us. The way our eyes see things transfers into our work. We’re seven different artists, but there are some similarities in our work.”
Each stitcher is able to put their own stamp on their work, and for Jutargate, that level of authenticity is what’s most important about Chain Gang—their roots are in car culture, and they brang that to the world of fashion rather than the other way around. “This type of embellishment never went away; it’s just that it’s getting popular again,” he says of the transition of their work into the fashion world. “Everybody has their own style. You could just start chain stitching tomorrow, but as long as it’s true to your style, you can still be authentic.”
To get your own taste of Chain Gang’s work and to have them help you make a new purchase even more special, just stop by the 3rd floor of our Beverly Hills flagship anytime from now until Sunday, April 9th. And let the stitching begin!