MUST SEE Inverview with Skip Pas
MUST SEE INTERVIEW WITH SKIP PAS
Website: West Coast Leather
West Coast Leather Intro (Flash Player Required):
Interview Creating Rock Stars! Designer Skip Pas in the Spotlight
Senior Editor FashionErotica
...Leather: "It makes men feel manly, and women feel hot and sexy. And no matter what, black leather is always in fashion."
DESIGNER SKIP PAS has outfitted the celebrity world with his leather couture; musicians like Elton John, Michael Jackson, and Cher, movie stars like Eddie Murphy (remember Eddie’s leather phase?), television actors such as Benjamin Bratt, and more. His fashions are so popular that the door bell at his San Francisco store kept going off constantly, sounding more like a fire alarm than a doorbell while we interviewed. His phone never stops ringing, and the demand from wardrobe departments at movie studios, celebs in need of an amazing look for an event, and even everyday business men and women never seems to let up. Pas is the “It” person for leather and West Coast Leather is the place to shop if you want to look like a rock star!
It all began as a dream to be a photographer. Pas applied to the Rhode Island School of Design to study photography, but they declined his application. All roads leading to one’s destiny, he moved on to Indiana University where he dabbled with the idea of becoming a doctor or a lawyer, but he settled on a degree in Kinesiology (Coaching). The world of fashion didn’t come calling until 1986 after he’d worked in the night club business in Chicago. North Beach Leather, the most popular leather outfitter in the world at that time hired Pas and he immediately began working with some incredible clients thanks to his fashion mentor, Michael Hoban, owner of North Beach Leather. Hoban was Yoda to Pas’s Skywalker. Strong, the force was, in this one.
SP: “I kind of rose to prominence (at North Beach Leather) because of my sales. Then I was made general manager, and when I was made general manager I moved to Hawaii with my family, had a little baby, and got island fever, but whenever I went someplace (for the business) I was, like, the savior. We’d travel and do these huge trunk shows. Michael Hoban was the designer and he was my teacher. We went to Paris, Italy, we’d buy leather, and we had a whole design team (other designers that worked with North Beach Leather) and we’d review all the designs together. We’d review with the whole team; it was production managers and sourcing managers, the leather people who buy, there were just so many intelligent people, like twenty people on this team in the design office in Los Angeles. Then they closed the office and moved to San Francisco.”
Pas moved from management into the design aspect in a ten year period with the company during the 90s. His ability to pick the best of the best of NBL designs helped shape the company and filled their catalogues with hot-selling items. It came naturally to Pas who has a flair for sales, a mind for business, and knows how to treat people; “like a rock star!”
Pas’s first major selling design contribution was the leather coat dress.
SP: “It’s a leather coat that can be worn as a dress, and I just had this concept that the client really liked a longer, fitted garment that she could wear like a power suit for corporate affairs; she could wear it at night; she could lose the business suit underneath or the skirt underneath and just wear it with nothing underneath. I was the specialist on the coat dress.”
MG: How long did it take you to build your brand as West Coast Leather with yourself as the designer?
SP: “It started right off the bat. When North Beach Leather closed in 2003, I had worked with all of the top vendors in the world with the previous company. I secured a loan and we started right up and immediately I was designing for WCL. I’d actually kept the trade-name of North Beach Leather for a one or two year period to pay off the debt of the previous company in what was called general assignment. I was designing new leather skirts, leather dresses; my first collection is still online, and it was a very diverse collection. When I came out of the box, I had a full arsenal!”
WCL designs are classic. Something from 2003 can still be worn today and be ‘in’. Only good leather designs can pull that off. As a trend-setter, other designers are checking them out. Pas works with some of the top tanneries in the world who already know which colors are in demand each season. Types of skins play into each design as well and all elements from texture to color to accessories are brought together to create his unique and stylish designs.
MG: Who was your first celebrity fitting?
SP: Paula Abdul. That was in 1987 when she was doing her tour of Tokyo. I was in Japan on business for North Beach Leather when I saw her CD in a store. I came back to the Chicago store, and I was helping this hot, client. I didn't realize it was Paula Abdul! I sold her this brown, distressed stone-washed skirt and some jackets. She was like “Oh, I just love this. I’m from L.A.” and she was so bubbly and nice. I said to myself, gosh, this is Paula Abdul! I was kind of getting nervous and she gave me her American Express and so I look at the name and say “Oh my God, it’s Paula Abdul!” I’m thinking to myself “wait a minute! Arsenio Hall! She’s dating Arsenio Hall. I know this!” So I’m staying cool and don’t let her know I’m freaking out so I say, “Paula,” …Okay, I didn’t say “Paula”, but I said “what size is your boyfriend?” I had a feeling he was about a 42 so I said I have this jacket—we made this Bowling jacket like the shoes. It was a multi-color jacket. So beautiful. And we had a 42 in the back and the jacket size had the size like the shoes so I said “Yea, you’ve got to get this for your boyfriend.” (She said) “Oh, I love it!” So I had it in stock. I rang her up and I made a copy of her credit card, just the part with her name on it, it was an imprint so I kept the form and I was so excited things were snow-balling. Elton John came in, when he’s trying on jackets and he’s standing in front of the mirror and you have three or four people bringing jackets, and he’s standing there with his arms back and he’s saying yes or no. He takes it off and someone is grabbing that one and he’s there for an hour and so….but Paula was my first.”
Pas shares that whether a person is a celebrity or not, trying on West Coast Leather is an enjoyable experience. It makes men feel manly, and women feel hot and sexy. And no matter what, black leather is always in fashion.
MG: Who are some of your favorite models to work with?
SP: “Well, the first was Beth Otrosky, and that was shot in New York. That was Howard Stern’s girlfriend at the time and she came to do a half-day shoot for my first spring collection. It was in a beautiful silver-white, and there was a cobra that was, like, purplish-white – gorgeous; and we did a dark purple. She’s still online on my site, you can see her, but it was great. We didn’t make a big deal about it; that is was Beth Otrosky. She was perfect in the clothes and blonde. At the end of the shoot she said “Oh, I gotta go. Howard sent a limo for me” so we walked her down and she was very nice. All the models really love to work for West Coast Leather and sometimes in lieu of getting a cash payment, they’ll like something from the collection. Donna Feldman, she’s the model for American Express Black Card, she’s one of my favorite models. She also did a shoot with Irina Voronina who was a Playboy Playmate (January, 2001), and Sasha Gray wore West Coast Leather (adult film star and Entourage) in Playboy for November, 2010.”
MG: What one piece of fashion should no man be without/no woman should be without?
SP: “That’s an easy one. For men, well, going back to Esquire Magazine, I think around 1997, I forgot to tell you this story! Pamela Anderson said every man needs a blazer; a leather blazer. Today, that is still the hottest item to add for men – a nice leather sport coat – for which I also made one for Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie ‘Eraser’. I forgot to mention that. Then there was Vanessa Williams, James Caan who also got the leather blazer, and at the same time I was helping Goldie Hawn and some of her cast in ‘The First Wives Club’. At that same time, we had JFK Jr. (John F. Kennedy, Jr.) in the store; Wayne Gretzsky; Lisa Marie Presley and Michael Jackson in a limo outside, and that was on Madison Avenue (while still North Beach Leather), so there was an ongoing list of celebrities coming through.”
MG: Did you actually meet JFK Jr.?
SP: Yes. I always had the models from Ford (Agency) working in the store in New York, and we were all standing around, and he’s got to come in and check it out…”
MG: Oh man! I was so in love with him. I want you know I ordered George Magazine just because he owned it.
SP: Yea, he was very cool. All the celebs we’ve helped have been very, very nice to us from North Beach Leather and also West Coast Leather. Chevy Chase came in a year or two ago and said “Wow, I love this store! Let me get something for my wife.” Then his wife came in and she said “Well, we’re from southern California and I’m not sure I want anything ….; I said the only problem with this is, we can’t tell anyone you were here.” He said, “okay, let me buy her a pair of leather pants”, so he bought her a pair of leather pants because he liked us. It’s just very funny. And getting back to the other question (must-have single piece of leather fashion), for woman, I would say it’s still the women’s fitted motorcycle jacket. We have so many different styles. I’d say 100%, you’ve got to have a cool black leather jacket. Now, for FashionErotica, we’re talking about fetish fashion and I’d say it would be a leather dress, leather skirt or leather pants.”
With all the celebrities that Pas has outfitted, he still has a short list of faves he would like to dress. That list includes Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Kesha, and Rihanna. “I like to work with females more, but I get inspired like when we did the Nick Hawk shoot in Vegas. He was just in incredible shape, and how handsome he is, like the James Dean type of our time, but he had the body art going on; reminded me of Dennis Rodman, one of my other favorite customers.” Other WCL customers include David Robinson and Scotty Pippen, to name a few of the sports figures sporting designs by Pas.
MG: Let’s talk about charities. I know you’re involved in several. Tell me more about how WCL pays it forward?
SP: “I’ve done work with the Friends of Dorothy for the second year in a row and that was for the AIDS Emergency Fund for Orange County. We first started with the Marin Breast Cancer – Stepping Out for Life. My mom died from cancer when she was forty. I was just fifteen and it was really painful. Her sister also died a few years later, also on her fortieth birthday so it was really hard-hitting at the time. There wasn’t much technology and it was kind of gruesome. I always wanted to give back to some kind of charity that was involved with that. When I was with North Beach Leather, we did charities, but for West Coast Leather, it really hit home participating with the Stepping Out for Life that’s in Marin; for some reason there, there’s a very high rate of breast cancer in this beautiful part of San Francisco. We would dress the models who were cancer survivors for the fund raiser. It’s a black-tie event that’s held every year. One year Gavin Newsom, the mayor of the city, his mom had passed away and he was the key note speaker. The next year, Sammy Hagar, the rocker, I thought was the MC, well he volunteered to model; really touching, and we do that on a consistent basis. Giving is always in fashion, too.”
Other charities include the Wounded Warrior at the Playboy Mansion with Hugh Hefner and his girlfriends at the time, the twins. Pas has been lucky enough to create leather jackets for Playboy worn by the gorgeous Playmates at the Playboy mansion—that he has had occasion to visit. Not many can say that. The jackets were featured on the Kendra show. Yet another is the Generation Rescue charity with Jenny McCarthy for the Autism Foundation. In one six month period, WCL did nine charity events in 2009. “We want to give back where we can” say Pas.
Between fashion shows, charity events, photo shoots, trips to tanneries in some of the most beautiful places in the world, Skip Pas still manages to stay grounded and appreciative of everything he has. He’s a husband, a father, a business man, crazy-talented designer, and friend. And man, does he have some stories to tell! When you visit West Coast Leather in San Francisco, you’ll likely either hear a few of those stories or become one of them. Pas is a hands-on kind of guy; no diva here! His designs are timeless, look great on everyone, and there’s more to come. Customers get serviced by WCL designers and fashion models. It’s the red-carpet experience of leather shopping. Plus, the smell of new leather is a potent aphrodisiac! If you’re out in the San Francisco area, stop by 290 Sutter Street and tell Skip that FashionErotica sent you!
* * *
Check out his designs in FashionErotica’s “What Happens in Vegas…” photo shoot in this month’s edition featuring Showtime’s Gigolos series reality star Nick Hawk, models Kina Tavarozi, Cherish Amour, and Nikki Olayo.