How Adam Ant in­spired classlead­ing leathers firm

Leather ex­pert went from mak­ing punk out­fits to run­ning a com­pany that makes suits fit for a prince

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Content -

British be­spoke leather man­u­fac­turer BKS’S ori­gins are down to an un­likely source: pop star Adam Ant! In­spired by punk fash­ion in the early 1980s, BKS founder Brian Keith San­som be­gan mak­ing his own cloth­ing in a sim­i­lar style and with a love of fash­ion de­vel­op­ing was soon a fa­mil­iar face at the lo­cal col­lege in Ex­eter un­til one day he was given the chance to turn his love of tai­lor­ing into a busi­ness.

“With the idea of be­com­ing a fash­ion de­signer, I was mak­ing pocket-money cre­at­ing clothes for friends and was a fa­mil­iar face at the leather de­part­ment in the col­lege,” Brian re­mem­bers. “They had con­tracts mak­ing small leather goods such as hand­cuff pock­ets and belts for the po­lice and one day the guy who ran the de­part­ment said: ‘How do you fancy giv­ing this a proper go? I’ll lend you a leather sew­ing ma­chine and as we don’t have the time to fix the po­lice rid­ers’ kit, you can take up those jobs as well.’ I con­tacted Devon and Corn­wall Po­lice and started up my own com­pany un­der Thatcher’s Young En­ter­prise Al­lowance Scheme.”

So, on Feb­ru­ary 17, 1986, 20-yearold Brian founded BKS Leather (his ini­tials form­ing the com­pany name) out of his bed­room in Ex­mouth. Ini­tially al­ter­ing and tai­lor­ing leather goods for lo­cal peo­ple, word soon spread and BKS re­ceived re­quests from other po­lice forces ask­ing for leather re­pairs and was soon asked to make com­plete suits for po­lice rid­ers.

With the work­load in­creas­ing, Brian con­verted his loft into a makeshift work­shop and em­ployed a mem­ber of staff as a cut­ter. With more po­lice forces be­gin­ning to hear about his work, BKS soon ex­panded to a work­shop in Ex­mouth and by the end of 1993 em­ployed 15 mem­bers of staff.

Dur­ing the 1990s sportsbike boom, road rid­ers started to see

po­lice bik­ers wear­ing BKS leathers and de­mand from non-po­lice motorcyclists started to in­crease. BKS were in­creas­ingly seen in mag­a­zines and their range ex­panded from black po­lice leathers into rac­ereplica suits, gloves and more as they be­came an es­tab­lished British leathers man­u­fac­turer. By the mid1990s, as the main­stream busi­ness over­took the po­lice work, BKS were em­ploy­ing 24 peo­ple and mak­ing 600 suits a year. But the boom couldn’t last for­ever.

“In the 2000s the mar­ket de­clined and we de­cided to re-fo­cus on our core busi­ness of equip­ping po­lice forces and to re­duce the num­ber of be­spoke suits,” ex­plained Brian. “In 2008 Frank Thomas ap­proached us to use our trade­mark on a masspro­duced range made in the Far East, which we agreed to, and which led to James Tose­land wear­ing BKS suits in Mo­togp. But FT went bust in 2011 and that pro­ject ended.”

Nowa­days BKS em­ploy ten mem­bers of staff and make around 250 suits a year. They sup­ply 90% of UK po­lice forces, still make be­spoke one and two-piece suits for road rid­ers and are the only UK leathers man­u­fac­turer li­censed to in­cor­po­rate Alpines­tars’ airbag sys­tem in their suits. Not bad for a for­mer punk from Ex­mouth.

To­day BKS’S 10-strong team pro­duces around 250 suits a year for the po­lice and pub­lic

In­spired by Adam Ant Brian San­som set up BKS in 1986

All BKS suits are made to the high­est stan­dards BKS founder Brian Keith San­som heads the Dorset firm BKS’S con­nec­tions with the po­lice are still very strong

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