FOR more than two decades Ken Calder has seen the cream of Hollywood royalty clad in the vintage leather jackets lovingly crafted in his Galashiels factory.
And this week he and his team at the Aero Leathers premises in the town’s Huddersfield Street – opened by him and wife Lydia in 1991 – will find out if they can now add movie star George Clooney to that illustrious roll call of celebrity A-listers.
Aero Leathers expected to find out this week if they are to get the contract to supply period jackets for Clooney’s new wartime drama, The Monuments Men.
If they do, the star of such hits as Ocean’s 11, The Descendants and television medical drama, ER, will find out for himself why the likes of James Bond star Daniel Craig and Johnny Depp are avid fans of Aero Leathers’ jackets.
Clooney is co-writing and directing, as well as starring in The Monuments Men, which centres on the real-life men and women who tracked down art stolen by Hitler’s Nazis in the dying weeks of the Second World War.
“We were contacted about the film at the end of November when we were sent a photograph of a rare United States Army Airforce sheepskin flying jacket,” Ken explained to TheSouthern this week.
“The girls in the office got excited and were joking about the idea of George Clooney coming and there happened to be a newspaper reporter here in the office to see about his own jacket and he picked up on the story about the film and that’s how it all came out.
“As far as I know there are meetings about it this week, when they will consider using jackets made by us, like the one in the photo.
“They would need quite a few and there are very few people in the world who can do what we do here, with the ageing process we can do.
“Because films are shot out of sequence you have to use a number of jackets all at different stages of ageing.
“I’m fairly confident we’ll get some work out of it.”
Ken says the secret of his success has been to keep things circa 1959 – designs no later than that, techniques used to make the garments no later than that and using leather still treated the same way it was back in 1904.
He could add to that a business ethos rooted in the same era, with quality and service being the benchmarks always adhered to in the manufacture of every single jacket, with each one made by one employee only, from start to finish.
But Ken is no name dropper, dazzled by the chance to have big screen stars wearing his clothes. Hardly surprising when you find out this 67-year-old Thurso native started out in the fashion business dressing people such as rock stars Elton John, Suzi Quatro and Keith Richard in his vintage gear in the London of the swinging sixties.
And so successful was Aero Leathers that Ken and Lydia were able to take a back seat with a well-earned retirement a few years ago, leaving the company in the hands of a new management team.
However, their retirement was cut short when the Calders were forced to take back the reins of the business in the autumn after concerns over the way the company was being run.
And with children Holly and Denny now involved, as well as many of the original staff who have been lured back by the Calders’ return, the aim is to get the factory back on track over the next few months.
Factory manager Julie Leitch, from Galashiels joined Aero aged 19 in 1991 and reckons to have personally made around 10,000 jackets in that time.
Included in that staggering total is the 47 jackets she single-handedly made for the recent movie, Captain America.
“I love my job,” she said. “It’s because quality is always really important and when you have finished a jacket, you have a product you can really be proud of, that will last a lifetime and never go out of fashion.”