Rock 'n' roll, cowboys and Indians, comiC BOOKS and bikers are just a few of Agatha Blois' inspirations. And although this Los Angeles-based designer isn't particularly well-known among Rodeo Drive shoppers, her client list cuts a wide swath through the music industry, especially the rock set.
Perhaps best known for her leather pants, the self-taught Blois has been designing leather for two decades. She's come a long way since making her first big client's pair of leathers in her grandmother's basement at the age of 21.
"He saw my pants and asked me where I got them," she says of Eighties rocker Axl Rose, whom she met by chance at a Guns N' Roses gig in Brooklyn. "I told him I made them and he said he wanted me to make a pair for him, so that was my first rock star client."
That started her on the way to becoming one of the most wanted leather designers in the business.
A few years later, she opened a store on Ninth Street in New York's East Village to house her growing line of leather clothing. Soon everyone from Joan Jett to then-unknown Drea De Matteo, and local bands and bikers wanted a piece of NYC Custom Leather by Agatha.
Blois was forced to close the shop in 1995 while she recovered from neck surgery, the result of hours spent hunkered in the sewing position, working those hides. After a year of R&R, Blois returned to work, by appointment only, in a loft space on Ludlow Street on Manhattan's Lower East Side. Later in 1996, when a storefront became available downstairs, she jumped at the opportunity to reopen NYC Custom Leather by Agatha.
Her client list grew to include Ron Wood of The Rolling Stones, Roger Daltrey of The Who, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Rob Halford of Judas Priest, Billy Idol, Bono and The Edge of U2, Gloria Estefan, Sheryl Crow, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Gwen Stefani. She also added ready-to-wear, mixing fabrics like denim and canvas with leather for rockers' tour wardrobes. Her duds have earned numerous magazine covers and music video appearances on some of the world's most famous stars and actors.Then, in 2002, bitten by the California bug, Blois suddenly closed shop again and relocated to L.A. There, she hooked up with Maxfield on Melrose Avenue, doing an exclusive line. With a made-to-order business on the side, Blois leads a quiet life, raising her 14-year-old son, Angus — named after guitarist Angus Young of AC/DC — with her new husband, Elliot Graeber, a business and financial consultant. She continues to expand, with handbags and cowboy hats and plans to add sexy boots and men's shirts. Business fluctuates each year, but Blois said she gets two to five custom orders a week. Prices for the custom and the Maxfield lines start at $1,000 and can run as high as $20,000. And she still makes everything herself on her six industrial sewing machines.
So how does Blois describe her own style? "I probably, in my own mind, look the same as I did in high school, only they're my pants now. I would have to say dirty rock 'n' roll." She only wears what she makes — with the exception of an occasional pair of Levi's — and if she does happen to wear another label or designer, she wears it for a day and then gives it away.
And of course there are the tattoos she wears with pride, all 50 of them. There are lightning bolts in a variety of sizes, a huge grim reaper on her back, names of friends, family and old boyfriends, the word "luck" on one set of knuckles and "fate" on the other. But judging from this leather artisan's evolution, those words have proven to be more than just some rebellious ink.
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