South Paradiso: The epiphany of Romulus Von Stezelberger

Following the recent post on South Paradiso Leather, THE LOOK presents an exclusive on how Paradiso mainman Romulus (formerly Joel) Von Stezelberger launched his amazing clothing range.

Only last week Romulus was a guest on the best radio show in the world, Jonesy’s Jukebox on Indie 103.1FM, hosted by major Paradiso customer, Sex Pistol Steve Jones.

Here, Romulus tells how his life was irrevocably changed one rainy San Francisco day eight years back, not long after he had first come across examples of the hand-tooled leatherwork of East West Musical Instrument Co, whose incredible stage and streetwear was worn by a range of artists in the 70s, including Elvis and Janis Joplin.

Romulus fitting
//Romulus engages in a fitting session//

Just this week Fashion Incubator focused on an East West “parrot” jacket which is currently up for £1,250 on eBay.

Parrot jacket

Not that Romulus’ motivation has ever been money (he once gave away a whole bunch of original EW to goodwill stores) as evinced by his tale told here: “I was planning to go to a flea market early one morning. I got up, leaving behind my sleeping girl. It was pouring outside. I stood there looking at the cold rain, and back at the bed and that nice warm girl, and made my decision. I climbed right back in and cuddled up with Sleeping Beauty, only to be disturbed by a voice inside me which repeated: ‘Today you will find one.’

“I knew this was no delusion. It could only mean that I would find one of the rare ones. So I got up again, splashed water on my face, and called a taxi. On the way to the flea market, the driver kept me entertained with a story about being robbed at knifepoint. As I stepped out into the dumping rain, he asked me, ‘What are you looking for, anyway?’ and I replied, ‘You know, vintage guitars, amps, vintage Levi’s, Hawaiian shirts, East West jackets…’
The driver stopped me: ‘You mean East West Musical Instrument Co?'”

East West Gang

“Incredibly, it turned out that his wife had worked at East West for years and still had some pieces lying around.

“I gave him my number, got theirs, and got out,” says Romulus. “I was so excited that I couldn’t even look around the flea market. I sat in the back of a friend’s van and waited until noon to call her and was amazed when she told me that, among a few others, she had a prototype design for a jacket which was never produced.

“She’d made it for her sister, who she described as a ‘garden hippie’, a girl who did not want to wear the really flashy East West stuff. So she’d created a simple jacket in dark green suede, with very, very intricately cut and appliqué-d dragons of silver, olive green and cranberry leather twisting and twining around the collar and the cuffs.”

Romulus say that by this time he was close to tears. “This jacket was absolutely stunning, a masterpiece. I convinced her to sell it to me, and became the owner of a one-of-a-kind East West jacket, one no one had ever seen before.

“Such things simply don’t ever happen to anyone ever, unless there is some sort of fate at work. I took that jacket back to my live/work space and hung it up on the wall. I rolled a joint, went to the store for a nice tall bottle of Chimay, came home and sat on the floor in front of the jacket, in reverent awe at this majestic sight. I felt myself literally gazing into another world, a real rock & roll paradise, built by the hands of the East West Gods, but now neglected and forgotten.

“I looked into the window of this jacket and felt myself being called into this place, a magic kingdom that was waiting for a new king to come and continue what the East West Kings had left behind. I knew it was my calling, to become this new king.

Joel on a bike

“After that day my whole life shifted gears. I quit my design company and started to put all my energy into collecting these great works of art, while thinking of ways I could make leather art myself. It was as if the East West Spirit came to me through the Dragon jacket and guided me to my true destiny.”

Find out more about Romulus and his destiny.

Read Fashion Incubator.

[…] South Paradiso: The epiphany of Romulus Von Stezelberger South Paradiso: The epiphany of Romulus Von Stezelberger Wednesday, Jan 16th, 2008 Categories: 70s, Boutiques, Fashion design Following the recent post on South Paradiso Leather, THE LOOK presents an exclusive on how Paradiso mainman Romulus (formerly Joel) Von Stezelberger launched his amazing clothing range. Only last week Romulus was a guest on the best radio show in the world, Jonesy’s Jukebox on Indie 103.1FM, hosted by major Paradiso customer, Sex Pistol Steve Jones. Here, Romulus […]

Vintage Guitar said,

August 13, 2008 @ 3:56 pm

(Collecting famous musicians guitars is a different, and I am sure equally fulfilling hobby).

Jefferson Thomas said,

March 10, 2009 @ 11:50 pm

People who take credit for the artistic vision of another, especially ones from bygone eras, are in my humble opinion about as worthy of accolades as a dj is of a groupie’s affections. Like the dj, Stezelburger is playing somebody else’s tune and calling it his own. In order to do this, he exchanges vital fluids with the Hollywood junk exchange – functioning as a costumer for artists and spoof movies such as “Walk the Line” – and languishes in one clownish creative realm exploiting this bastardized ideology of “rock” – what was once fun & threatening music with the lifestyle to boot.
The scenario on the street will illuminate the flipside of the coin – the hapless souls who pathetically scrape together their paltry wages from their day jobs as indentured servants at vegan cafes, toadies to the bootlickers of Babylon, & extras from the set of “Almost Famous” in order to buy into South Paradiso’s “friend rate” of $700 for an East/West knock off motorcycle jacket. All of this is unfortunate, in consideration of the apparent potential of companies like his to rejuvinate mens clothing with vitality and original ideas with real cojones.
Instead Joel chooses to wallow in Easy Rider-era motorcycle wear for people who don’t ride, ignoring his increasingly more relevent customer base in San Francisco – at the Folsom Street Fair outfitting leather daddies with studded calfskin chaps for Gay Pride.
That being said, let me say I do enjoy rock music – the down & dirty boogie woogie, heavy rhythm, scuzzed out blues. The brand that had raw feeling. Ragged guts. Heart torn to shreds and spit out through the microphone and pounded out on the piano keys through the likes of the Greats.
But the promise of the rock and roll lifestyle for me never really had any more to do with being able to afford a $700 brand new leather jacket than finding an old, broken-in, tattered one in the Goodwill Donation bins on 11th Street and patching it up myself, being a little rough around the edges, and fucking shit up onstage with the electric guitar I bought for half the price of one of those jackets!
Don’t believe the Hollywood hype, kids. If you are truly a bad ass it has nothing to do with the “Instant Caracature” version of the real shit.

Tomtom Jeff said,

November 16, 2009 @ 7:07 pm

Have you never heard of ghetto fabulous! These jackets are what the people who spent their time scrounging through heaps of used clothes for a killer leather jacket would buy if they somehow get rich. But rock n roll will never be about material goods, just cause somebody is making material goods about rock and roll it doesnt take away from the ongoing practice of the down and dirty boogie woogie. This guy just decided to make these revivalist, imatation, tribute, what have you, leather goods because the originals got him so hard thats all he could do. Is he building golden calf? who gives a ____?

Jezebel said,

February 19, 2010 @ 7:31 pm

Is Jefferson Thomas and Tomtom Jeff the same person…hmmmmmm? Who ever you are Jeffy Boy it sounds like you are just a little jealous…no?????

South Paradiso ROCKS!

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