Motostuka is an independent company from the USA creating beautiful products, with beliefs and principles that are rare in today’s modern throwaway culture. All of their products represent a dedication to simple yet elegant designs using high quality materials, that wouldn’t look out of place 60 years ago on the first highway riders and pioneers of the time. The Motostuka Shank gloves are one of our most popular items here at Monday Mo.Co, and customers are always asking about the story behind the brand. So we took some time to sit down with Rob Howe, the founder of Motostuka, to find out a little more about his story.
When did Motostuka begin, and what inspired you to start the company?
After graduating from college with a degree in Industrial Design, I spent the first 17 years of my career designing consumer electronics for some pretty big companies. I found this work to be challenging, the pay was great, and I had many opportunities to travel. But I also found that working for large companies provided very little security. I never worked more than 5 or 6 years at a company before getting laid off for reasons beyond my control. The last lay off came 3 days before Christmas in 2011. My entire department was let go. But unlike most of my colleagues, I didn't scramble to find another job. I sat down with my wife and discussed what I wanted to do next. I had a generous severance package, and my wife had a good job, so my kids weren't going to starve if I wanted to take some time decide on a new career path. I knew I didn't want to go back to corporate. I wanted to do something on my own, take a risk in the hopes of creating something very special. My wife said, "All you ever think about, talk about, and dream about are motorcycles. Why don't you do something in that industry?" So I did.
Where do you take inspiration from for your products?
This is huge question. I have always been fascinated by the Japanese design aesthetic "Wabi Sabi". Wabi Sabi states there is beauty in imperfection. As something gets old, it becomes more beautiful. Wabi Sabi is why old faded jeans are cooler than new ones, or why a pair of beat up old boots has more "soul" than a crisp new pair. "Worn in, but not worn out" is how we like to explain it. I design my products to look like they are from a past era. For example the Hog Butcher shop apron was designed to look like the ones used by 1940's factory workers. With that in mind, I also search for materials that will age beautifully.
Rob working hard in the Motostuka workshop in Texas USA
Motostuka as a brand goes hand in hand with the motorcycle lifestyle. Do you ride a Motorcycle yourself, and if so what are you riding? And how did you get into Motorcycles?
My dad was into motorcycles, so I received my first bike, a Yamaha 60, when I was 8 years old. In the 44 years since then, I have never been without a bike. And through the years I have run the gamut of motorcycles: dirt bikes, sport bikes, touring bikes, choppers, vintage. Right now I am really into adventure touring bikes, but with a twist. I've built a vintage Dakar Rally inspired BMW that I'm obsessed with. But I also have a Shovelhead Harley chopper, and a 1965 Triumph Trophy.
Rob’s Dakar Rally inspired Vintage BMW that he built himself.
You mention on your website that you have an obsession with "time honoured craftsmanship"', how important is it to you to keep these traditions alive?
In my previous career, I had many opportunities to travel to, and work with off shore manufacturers. I know first hand how they operate, and what it takes to get millions of units made. A lot of what I saw was very alarming. The waste, the lack of accountability, and the disregard of the human element, makes mass production a process that has long lasting negative implications.
All of my products are made by hand. All are made with the absolute finest materials available. We NEVER change our processes to save a few bucks. We don't design in "obsolescence", you know? If you wear out a MotoStuka product and you don't feel like you got your money's worth, then I've failed!
Your Motostuka Shanks are one of our most popular items at Monday Mo.Co, can you tell our customers a little about the process and hard work that goes into creating such an iconic product?
The shanks are, by far, my most successful product. They are fashioned after a pair of gloves my dad had when I was a kid (which I still have by the way). Contrary to what a lot of people think, I don't make the raw glove. There is no way I could keep up with demand now if I had to sew each pair. The raw, untreated gloves are made for me here in the United States. Once they arrive at MotoStuka, I put them through a process that makes them "Shanks". It took almost 18 months to perfect the waxing process that gives Shanks their signature patina. This patina ages beautifully and makes the gloves water resistant.
With the success of the original Bronze Shanks, we decided to experiment with different colours. But of course we couldn't just buy some dye and dip the gloves. That's not how we do things. All our dyes are hand mixed, by me, to get our unique colours. For example MotoStuka "Bloody Shanks" are not dyed with standard Oxblood dye available off the shelf. I mix up my "Bloody" dye to be darker… more bloody, if you will. It's a tremendous amount of work, but the end product speaks for itself.
Most of us here at Monday Mo.Co have our own pairs of Motostuka shanks that we ride in. Here is Benny in his pair on his 1951 Panhead Chopper.
I know that Motostuka is based in Texas, but I have seen your products all over, throughout the UK and Europe. How does that make you feel knowing that people appreciate your work all over the world?
I am constantly amazed by how "global" this little brand we started in our garage has become! MotoStuka products are made in the United States, but approximately half of our output goes to Europe and Asia. We have sent merchandise to customers in Dubai, Turkey, Singapore, South Africa, the list goes on and on! All this confirms that I made the right decision to not "find a job".
And finally, do you have any final words of wisdom for us all Rob?
Many people I meet ask me how we did this; create something, basically out of nothing. I tell them, passion, hard work... AND THE INTERNET! At no other time has there been so many tools available to entrepreneurs! Master these online tools, and your market is truly worldwide. The E-commerce environment is hungry of start up companies producing quality products that are stylish and cool!
Rob Howe – Founder of Motostuka
Sam – Monday Mo.Co