If you ever take a trip to north London’s Stoke Newington, you’ll find Bolt London, a hub for motorbike enthusiasts brimming with edge, excitement and memories of the heyday of biker subcultures. Set in a yard originally a stable block, the location is every bit as authentic as you’d want it to be, a true destination of a store celebrating motorcycle culture in its most genuine form.
Founded by Andrew Almond in 2013, Bolt brings together craftsmanship and custom cycles for an experience the second you walk through the door, accompanied by a variety of curated brands as well as Bolt’s own line of staple, quality-led pieces inspired by the subcultures of motorcycling.
“Our own line has been developed slowly,” explains Andrew. “Our focus is the fabrics and materials, either developing our own or working with the best suppliers. Working with the likes of Kuroki and British Millerain, we are refining the details and creating depth through different treatments and finishes to always look stylish and last.”
Wanting the store to be seen as a destination rather than the general retail store, Almond has gone to great lengths to ensure that Bolt is a place that’ll stick in your mind. So, it’s no wonder that it’s the workshop of 1960s legends, the Duguid brothers, as well as former HQ for biker group The Ally Pally Ton-Up Boys.
Head below to enjoy Andrew Almond talking all things motorcycling, Easy Rider and the Bolt community..
You’ll find Bolt at 1a Bouverie Road, London, N16 0AH
Can you briefly describe what Bolt is and what it means to you?
Bolt is a key arbiter and protagonist within the motorcycle scene in London and beyond. More than a label, Bolt is an authentic participant and evocative champion of a culture with a rich heritage and evolving resonance. We draw inspiration from motorcycling past to create contemporary garments combining innovation and luxury. I like to think we create our own scene through our diverse creative output across music, fashion, design and culture through organising festivals, art shows, cinemas and other events.
You have romantic visions of the lifestyle around motorcycling, would this be accurate?
Such an inherently dangerous lifestyle choice naturally attracts a certain type of thrill-seeker; it takes a commitment to ride a motorcycle.
How does the Bolt offer marry together with the high octane world of motorcycling, or is it completely removed?
Bolt highlights a peculiar and narrow niche that’s rooted in two-wheeled subcultures both past and present. The rise in ‘new wave‘ custom motorcycles shops further accentuates the difference in our approach. It’s important that Bolt distances itself from the contemporary custom scene that it came from.
Any subculture suburbanises after a few years and the custom motorcycle revival, whilst to many is considered a growing market, has long since lost is credibility. For me anyway.
There are very few brands producing inspirational goods and the scene feels corporate, far away from its backyard, grass-root beginnings. I try to disassociate Bolt from current trends and focus on the classic sub-cultures from Rockers to skinheads, and their adoption of style across all cultural forms. I would like to see us alongside Lewis Leathers, building on heritage and quality, from a global view.
The style of classic bikes and the apparel worn yesteryear has enjoyed a revival. Would you say that is accurate? Why?
Commonly, the custom motorcycle scene is said to have come out from the economic recession of 2008. Previously custom culture was the reserve of the show chrome, air-brushed $100k Harley Davidson choppers seen on shows like Orange County Choppers. The economic crash led people to seek out vintage bikes, old Hondas from the 70s that could be individualised. Patina instead of show chrome, creativity over expenditure and a whole new aesthetic rule book.
I think you can go much deeper into the discussion of the emergence of the modern-day ‘Hipster’. The responses to modern times, a romantic idea of a past of superior production or a new appreciation of a different aesthetic, is all relevant. It’s the same story and trajectory as selvedge denim. Many of the styles of bikes we ride, from café racers, choppers to scooters, all have their heyday between the 50s and 70s. So, it makes sense that our clothes are influenced by the same time periods.
We all know the old school films associated with motorcycling, such as On The Waterfront, The Great Escape, Easy Rider. Is the world of Bolt a celebration of all those styles and touchpoints to create a coming together of like-minded people? Explain.
I think this is exactly it! It’s about connecting the dots between a myriad of cultural reference points within films, music, art, design and fashion.
You started riding bikes overseas and developed this deep-seated love for the lifestyle and style that goes with it. Do you follow your own path of what you think Bolt should represent, or do you accept and follow other influences?
We have never had a firm idea of what we wanted to be or where we wanted to go with Bolt. Rather, we knew we wanted to do something and went on from there. We have always had a strong social awareness and chosen spaces conducive to gatherings, served coffee and held regular events. Our influences are from those around us, building our own scene rather than following a notion of something bigger.
Can you talk us through the brands you have within Bolt, why they have been selected and your own line?
We’re very loyal to the brands we stock. Most have been met on the road first, and friendships made before business. We work with a number of small producers from around the globe, importing exclusive items that represent something exciting to us. We curate our offer in line with our values for craft and quality, pulling together the best of what we can find. We are exclusive stockists for Aero of Scotland who produce some of the finest leather jackets available. Our own line has been developed slowly over the past eight years, avoiding seasons and only working on a new garment when we design something new or see an improvement on what already exists.
Our focus is the fabrics and materials, either developing our own or working with the best suppliers. We use 15 oz Japanese selvedge from Kuroki, superfine virgin wool from Manteco Spa in Italy and technical waxed fabrics from British Millerain. It’s about refining the details and creating depth through different treatments and finishes. A well-designed and fitted garment, in quality materials, will always look stylish and last, repaying an investment in production.
You talk about being more of a destination and an event brand rather than sticking rigidly to the guidelines of a typical retail brand. That’s fair?
I started Bolt without any retail experience and created somewhere where I wanted to be and which created opportunities. I spend so much time here I have to love the space. There’s always coffee on the go, beers in the fridge and a yard to tinker on motorcycles.
I do not want to limit what we can do, from building custom motorcycles to designing clothes, hosting cinemas to music festivals. The lines are blurring, retail is increasingly experiential, and more than anything, people need something they can believe in. Fashion often lacks inspiration. It’s an appreciation of good clothes and style that creates impact. We use our distance from commerce to our advantage, we design garments in limited runs, so we preserve the freedom to create entirely as we please.
The community at Bolt is eclectic but easy, with a great vibe – music, coffee, haircuts and then the shop itself. What are your aims moving forward, where do you want to take Bolt?
I’d like to grow what we’ve built in our current space, bringing together more creatives to the mix. Having three businesses within the same space works really well. We share many of the same influences, and it feels very natural. It’s about bringing people together and supporting communities of shared interests.
What gets you excited within the realms of the job? What brands do you admire?
We’re in touch with motorcyclists all over the world and it’s the small scenes that develop in different places that keep me excited and looking for the next thing. Recently, it was a group of riders in Moscow who had adopted and adapted the Bosozoku style, a Japanese motorcycle sub-culture, and made it their own.
You are a free-spirited chap – is that a help or hindrance?
I sometimes wonder how things may have been if I was more commercially-minded and finally resolved myself in that all my favourite businesses went bankrupt. If you do something to make money, you often have to compromise, and if I were to do so, I would quickly lose interest. The only way for me is to believe in what I do and hope that I can manage a way to make the numbers add up.