Interview with Andrew Najera and Bill Jackson
Product Development: From Idea to Reality An Interview with Andrew Najera, Retail Product Lead and Bill Jackson, Archives Lead
How does a product idea begin?
Andrew: It can begin in several ways... It could be a walk through the Museum and seeing an item differently, looking through our Archival Parts and Accessory Catalogs, reviewing archival photos or having one of our team members finding an item to be reviewed.
Bill: Sometimes, there is excellent evidence in the archives, meaning an actual example of the product in great condition. Other times, it's only photographs or the line art in historical product literature. But if our current product managers think it will have a new life, we pull whatever evidence we have and make it accessible. That may even mean getting very specific measurements of the vintage piece for accuracy.
How authentic is the item to the original?
Andrew: It's as authentic as it can be given that we live a different age. We try to reproduce items that can still be worn today without it feeling like you're wearing a costume! Same specs, same material, same color choices are used in many of our items. We also use our Archive team for their input as well. We then employ American Artisans who lovingly make these items while staying faithful to the original piece.
Bill: The Archives makes every effort to collect items that are authentic Harley-Davidson. It can be even more challenging with apparel than it is with motorcycles. Rarity and condition are sometimes a challenge. Once we acquire an item, we can undertake painstaking research to confirm its H-D part number, which years it was offered and other details.
How long does it take to make these items?
Andrew: It can vary. Some will literally take over a year. Finding the right material and using the right American maker that can protect the integrity of the original can make for a long process. But the time spent in development ultimately makes for a great product.
Bill: We will invest whatever time is necessary in helping Andrew and his team get the information they need. There's an old saying that Archives exist to be used, and in a place like the Harley-Davidson Museum, it's hard to imagine a better use. We never acquire something only because we might place it on exhibit. The H-D Archives is a robust research center for our employees.
Who is involved in creating a Harley-Davidson Original?
Andrew: Sounds cliché but it's really a team effort. Our Retail team works very close with our Archives and Curatorial Teams in the early process. Some initial items end up not being from the early days of Harley-Davidson so I really lean on them to check authenticity. Our vendors are also are a very big part of the equation. Each has the needed passion for these products, skilled in their trade and understand the rich history of Harley-Davidson.
Bill: Finding and acquiring original H-D apparel is not the only priority. Once it's in the Archives, we will assess any cleaning or repair work that may be needed. And, it's important that we only return the item to its original appearance. Just like our motorcycles, we never want something to be altered or made to look better than it ever did. We also never do something that can't be undone.
What makes these items so special?
Andrew: They are a direct link to the early days of Harley-Davidson. They are small batch productions for a customer that can appreciate high quality craftsmanship, made in the USA production and the sport of motorcycling. You don't necessarily need to be a rider to relate to what Harley-Davidson has always stood for. I think they successfully bridge the gap between history and emotion into a really cool and wearable product.
Bill: From some of the earliest days of H-D apparel, there was always a priority given to functionality and quality. Motorcyclists have high expectations of their riding gear, and it shows in the vintage apparel over the decades. It's not uncommon for a vintage piece to arrive here in excellent condition.