11 Jul Made in Bo-Kaap: Los Muertos Motorcycles
Los Muertos Motorcycles is combining serious film production, custom motorcycle building, retro biking themed apparel, coffee, and cake. Somehow, it all makes complete sense.
A celebration of work-play, their clubhouse-inspired space in Bo-Kaap is a pretty great place to escape the daily grind while enjoying a coffee sourced from a family-run estate in Nicaragua; a bite from Jason Bakery, Lady Cupcake or Baguette; and browsing the rails for biking accessories, Edwin Denim jeans, Blue Collar White Collar shirts, and locally illustrated LMMC merch.
We spoke to LMMC director Craig Wessels and Steven Pitt to find out more about their newly launched dream space.
Where can we find your space and what do you love about the area?
42 Dorp Street, Bo-Kaap. It’s a very creative and inspiring area to be working in. Love the views, the walking distance to everything in the city, the hustle and bustle, the diversity of people, the historic street architecture etc. It all makes you feel connected and plugged in.
Is there a story behind the name?
No big story, other than it came to us during an untidy bender one night in a tourist dive in Tijuana, Mexico. The name kinda found us, and it stuck.
As part bike shop, part workshop, part coffee shop, part production company, you’ve a lot going on! Could you tell us a bit about everything that falls under the Los Muertos label?
Los Muertos is fundamentally a diverse creative hub. It can be anything we want it to be. We fund LMMC via our core business, which is commercials production, with our Exec Producer, Michelle Kruger based at LMMC in Joburg (Rosebank). We are also growing our director roster (currently Craig Wessels and Gavin Coetzee) with some new and exciting signings imminent. We will probably end up representing talent in other fields too, not just commercials, which is just too limiting and old school. LMMC is about creating great content and experiences, we don’t care what medium it is for.
We also have a passion for the art of building custom motorcycles, particularly of the classic cafe-racer genre. I decided to re-invent the production company, and integrate all the things we like to do, and let each passion feed off the other. The LMMC brand is gathering quite a loyal following, and we are going with the flow, having even more fun now that we have incorporated a coffee bar and a retro biking-related clothing, apparel and accessories line to the shop.
LMMC has actually become an extremely rewarding outlet for design and creativity in general, and we like to further that working on collaborative projects with like-minded artists we respect, be it surfboard shapers, clothing designers, photographers or chefs, it doesn’t matter, so long as the fire is there.
How does your space relate to the culture of your business?
Our business is all about expression, integrity and craft. We take our work seriously, but not ourselves, and the space we have created around us reflects this.
Our space is interesting, unusual even, but very real – and respectful of the historic building and area we are in too. I think it’s also creative and dynamic, and it seems to have acquired an old soul feel despite its relative youth, although the building and many of our bikes outdate us. Production companies are generally cut off from the public and very paranoid, whereas ours is open the public and embraces collaboration, and that’s a big difference.
What was the inspiration behind the design and decor and who made it happen?
It was all in my head so it came quite naturally. I wanted to create a workplace that felt professional yet honest, comfortable and inviting; unpretentious. Because that’s what we are. For example, a lot of the props inside the shop are my own that I’ve been collecting for years. It also had to be practical as we have production teams working in there from time to time, and we design and build motorcycles, with the accompanying tools and work benches.
The aesthetic is very important, and it had to mirror who and what we are and do. I wanted a bike workshop meets bike club meets street cafe type feel, but one that was not too grungy; so a bit of grit, but no dirt and grease (that all happens offsite) as we sell food and drinks, and have to accommodate some of our high-end clients dressed in ties and high heels.
I wanted to steer clear from a ‘themed’ retail type feel too, it had to be real, functional, operational. I brought in InHouse Brand Architects to assist with the layout and the construction of the basic shell. I then sourced a lot of the hardware from antique stores. I brought in Brad Armitage to help me execute the finer details, as we have a similar eye for authentic design, and an understanding of the cafe-racer subculture. Steve Pitt is now the front man on the motorcycle side of things.
The cool thing about the space is that no matter who you are or what you do, you can relate to something inside or outside. And nothing is fake either; real antique serving and display counters, hand-painted sign-writing, imported old Indian metal cinema chairs, hand made solid reclaimed wood shelving and tables, concrete floor, original artwork/prints/paraphernalia on the walls, etc.
The shop is a mix of personal loves and interests; has it been a long-time dream project?
I have been riding, surfing all my life, and I have been collecting vintage stuff for 25 years or so, motorcycles and hotrods included. LMMC is basically a manifestation of who I am, and I am now surrounded by kindred spirits.
From your CI to your custom built motorcycles, art and design seem integral to the Los Muertos brand. How would you describe your aesthetic?
Yes, it’s all about art and design. I think I’ve touched on it above, but the aesthetic is very much a combination of words like vintage, authentic, simple, raw, honest, by hand. Then importantly, taking all that and adding a contemporary, relevant spin to it, and having some fun too dammit!
We are still experimenting with outlets for the collaborations, but so far we have spawned once-off creations like surfboards, clothing, leather goods, skateboards, motorcycles and crash helmets. It’s only been 6 months, so there is still a lot more to come.
Any exciting projects to look forward to?
Apart from the commercial world of advertising, we are busy with a short film, four new custom motorcycles, a range of Steve McQueen inspired riding gear, a recipe for a killer winter pie, sourcing organic coffee beans from a remote village in Kenya and a feedback project to find and nurture uber talent from the townships.
What music is likely to be playing at Los Muertos Motorcycles?
That can vary on the party or the hangover, but mostly a healthy mix of alternative rock, folk, funk, blues and trip-hop – and not forgetting the latest folk-rock album, Orange Forest, from fresh LMMC commercials director, designer and singer/songwriter/musician extraordinaire, Gavin Coetzee.
Who is welcome?
Anyone, anytime. Just no politics or hangups.
And what will the space never see?
Plastic, reproductions and rip-offs.