We met Brooke at Babes Ride Out 2. She is the owner and designer and maker of Hellbent Leather. She has made amazing pieces for some of our favorite moto babes and some of our favorite rockers! Get to know this talented Babe and how she got into motos and leather and all things rock n roll!
Where are you from originally?
I was born in Detroit, lived in Houston until I was 8 and then spent 8 to 18 just outside Paris, France… so I have kind of a weird mash-up of cultures that I relate to.
How long have you lived in LA?
I’ve been living in LA for just over 10 years now. I moved here from NYC in 2006.
Tell us about your childhood?
There was a pretty sharp distinction between my Texas childhood and my childhood in France. The former was in a pretty tight-knit suburb of Houston where everyone let their kids run around the neighborhood. Lots of running through sprinklers, patrolling the streets on cool banana-seat bicycles, late night kick-the-can and laughing at our parents getting sloshed in lawn chairs while BBQ’ing. Everything was very different when we moved to France – a lot more serious and academic. The French education system is brutal and is definitely a no-frills no-fun kind of approach. But while I missed out on the traditional American high school experience that I saw in movies, I had some pretty culturally rich and unique opportunities – I learned a bunch of languages and did week-long immersion exchanges in Spain and in Germany. Our class trips were to Venice and Rome and the beaches of Normandy. I also spent a lot of time acting like an angry little shit and cutting classes and sneaking out into the Parisian nightlife. I finished high school there but felt like I wasn’t going to find what I needed in Europe, so I came back to the States where weirdos like myself have more opportunity to find success in a less structured lifestyle.
When were you introduced to Motorcycles?
My next-door neighbor in Texas had a bike and I have very early memories of him scooting me around the block, then on the back of scooters in France and on the back of bikes in NYC. I had never learned to drive though because since my teen years I lived in big cities where nobody really drove, just took the train systems around. So when I moved to LA 10 years ago and had to get my driver’s license I figured fuck it, I’m sick of riding on the back, I’m gonna get the fun one too and got my M1 right after my drivers license. As it so happens I am a much better motorcycle rider than a driver.
How do motorcycles and the community play a role in your life?
Shortly after moving to LA, I broke up with the guy I moved out here with and was on my own with just a bike (he had the car). So for a long time after that, my bike was everything, necessity and pleasure. I didn’t really hang out with anyone else who rode and certainly didn’t know any chicks who rode, so for a while there was a lot of throwing a buddy (guys and girls) on the back and riding off on a 2-up adventure. I feel like the whole moto-explosion that’s happened over the last 5 or 6 years has created a really strong community and so many events (like BRO) that make it much easier to not just meet other people who ride but to meet people you actually like, your peers, who ride.
What kind of bike do you ride and why?
My first bike was a very hip 1993 Yamaha Virago 750 that I purchased from a nice middle-aged lesbian lady in Altadena with a super cool bloody dagger and rose decal on the tank. It was pretty good to learn on but always had mechanical issues, so when I was able to, I bought a new 2008 Sportster and then proceeded to ride it all over the country and beat the shit out of it. I still have that bike and bought a 2008 Dyna a couple years ago. I spend a lot of time taking apart and fixing my 3 big industrial sewing machines, which leaves me with very little patience when it comes to bike maintenance. I’d rather spend the little free time I have these days on the road than in the garage and these bikes get me there.
I’d love to co-design a custom build with someone like Lock Baker (Eastern Fabrications) or Dale Yamada (Mad Jap) who are amazing fabricators and really good at putting together vintage with new and custom made into something tough and full of balls that I could really beat the shit out of and not worry about it falling apart after a couple hundred miles.
Best moto trip you have ever been on?
Impossible to pick one – I rode to Sturgis in 2009 and in 2012, and both trips were a 2-up adventure on my sportster with a girlfriend on the back and both trips were so full of extremely hilarious and irresponsible hijinks that I would never try to pull off today, so lots of fond memories and relief that we made it through in one piece and friendships made on the road. I also reconnected with my estranged grandfather who lived in Mexico through our shared love of motorcycles and spent the last 2 years of his life flying to Guadalajara and we would jump on his bikes and ride around Mexico together. He was my kindred spirit, in the form of an 86 year old hellcat.
How did you get started in leather working?
The first few months after I moved to LA, I didn’t know what I was doing, I had weird jobs and was floating around. I met Agatha Blois through mutual friends and she was the baddest bitch I had ever met. I loved everything about her and her leather work, so I pestered her until she hired me and then was her leather slave for 8 or 9 years. It was just me and her making clothes for rock stars and pop stars and movie stars and was the coolest job I have ever had. She is 100% unapologetically herself and does exactly what she wants and having her as my mentor sharing her talent with me is my most valuable experience.
What is it like owning your own business?
About a year and a half ago I flew out of the nest to go off on my own (it’s ok, Agatha and I are still cool). It’s SO much harder and its SO much more work and I’ve wanted to throw in the towel a hundred times since then. Around this time last year actually, I developed a stress rash on my face that looked like a zit beard and rocked that look for about a month. But then there’s that feeling that I get when a custom piece is coming together and I’ve been thinking that maybe it sucks and maybe I suck but I keep working on it until I realize that it doesn’t suck, it’s AMAZING and is going to look amazing on my client and they love it and that’s just the best! I’ve gotten some momentum going at this point so hopefully the days of fear and zit beards are behind me now and it’s all upwards and onwards!
what are your goals for Hell Bent Leather?
I want to put all the leather on all the rockers and all the bikers.
How did you first hear about Babes Ride Out?
I had friends who went to Borrego and invited me but I didn’t go for whatever stupid reason. I did go the following year, to the first BRO in Jtree and I’m so glad I did because so many of my closest friendships today were made on that trip.
What was your experience at the events?
I came out of that first event with so many new girlfriends and so much support for my business. I had just gone solo at that point and honestly don’t think my business would have made it without the support of the women’s motorcycle community. All the girls who ordered chaps and holsters and custom jackets and pants and who spread the word and posted pics got me through that terrifying beginning stage.
Any recommendations for new riders or women thinking about hopping on a bike?
Don’t be scared to look stupid – you’re gonna stall, you’re gonna drop your bike in front of a bunch of hot dudes and you’re gonna look like a stiff little nerd for a bit. Just keep getting back on and when you’re ready for some custom leather give me a call.