Lost Worlds is the Greatest Brand You’ve Never Heard of

By David Card
Branding

One question you get a lot when you own a branding studio is, “What’s your favorite brand?”  To which there are plenty of acceptable and popular branding-guru answers: Apple, Mercedes, Nike, Fender, Liquid Death, AC/DC.  Those are all amazing brands, but my #1 pick is a brand I am guessing 99.9% of the population has never heard of: Lost Worlds.

Now before you think I am crazy, hear me out.

A bit about them. Lost Worlds makes one thing and crafts it well: men’s vintage-inspired leather motorcycle jackets. The jackets are custom, bespoke, expensive, and a niche within a niche. You can only order online from a website that looks like it was designed in 1996 There’s nothing professional about the website or the product photos. It’s hard to tell if the site is real or someone’s trying to ‘Rick Roll’ us. 

Well, they are real and the most authentic brand I have ever seen. And it’s not just me: members of the Rolling Stones, actors like Daniel Day-Lewis, and motorcycle enthusiasts from all over the world have beat a path to their doorstep in Jamaica, Queens (which is ironic because you can’t enter the shop and there is no storefront) to cough up thousands of dollars for bespoke jackets. 

To be sure, Lost Worlds is doing something right. 

These legendary jackets are built like they “used to be made in the 50s… Before craftsmanship in America all went to shit.” Says Stuart Clurman, the founder. 

Far from knockoffs, Lost Worlds jackets are authentic replicas built of the highest quality materials with painstaking attention to every detail. It’s literally a lost art from a distant time. As my father loves to say, “They don’t make ‘em like that anymore,” hence the brand name: Lost Worlds. 

Stuart in his Shop. CREDIT: AIRMAIL.NEWS

Where they were born

The best brands have a story behind them, are authentic and reliable, and inspire customer loyalty. Lost Worlds hits on all these marks. Let’s start with the man behind everything: Founder Stuart Clurman, 73. 

Growing up in the 1950s, he was drawn to WWII movies and the flight jackets the stars wore. Beginning in the 1980s, Stuart began collecting original jackets as well as learning to source materials. Armed with industry experience from working at an apparel manufacturer, he started Lost Worlds in 1992 in Jamaica, Queens – but don’t visit him there – there you will find no storefront or showroom. In fact, Lost World’s website states: “We do not publish a hard copy catalog. This website is our catalog. We do not have a retail store, outlet, or showroom.”  

So yes, my favorite apparel brand has no print catalog or physical store. 

Because nothing existed to satisfy his strict requirements as a collector/historian, Stuart invested in his own tannery to control every aspect of the supply chain, sourcing horses from Canada for the incredibly thick and durable horsehide Lost Worlds jackets are famous for. Think like impossibly thick and heavy leather that approaches the level of armor.

And although LW Jackets are fashionable AF, Stuart insists fashion is not their destination:

“These are for a special kind of rider. The knowledgeable know from experience the extraordinary protection a LOST WORLDS Horsehide jacket can afford in potentially serious road mishaps. Our jackets are equipment, pure and simple, not fashion.”

STUART CLURMAN, FOUNDER AT LOST WORDS

He sourced vintage and military hardware for snaps and zippers and insisted on only the highest quality materials down to the thread for stitching. 

Along the way, he perfected his production process and researched and designed over 50 authentically inspired jackets. Today, Stuart Clurman is the (real) world’s foremost authority on both Flight and Motorcycle jacket design. 

Exploring Lost Worlds

Browsing the Lost Worlds website is an experience in time travel, back to the mid-90s when every site was built by a teenager in their basement and user experience design was, well, non-existent. There is no menu bar, just a long scrolling page with non-professional photos of their catalog, written up in colorful detail by Stuart. Unsurprisingly, Stuart built the entire website, which has not changed much since its launch.  

Drill down into any of the styles listed, and you will go to another page with detail shots, style descriptions, and notable features, historical background on the jacket, options available, and the occasional quote from a (very) satisfied customer. 

Never one to shy away from salesmanship, Stuart’s copy reads like hyperbole (which, as far as I can tell, they deliver on), like: “other-worldly workmanship” and “mind-altering fit and detailing.” You feel like a Lost Worlds jacket could stop a speeding bullet in its tracks, and as the new owner of one, I have to say that might not be far from the truth. 

Speaking with Stuart in person about Lost Worlds’ products is much like reading the copy on the website: straight, to the point, at once colloquial and bombastic — and heavy on the why behind the details.

On the website, there’s no photoshopping of images, professional models, content marketing, conversion-based copywriting, A/B tested CTA buttons, pay-later payment plans, trust pilot ratings or fancy inspirational fluff. Just the straight deal, as if you were standing on the factory floor with Stu, man-to-man (sorry ladies, LW Jackets are for men only). 

No UX Journeys. No WCAG AA Standards. No Mobile-Friendly Design. Just the straight facts and the occasional copywriting tangent.

I’ve always liked me a good leather jacket but have struggled to find one that fits well. I wasn’t planning on getting one, but I made a deal with myself that if we hit some key milestones at work, I’d splurge on a jacket that costs as much as a MacBook Pro in the interest of Brand Research, etc.

I also knew that well-crafted items (like Eames chairs) retain much of their original value, so I could always sell it if it was a disaster… so anyways, after spending hours on the LW Website From 1996, I chose their most popular style, The Suburban, with a sheepskin lining so I can wear it all the time including winter.

The style I chose. The LW logo on the coat labels is much cooler than the spinning website logo.

Ok, so I am ready to become a customer. Step one: email the Lost Worlds Earthlink address (!) and ask Stu what’s up. 

So, I do. 

The Brand Experience

Over the next week, Stuart and I exchanged emails and jumped on the phone to discuss my order, leather, vintage fashion, the state of the industry today, electric guitars, New York, and, yes, how my jacket should fit. Lots of talking about fit. He asks questions to get a sense of my body size and type. I’m instructed on how to take my own measurements with a tape ruler (ordered from Amazon – LW does not send out materials to help asses fit), and he offers to help, even in person, if I end up struggling. All in all, our first conversation lasted about an hour which racked up a ton of authenticity points for the Brand in my book. 

Lost Worlds coats are famous for their snug, bespoke fit, quality of materials, and authentic vintage design. Stuart’s philosophy is summed up by the saying, “Not one size fits all, one size fits ONE.”

“I don’t make flavor-of-the-month jackets. We make jackets that I perceive as historically interesting, stylish, technically challenging, ultra-cool, and high-performance. What I like. All our gear can be used on motorcycles or in challenging environments and always rain and snow. None is fashion clothing, for posing, faux hipster boulevardier wear for Tokyo, Manhattan or London dive bars and the like.”

And this is the crux of what I love about this brand: every molecule of every touchpoint oozes with realness and character. There’s this feeling that somehow you’re interacting with a place and a man out of time, with a passion for what he does, making the best products he can because it’s the right way to do it and the only way that makes sense to him

In a world where nothing is what it seems, to me, The Lost Worlds brand stands as a beacon of authenticity in an ocean of bullshit. And that’s why I love Lost Worlds.

From the spinning logo on the home page to the EarthLink email address, from the iPhone photos of jackets on old hangars to the bright yellow bold italic descriptive copy, the entire brand is simply, unabashedly, 100% REAL. You rarely see this in brands anymore. As Stu eloquently puts it: “LOST WORLDS jackets are so real they frighten those who aren’t real. Call it a reality check.”

The Unboxing

My jacket arrived in an unremarkable cardboard box. There was no branding on the outside, and no user-researched slogans were screen-printed to use every possible potential brand touchpoint. No, it’s just a badass leather jacket in a plastic bag. I put it on, and it fits like a glove — and feels like a suit of armor. It’s so heavy my daughter dropped it the first time she picked it up.

Custom horsehide jackets need to be broken in, another process that has also been lost to the ages. Stuart says, “Our products emulate the world where baseball gloves, jeans, and jackets needed to be shown who’s boss. They aren’t fashion statements. The break-in is something you want to do, incidentally. It makes the jacket you and yours.” 

Right now, it’s not mine – the jacket is the boss.

This photo was not created with AI, it literally stands up.

I need to break it in. It’s so rigid it literally stands up by itself. So I wear it in the rain (highly recommended) on my nightly walks. It feels like the jacket is wearing me for the most part, but over time it begins to surrender and slowly mold to fit my body. 

This jacket is simply incredible. It has some kind of mojo/mystical powers to it, like it radiates strength like the Hammer of Thor or something. Or maybe its just really well made in a world where most stuff around us isn’t. Can I request to be buried in this thing?

Is Lost Worlds the greatest brand ever? Of course not. But it’s cool, the coat will outlive me, and I intend to wear it every fall / winter / spring.

And, honestly, Lost Worlds pulled off the impossible: a brand that is 100% real and authentic and sells like crazy to both hardcore outlaw bikers and Hollywood actors despite a website from the last century, no major brand or product marketing, and no locations or fitting rooms.

They succeeded because the product, brand identity, personality, and touchpoints all tie back into a compelling brand story that boils down to one word: Quality. And, in the end, it’s the story that matters. To me, the outdated website, bombastic copywriting, casual, factory-floor photography, jaw-dropping jacket quality, and Stuart’s attention to customer satisfaction (he claims a coat has never been returned because of fit) are all part of this story.

They don’t follow the rules of 2024 because Lost Worlds draws its strength from another time when people cared more about quality, craftsmanship, and things that are built to last. 

And that’s why if you ask me what my favorite brand is, I’ll tell you: Lost Worlds.

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