The Taiwanese denim and American Casual (amekaji for you Nipponophiles) scene keeps slowly growing in all directions, from workwear and urban classicism to the more rough and tumble world of the biker. New Taiwanese jewelry and apparel brand, Black Venom Jewelry, focuses on the latter–outfitting biker teams and fans of the more hardcore side of the denim world.
The man behind Black Venom is the imposing-but-mellow Stan Lu, a native of Northern California whose parents hail from Taiwan. Lu had first-hand experience with the jewelry world from a young age as it was the family business. He planned to one day make his own jewelry line, but the stars didn’t align right away. Good things come to those who wait, though, as Lu hadn’t yet taken his first step into the biker world that would soon become his true home.
A Biker is Born
In 2011, not long after moving to Taiwan, Lu bought his first Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Naturally, he wanted a leather jacket to go with it but finding one that fit his broad shoulders was proving a challenge. He started to do his homework and stumbled upon leather jacket makers including Vanson and Schott.
“I got a jacket, then the boots, then the denim,” Lu says. “It was all linked together.”
At the time, Lu was living on the second floor of a shophouse in Taipei, with the first floor serving as storage and a garage for his motorcycle. However, he had an idea to turn the first floor into a high-end clothing store for bikers, with jackets, boots, and jeans. Soon, he was getting in contact with brands including biker jacket makers Vanson and Fox Creek Leather.
“Vanson was interesting,” Lu says with a grin. “At first, Kim [Van Der Sleesen, Vanson sales manager] thought I was a fraud. They wanted me to set up my store first before they would tell me the wholesale details. It took time to get their attention.”
Lu’s perseverance paid off, and soon he was stocking Vanson and Fox Creek Leathers jackets. Then, he got in touch with Wesco Boots, who quickly agreed to a deal with Lu to sell boots such as the Boss engineer and the lace-up Jobmaster. Then, in 2013, he began adding denim to the store. The following year he met Mike Hodis and became a stockist for Rising Sun Jeans.
“I got the opportunity to meet Mike Hodis before he left Rising Sun, even though we’re not really a workwear store” Lu says. “He’s one of the most laidback and coolest people you’ll meet.”
A Silver Age
Around this time, Lu also became serious again about making his own jewelry line. Lu began working with Taiwanese jewelry artisan A-One, owner and designer at the brand 2 Abnormal Sides, which specializes in skull imagery in silver. Lu knew A-One would deliver a quality product considering he had won the Skull King title in Japan in 2011 at the annual Skull Cup skull-themed jewelry competition.
Lu created the initial designs for the first silver jewelry line, titled “Poison,” which centers on Black Venom’s logo of a skull with snakes, as well as cross motifs. Lu could have easily skimped on his jewelry but he insisted on making his jewelry out of solid 925 silver and not outsourcing production overseas.
“Taiwanese craftsmanship is more expensive than in China or Thailand,” Lu says. “But I didn’t want to compromise on quality.”
The designs are based on skulls, snakes, and crosses, and incorporate brass and red coral, the latter of which can be found in both Native American and Taiwanese jewelry. Perhaps what’s most striking about his collection of rings, pendants, bracelets and wallet chains is their heft, though.
“I didn’t want to make a cheap product,” Lu says. “A lot of people hollow out jewelry like this and make it lighter and only use silver on the surface, so it’s cheaper, but we didn’t want to do that.”
Production and planning delayed the line from becoming a reality until early in November of 2016, just in time for the Ride Free bike show where Taiwan’s bikers, denimheads and general heritage scenesters converge once a year.
“I was getting messages from A-One with photos of the jewelry while I was visiting L.A., and it must have been 3 or 4 in the morning in Taiwan,” Lu says. “I told him to get some sleep, but he replied saying he was working to finish the jewelry in time for Ride Free. He works really hard.”
My Biker Jacket
In addition to his silver jewelry, he’s also begun production on his own Black Venom goatskin leather jackets and vests after receiving requests from biker teams in Taiwan.
“Goatskin works the best for Taiwan’s climate we found,” Lu says, referring to the nation’s often warm and humid weather. “The goatskin has the texture and toughness of cowhide, but is much lighter in weight.” The logo for the goat leather products is a goat in wolf’s clothing, and comes from the tattoo and barber shop two doors down from Black Venom, which Lu also owns.
Lu also has plans to soon go into production with his own 20oz. canvas and Cone Mills 14.75 oz. denim vests in an N-1 deck format. Both the goatskin jackets, and his fabric vests are on the subdued side, which is intentional as one of his biggest challenges is trying to steer Taiwanese bikers away from some of the busy styles they’re often into.
“Most bikers here are older and they like loud designs, but it’s not like that in the States,” Lu says. Even Lu’s two Harleys, which sit inside his store, are both on the subdued scale.
“We want people to be in style, but you don’t have to be loud or extravagant to be a biker,” he says. Still, the ultimate message at Black Venom is about quality. “We want to carry stuff that is durable, and that you can hand down one day.”
You can find out more about Black Venom on their website, or visit their shop at No.8, Aly. 5, Ln. 89, Sec. 3, Nanjing E. Rd., Zhongshan Dist., Taipei City 104, Taiwan.