Photo by Leah Klinge
Dan Perkins doesn't fancy himself a designer—but creations from his vegan guitar strap company Couch hang across the shoulders of Nels Cline and members of TSOL, Maxeen, Goldenboy, Purified in Blood, the Knots and Ze Auto Parts, to name a few. Similarly, he didn't consider himself a proficient musician until his fourth band or knowledgeable about food when he started the Sunset Beach juice bar/vegan sandwich shop Juice For You.
"I take the big step before I'm ready," Perkins says, conceding his lack of career judgment. Real jobs make him nauseous—people hire him, and he keeps quitting out of spite—but things with straps attached to them make him giddy.
It started with handbags, in an I'm-straight-even-though-I-melt-for-a-fabulous-purse sort of way. On a recent seedy night at Alex's Bar in Long Beach, Perkins unabashedly lost it over designer Nancy Osborne's handbag. "Oh my God, where did you get that?" Perkins' voice squeaked, with high-pitched fervor and no irony. He was floored when he found out she made it: she designs Jack Blue Handbags.
Now, under Osborne's tutelage, Perkins has bypassed the doing-it-by-hand thing, instead going straight to scouring the fashion district to streamline production of his guitar straps, which he makes from durable auto and marine upholstery materials.
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At band practice with Long Beach-based the New Fidelity, Perkins cannot contain his giddiness over the prospect of a new sewing machine and the advantages of working with the leather lady. His band mates are immune to this quirkiness. "I expect people to be as impressed as I am excited," Perkins says. "But more than anything, they're snickering at me."
Don't confuse quirkiness for flippancy. Following the action sports marketing mindset, Perkins has perched his straps on the right shoulders, handing them out to favored guitarists and selling them at select boutiques and music stores, including Siren in Long Beach, Vinyl Solution in Huntington Beach, Pull My Daisy in Silverlake and True Tone in Santa Monica. That sort of pickiness is partly why he chose to make vegan guitar straps even though he owns a leather couch.
"Making vegan products brings interesting people into my life who I enjoy talking to," Perkins says, explaining that the same motive was behind the vegan juice bar idea: he liked meeting pretty girls with alabaster skin. "I wanted to make guitar straps, but I don't want to meet everyone that plays in a band." And besides, vinyl and car seat belts inspire him.
"No one in the world has worked harder to make a vegan guitar strap," Perkins says. "If people don't like this, I'm stuck with it."