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Craft and Punishment

A Tale of Twisted Fates of Artisans, Sans Wealth

by Ujjwal Dey
11/26/2022


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Custom built motorcycles, surfing pristine beaches, happy-go-lucky lifestyle, and passion for freedom to design all blend into a pot of cultural innovation. The brand name ‘Deus Ex Machina’ was unique in its production but very cliched in its fate!

Now the hip has replaced the hippie. Chic chucked out the creator. Only froth from the time-swept shores! No longer does it evoke your soul to aspire. Now all you get is yuppies who attend events in luxury cars instead of cross-country trip for meeting a new tide & strangers in a bar.
 
 

Originally, the expensive showrooms and lavish lifestyle was justified by the roar of the engines. No discrimination amongst the bikers, boarders, beatniks, thrashers, tycoons and backpackers – just meeting of artistically inclined. They all moved around the ‘shop’ as if a brief stopover between spaceflights to different worlds.
 
Easy Bomber jacket
Easy Bomber jacket

 
Deus Ex Machina was built upon the development and creation of custom motorcycles. A clothing line got added for those fans of the brand who found it more satisfactory to order a Deus tee-shirt. This motorbike brand is now a luxury apparel handling the biggest names in fashion, peddling dreams to people, nay, to the masses.

What unfortunate detour hit upon Deus Ex Machina’s journey is the oft-repeated history of artists and craftsmen. When business enters the showroom door, art slowly dims its fiery flames. Bills pile up and the remaining flicker of creativity dies in the grabby grip of ambitious vendors.
 
Triumph custom
Triumph custom


You may paint the town red with passion, receive the love of a million strangers, yet be the loneliest man on the planet when your bank statement comes through the mail.
 
To rephrase an epic novel’s opening lines, “Every creditor is ridden with similar recovery problems, each artist is bankrupt in unique, often peculiar ways.”

An ‘anna’ for your thoughts! Whether you ‘Gogh’ and cut off your ear or not, its best to have a savvy business partner before you pursue the ‘business of creativity’.
 
Deus Ex Machina Goof Bike
Deus Ex Machina Goof Bike

 

Timeline of all that kickstarts....

2006: Dare Jennings founded Deus Ex Machina with the money raised by selling his surfwear brand ‘Manbo’. Lifestyle and culture inspired the art & design.

First outlet was established in Camperdown in Sydney, Australia. It was a coalescence of machined custom motorcycle parts and bespoke bikes. A former factory building, became ‘Temple of Enthusiasm’. This was their concept of a cultural sanctuary. It was to enable a spirit of freethinking and innovation as workshops, artists, independent designers merged alongside offerings of food and drink. Voila, the first store was created successfully.
 
Bali Dog
Bali Dog

 
Jennings and co-creator Carby Tuckwell (ex-Creative Director of Moondesign) began on an uncharted territory blazing a new trail, heading onto unknown tides. A new fashion identity that became popular worldwide.

They always said that they biked to the beach every day, so the mashup of motorcycles and surf was the soul of Deus. The nucleus around which machine and art spun a fantastic design across the industry.
 
Deus Ex Machina Special
Deus Ex Machina Special

 

Pen-peddling authors such as myself know the literary device called ‘Deus Ex Machina’. It is oft-used in desperation to break out of the corner one has written themselves into.

For example, a spy is bound to an atom bomb; there is nothing that can save the world from the mad scientist now. Yet, suddenly, a rat crawls out of a crevice, smells the caviar spilled on the sleeves of the alcoholic spy. As the starving rat chews the sleeves, he chews by chance, the red wiring of the bomb, thus deactivating the bomb. Soon enough, the spy has the time to unbound himself and jump the bad guy who attempts an escape on a spaceship.
 
EAU Rouge XJR1300
EAU Rouge XJR1300

 

Thus, any unexpected power or event or ‘agent’ saving a seemingly hopeless situation, especially as a contrived plot device in a play or novel is termed ‘Deus Ex Machina’.
Irony of the whole thing is, the founder/s of this brand themselves had driven themselves into a corner where no ‘device’ they could design would save their world of beautiful soulful art & craft.
 
2007: After a successful launch, they connected with similar riding grounds at locations such as Ibiza to LA, Milan to Biarritz. All the leisure and play there makes Deus’ art a bright star.

A culture was now available with genuine label price tags around the globe. Fashion range of bikes and minimal clothing lines was expanded to include variations such as boardshorts, bike jackets, wetsuits and casual wear.

The world’s wallet is your oyster!
 
Firefly
Firefly

 

2010: ‘Bike Buildoff’ was launched after Dues was firmly established. It showcased non-professional motorcycle enthusiasts and their creations. Its fashion empire enrolled many more footfalls. The annual bike building challenge grew to involve many more locations with the competition increasing and increment in number of new store outlets.

2012: Deus Ex Machina comes to USA biting into the Big Apple. Its New York stay expands to LA, near famed Venice Beach.

‘X Reigning Champ Collection’ was launched this year.
 
Harajuku TWO FACE
Harajuku TWO FACE

 
2013: Deus creates a menu of multiple footwear offerings to keep in pace with specific needs product demand from motorcyclists. One such was made from rough-out buffalo hide with a Goodyear welted sole. That would chew some serious ground among existing customers and many new ones.
 
"No Devils in this House. Satan is Rude."
"No Devils in this House. Satan is Rude."

 
2014: A store opens in Milan for promoting bicycles in ‘gear’ with De Marchi who are known as the world’s oldest cyclewear company. Another store props up in Tokyo with unique custom motorcycles and of course the clothing and many other collaborations.

2015: Custom cafe racers are offered, a fast-paced move that may lead to abrupt brakes on festivities. Form and function of the customized German BMW R100 marks a happy checkered flag in the press.

An introduction of sunglasses with California-surfer styling ‘glares’ into the sea of fans.
 
The Drover’s Dog
The Drover’s Dog

 
2016: ‘MA-1 Flight Jacket’, an original American Navy & Airforce bomber jacket drapes the canopy as Deus teams up with Alpha who had been making military jackets for over 50 years.

Jeremy Tagand, in charge of custom build of Deus, starts a unique project to create ‘The Onyx.' Its the oft-mentioned motorcycle with a surfboard attached to the side.
 
Tweeki 1200
Tweeki 1200

 

2017: In ten years, this shooting star, the fast moving, brightly burning, prodigious comet called Deus Ex Machina changes its leadership. Dare Jennings sold his stake in Deus. This tumultuous event is barely mentioned in business news, as if the hushed change of hands at Deus was indeed concealing a big deal.

Would it matter if the man behind the Machina was no longer envisioning the creations that made it a worldwide fad?
 
 

Federico Minoli is revealed as CEO. A new ‘Zeus of the Deus Machina’ He has been chief of Italian motorcycle maker, Ducatti in the past, and also had been at the head of fashion houses Bally, Benetton and Woolrich, Minoli in his career.

(As an aside, kind of explains the Puma boss getting the top job at Harley-Davidson? Its the brand that needs milking, the motorcycles will sell themselves! Also, just like Deus, many H-D showrooms stay afloat solely based on sales of branded apparels and trinkets.)
 
Blaster
Blaster

 

2019: Deus is now in South Africa as well.

2020: Deus bespoke motorcycles are part of collections by legends such as Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Hollywood hero Ryan Reynolds.
 
Ago TT
Ago TT

 
2021: Why not South America? Brazil store is size of a mansion, one of their largest flagship outlets to date. This Sao Paulo location is appropriately branded  ‘Mansion of Munificence.' The floor space includes entertainment.

Once old school surf & wheels enthusiasts admired vintage bikes in the original showroom as Jennings and Tuckwell planned their next project. Suddenly, in just a decade, it was replaced with kids who had barely got a license to ride, or knew which side is up on a surfboard (and panicked at the sight of grease stains underneath their fingernails).
 
Bali store
Bali store

 

No more everyday surfers laying bare their ideas on pristine beaches. Deus was riding a new trend with its past identity washed away in waves of wealth. The Latin phrase, which is their brand name, literally translates into ‘god from the machine’ – and the new ownership is indeed exercising all its mighty powers to get past the construction phase, so as to enjoy sales operations instead.
 
 

WHAT COULD HAVE GONE WRONG

Even LA Times carried the news with the headline, in 2015, well before the exit of Dare Jennings.

“Deus Ex Machina makes high-end motorcycles and loses money on each one”

“That’s why we make clothing,” said Deus founder and owner Dare Jennings in that news report. “Otherwise, we’d go broke.”

How could this be true? Why would one of the most successful and iconic custom motorcycle brand of the 21st century lose thousands of dollars on every bike they sell?
 
Zero Motorcycles and Deus ex Machina custom
Zero Motorcycles and Deus ex Machina custom

 

Top-end Harley-Davidson motorcycles, without customization cost $40,000. Bikernet.com sponsor, the truly unique ARCH Motorcycle, had its very first bike priced at $78,000. They are more than cool, not dependent on brand-image for a sale. ARCH motorcycles are one-of-a-kind and their 2022 model-1s retails at $128,000.

Sometimes art can cost more than sweat and blood though. This was certainly true for the founders of Deus Ex Machina. Their customers didn’t sweat at the great deal they got, while all the time, they were bleeding the brand dry.
To give you their secret for losing money, they earned pennies per hour they spent building a magnificent custom motorcycle.
Yes! That much hated subject of minimum wage! Considering man-hours per dollar on every bike project.

Consider this: craftsman Michael Woolaway who hand-hammered unique motorcycles for some of the biggest celebrities at the Venice store of Deus did not get much out of his efforts. He could, at the most, make five unique motorcycles a year, while spending, for example, hundreds of hours on crafting only the gas tank.
 
"No Place Like This Place. So This Must Be The Place."
"No Place Like This Place. So This Must Be The Place."

 

INSPIRATION:

"The worst thing you can do is go to another country and do what they’re doing already, because they’ll laugh at you." ~ Dare Jennings

"If you don’t take that risk then you’ll just end up with something that’s the same. Take the risk, you have to take the risk, and back yourself." ~ Dare Jennings

READY REFERENCE:

When it began: in 2006 in Sydney, Australia

Founding members: Carby Tuckwell and Dare Jennings

Purpose: Carby and Dare founded Deus ex Machina not specifically for selling custom parts and hand-build motorcycles, but to celebrate a culture of creativity.
 
Deus Ex Machina Bully
Deus Ex Machina Bully

 

Key accomplishments: Dare Jennings attracted the attention of LVMH, taking Deus ex Machina to the world.
 
(you grubby greasy bikers, refer: “LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, commonly known as LVMH, is a French holding multinational corporation and conglomerate specializing in luxury goods, headquartered in Paris.”)

Current boss: Federico Minoli, CEO

Company vision: Core values are inclusiveness, authenticity, enthusiasm

Staff strength: The estimated number of employees is 75

Estimated Revenue: annual revenue $13 million in 2021
 
The Bald Terrier 1200
The Bald Terrier 1200

 

HQ: Company headquarters is located at 98-104 Parramatta Rd Camperdown NSW 2050, Australia

Products: Specializes in lifestlye products, custom motorcycles and clothing (mostly just clothing now)

Website: https://us.deuscustoms.com

It's when you really enjoy your work that such great things materialize. If you get into something only to make money, it will lead to misery and degradation of your talents.

Life journeys from ability to stability to decay. But it's still fun, if you can create. Imagine. Simply dream. Cheers to all creators everywhere. So go out and kick-start your life!
 
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