HAVERHILL, Mass. — Amid the recession and job losses, the Brooks Brothers-Southwick marriage is about as good as it gets.
The 80-year-old suit manufacturer was rescued from collapse in July by its biggest customer, Brooks Bros., which bought the business, designed a state-of-the-art factory for it and retrained all 315 employees to work there.
“There is a lot that can be made here in the U.S.,” Claudio Del Vecchio, chairman and chief executive officer of Brooks Bros.’ parent company, Retail Brand Alliance Inc., said Thursday after a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. “People have given up on the idea, but it is possible to make the economics work and get quality product.”
The goal is to manufacture 70 percent of all Brooks Bros. tailored clothing here, said Diane Hamilton, the retailer’s president and chief operating officer.
Southwick, which makes suits, sport coats and trousers, is the final link in Brooks Bros. made-in-the-U.S.A. portfolio. Ties are made in Long Island City, N.Y., and shirts in Garland, N.C. Emphasizing domestic manufacturing will be a big part of the company’s marketing, Hamilton said.
To align Brooks Bros. around that message, teams from the chain’s product development and retail operations will visit Haverhill to see clothes being made.
“We want to get our people to understand why we’re committed to the U.S. production,” Hamilton said. Eventually, the factory will have a showroom on the second floor to service Southwick’s wholesale accounts.
Del Vecchio believes domestic manufacturing will provide quality, efficiency and design benefits.
Gov. Patrick said saving Southwick and the new factory “gives us, in these tough times, a reason to hope.”
In addition to having the factory produce more Brooks Bros. garments, Del Vecchio intends to grow the Southwick brand, which is sold to 150 specialty stores, to 40 to 45 percent of Southwick’s total revenues from 20 percent. Space is earmarked on the factory floor for another production line. The goal is to add jobs over the next five years.
The town of Haverhill, which hasn’t gained this many manufacturing jobs since Western Electric arrived in the Fifties, gave the company its biggest ever tax incentive, Mayor James Fiorentini said. Massachusetts kicked in more than $400,000 in training grants.
The Southwick overhaul is costing Retail Brand Alliance about $20 million, said Del Vecchio, with much of the cost coming from equipment customized for the brand’s signature soft-shoulder construction process.
Southwick previously operated on five floors in a turn-of-the-century factory in nearby Lawrence, Mass. Workers hand-carried piece goods up stairs or waited for clanking elevators to arrive. It took six weeks to make a suit, with machinery powered by a colossal steam boiler tended round the clock by two people.
Now, on a single, brightly lit floor, a suit can be produced in half the time and less than half the space, about 92,000 square feet, versus 250,000 square feet.
The affection for Del Vecchio, who paused during the press conference to turn to the workers and thank them in Spanish, was palpable, with enthusiastic applause and workers crowding around him afterward to have pictures taken.
“My personal philosophy to beauty is paying attention to oneself. I love to be outdoors, lots of fresh air, trying to take care of yourself as best you can. I always notice that comes through,” says Felicity Jones, the global face of @shiseido-owned @cledepeaubeauteus, which launches today. Head to WWD.com to read more about the actress’ love for beauty and how she prepared for her new role in “The Basis of Sex,” playing the young Ruth Bader Ginsburg. #wwdbeauty (📷: @dandoperalski)
For men’s fall 2018, @giuseppezanotti drew on elements from streetwear, sport, biker, combat and rock ‘n’ roll. Pictured here are a pair of shoes from the collection, featuring zippers, rhinestones, and silver hardware. Head to WWD.com to see a roundup of the accessories from Milan’s men’s fall 2018 shows. #wwdfashion (📷: Andrea Delb)
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of @ralphlauren’s snowboarding collection, the brand is mining its archives. The iconic brand is reintroducing vintage styles and dropping new designs for a color capsule that will be available in Ralph Lauren stores and @openingceremony on January 25. The capsule will consist of 10 pieces, including the Snow Beach Pullover, pictured here, which is a collector’s item that rapper Raekwon wore in Wu-Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple” video. #wwdfashion (📷: Tom Gould)
For @rochasofficial’s pre-fall 2018 collection, creative director Alessandro Dell’Acqua channeled the sophisticated and intriguing Catherine Denevue in the film “Belle de Jour.” Polished collarless coats, midi skirts, suits and ’60s graphic motifs were all featured in the collection, adding a sense of discreet luxury. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion
“We tried to produce clothing of that couture quality, but the most daunting part was that we only had a matter of days [to do it],” said costume designer Lou Eyrich, who recreated Gianni Versace’s iconic looks for @americancrimestoryfx. Eyrich searched online retailers and vintage shops for original pieces from the design house and for @penelopecruzoficial, who plays Donatella Versace. Head to WWD.com to read how she created the Versace world. #wwdfashion
Only three months after her stellar debut catwalk season, @kaiagerber has inked her first big design collaboration –– with @karllagerfeld. The collection blends Lagerfeld’s Parisian chic aesthetic and the model’s signature West Coast casual style via RTW, accessories, footwear and more. The #KarlLagerfeldxKaia collection will launch in September with a series of events. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
Harrods plans to remove the famous statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed from the bottom of the Egyptian escalators and hand it back to Mohamed Al-Fayed. “We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods managing director. “With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr. Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace.” More on the news, with reporting by @loreleimarfil, at WWD.com. #wwdnews