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.
“What he has done at Vuitton is really exceptional,” said @gameofthrones’ actress Gwendoline Christie on @mrkimjones’ final show for @louisvuitton. “He has rebooted luxury in terms of making it commercial, viable and contemporary. And most importantly artistic. He has never compromised his artistic vision for the sake of commodity.” (📷: @zefashioninsider)
After seeing a demand for men’s wear from its customers, British contemporary women’s wear label @ariesarise has added a men’s wear component and will launch a unisex collection with @mrporterlive. The 20-piece collection includes jackets, denim, logo T-shirts and more with deconstructed ‘90s vibes. Set to launch on January 18, you can shop the pieces on Aries’ website and on mrporter.com. #wwdfashion
“And so spending so much time with a character who thinks like that, inevitability you try and analyze yourself and go back and think about your own demons and dark chapters that you had in your life,” says @thedanielbruhl of his role in TNT’s “The Alienist.” The show, set in the Gilded Age of New York, also stars Dakota Fanning and Luke Evans. Head to WWD.com to read about how 39-year-old Brühl prepared for the role and why he thinks the show is so relevant to today #wwdeye ( 📷: @Eriktanner)
Now that Celine Dion’s collection has topped $10 million in sales, the pop superstar, fashion icon and newly-minted industry player is eyeing growth in Asia. Read the full report by @tiffanyap, link in bio. #wwdnews #celinedion
“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)
Among the familiar faces at @off____white’s show was a surprise figure: Japanese artist @takashipom, pictured here on Wednesday morning. Other show-goers included @jerrylorenzo, who spoke about his upcoming project: a @nike collaboration for back to school, with designs inspired by his childhood on the West Coast. Sitting in the front row were Future, Don Crawley, @miguel and more. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: Stephane Feugere)
According to @laurentsai, former “Terrace House: Aloha State” cast member, she didn’t know she was auditioning for the Japanese version of “Real World.” “I was telling a couple of my friends and someone’s like, ‘That sounds a lot like Terrace House.’ I was like, ’No it can’t be.’” Turns out, it was. But Tsai isn’t just a reality star — she’s an illustrator who has worked with Starbucks Japan and most recently, she’s dipping her toes into the fashion world. Head to WWD.com to read about her time on the show, modeling and her art. #wwdeye (📷: @danieldorsa)
More changes are coming to New York Fashion Week: Beginning with the spring 2019 collection, @alexanderwangny will move his New York show to June from September, adopting a biannual schedule with collections shown in June and December. Additionally, the @cfda is planning for an official summer/winter fashion season taking place as soon as June and December 2018. Read more about the upcoming changes on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @slovekinpics)