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Haspel is preparing for its reemergence.
This story first appeared in the June 20, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
After a year’s hiatus, the venerable men’s wear brand, which got its start in 1909, will be relaunched for spring. It is being produced in-house by descendants of founder Joseph Haspel, who have brought CFDA-winning designers Jeff Halmos and Sam Shipley of the brand Shipley & Halmos on board to design the collection.
The brand is being managed by Thomas Wallis, an industry veteran whose résumé includes stints at GFT USA Corp., Marzotto and brands such as CP Company and Emanuel Ungaro.
“It’s an aggressive plan, but we wouldn’t have jumped in if we weren’t confident that it was going to work,” said Laurie Haspel Aronson, president and the fourth generation to run the family-owned business.
The label had been licensed to Neema Clothing, but that company wound down its branded business and sold its inventory to the Samsung Group in late 2011. The Haspel license was then assigned to Blue Lion, a company operated by Jeffrey Ammeen, the son of former Neema chief executive officer James Ammeen, to handle the sales and marketing for Neema’s licensed businesses, which included Haspel. Aronson said that relationship ended at the end of 2012.
“We brought Tom in to manage the brand, and he has so many great ideas,” she said. “He sees where the potential lies, and we’ve been working behind the scenes to get everything started.”
Under the direction of Halmos and Shipley, Haspel will offer a full collection of tailored clothing and sportswear, the vast majority of which will be manufactured in the U.S. The tailored clothing will be made in the JA Apparel factory and the shirts, ties and casual pants will be made at the Southwick plant, both of which are in Massachusetts. Knitwear will be made in Peru. It will be shown at the Shipley & Halmos showrooms in New York as well as at the upcoming Project trade shows in New York and Las Vegas.
The new Haspel offering will be targeted to a younger customer, have a “modern classic” sensibility and be targeted to better department and specialty stores. “The emphasis will be on sportswear, clothing and accessories that have references to our past but with more modern fits,” she said. It will be priced just under designer collections and will include suits at $795 to $1,200; jackets for $695 to $995; shirts for $175 to $225; ties for $95, and chinos for $195 to $295. These prices are “about double” those of the collection produced by Neema, Wallis said.
Aronson said after she and Wallis interviewed dozens of potential design partners, she was impressed with the “attitude and zest” exhibited by Shipley and Halmos, who have had their own label for five years.
Halmos said the duo had produced a smaller collaboration with Uniqlo, but this is the first full-scale effort outside their own label. “We’re cautious about who we’re going to partner with,” he said. “But being approached by Laurie and being able to work on a 100-year-old-plus brand is not super common. We look at it as an opportunity to take something that was once an important American brand and give it some much-needed love.”
Shipley said that in addition to the apparel, they have redesigned the logo, marketing material and hangtags — “the collateral that helps tell the story of the brand.”
Although Haspel’s history is in men’s seasonal suits, the line is more than just seersucker. “We’re using other natural fibers — linens, wools, cottons — and a mix and match approach,” Shipley said. “We also modernized the silhouette,” said Halmos. “The 104-year-old brand is credited with pioneering seersucker for men’s suits. As the story goes, Joseph Haspel took the fabric, which at the time was used as a material in coveralls, and produced a men’s suit at his New Orleans factory. To demonstrate the wash-and-wear characteristics of the fabric, Haspel jumped into the Atlantic Ocean on a business trip wearing his seersucker suit, hung it out to dry and wore it to a trade show that night.