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Special Issue
Men'sWeek issue 05/09/2013

Woolrich is mining its long history for a new Made in America collection for fall.

This story first appeared in the May 9, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The company, which was founded in 1830 and operates the oldest continually operating mill in America in Woolrich, Pa., will introduce a Made-in-USA collection of men’s coats, vests, scarves, bags, shirt jacs, blankets and backpacks based on modern interpretations of some iconic pieces. Its signature buffalo plaid will be ubiquitous in the offering, which is made with wool from the company’s factory and produced by domestic manufacturers in Philadelphia and New York.

The two most popular pieces are the Dockworker Peacoat, a nautical-inspired double-breasted jacket with oversize melamine buttons with embossed anchors, which will retail for $450, and the Woodcutter Coat, an outerwear piece that combines elements of the company’s 503 Field Coat and the Stag. It features a cape, oversize front pockets and rear game pockets and will sell for $350.

“This collection reaffirms our commitment to our mill and U.S. manufacturing,” said Nick Brayton, president of Woolrich and a seventh-generation descendant of the company’s founding families.

Other pieces in the collection include the Bethlehem Reversible Wool Vest, which will sell for $250, and the Mill Run Shirt Jacket for $225.

In addition to apparel, the Made-in-USA collection will include a selection of bags from Topo Designs of Denver that will range from a duffel bag and dopp kit to an oversize backpack. The bags, which use Woolrich wool and include details such as leather tabs, bright contrasting zippers and cord loops, will retail for $29 for the dopp kit to $249 for the backpack. Rounding out the offering will be three styles of blankets, which will sell for $135.

The line has been picked up by Nordstrom, the Charles Department Store in Katonah, N.Y., The Tannery in Boston and Paragon Sporting Goods in New York City.

In a letter to its employees earlier this year, Brayton spoke of Woolrich’s commitment to manufacturing in America: “It’s a popular thing to be manufacturing in the United States right now. Companies of all sizes are listening to their consumers and their hearts, and finding a way to build it here again. At Woolrich, we have been actively manufacturing in the United States since our company’s founding in 1830.”

He acknowledged that in spite of the company’s domestic manufacturing heritage, “it’s true that we don’t make 100 percent of our products in the USA as we once did. As the global economy grew and matured over the last 20 years, many core mill customers took their woolen business overseas. To remain relevant, competitive and solvent, we made the same difficult choice. In today’s world, the hard reality is that making things here is hard to do. But like our customers who embrace adventure every day, Woolrich is preparing to tackle a new challenge…bringing manufacturing back to Pennsylvania, one step at a time.”

He laid out three goals for the company: to increase yardage of wool produced in its mill by 50 percent this year, to introduce the Made-in-USA collection to market for fall and to ensure that more than 50 percent of Woolrich’s woolen garments use American-made wool by 2015.

One year ago, Brayton and his cousin, Joshua Rich, an eighth-generation descendant and vice president of international for the privately held company, took on a larger role with the business, working closely with John Ranelli, chief executive officer, who is unrelated to the families.

Their plan is to take the brand to the next level through a self-funded expansion both in the U.S. and overseas. That expansion includes the introduction of new labels and products and the opening of full-price retail stores. The company offers three brands — Woolrich Outdoor sportswear and outerwear, as well as the more-fashion-driven Woolrich John Rich & Bros. and Woolrich Woolen Mills collections, which are licensed to WP Lavori in Italy.

Within the past few weeks, the company opened a showroom at 300 Park Avenue South and Joshua Rich has relocated to New York. In addition, Brayton said, the company has added Karuna Scheinfeld to its team as vice president of design, working on the Woolrich Outdoor and Made-in-USA collections. Scheinfeld had been head of men’s design for the John Rich & Bros. line in Italy but wanted to return to the States. She has also designed for American Eagle Outfitters Inc.’s Martin + Osa collection, as well as Ralph Lauren Purple Label and Dolce & Gabbana. Her impact will be seen in the spring 2014 collection.

The company has hired two new sales directors to spearhead its wholesale operation in the U.S., as well as a new business manager for direct and Internet. “New people, new energy, new ideas,” Rich said.

For fall 2014, Rich said, the plan is to expand the Made-in-USA collection into women’s. The company is also actively seeking brands for partnerships. Called the Collaboration Hub, it is intended to “help us open conversations with other brands and foster the development of collaborations,” said Patrick Nebiolo, Woolrich’s executive vice president. In the past year, Woolrich has collaborated with Coach, Sea Bags, Pro-Keds, Timbuk2, Timberland, Duluth Pack, L.L. Bean and others.

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